“The ratings system exists for one purpose: to inform parents about the content of films. Our ratings reflect how we believe a majority of American parents, not just from large cities on the coasts but everywhere in between, would rate a film. It’s a responsibility we take very seriously.”
What Movies Should I Let My Children Watch?
When the MPAA slapped an R-rating on the documentary, “Bully” there was instant backlash. Why? Because the story is one that many feel teens need to see and experience. Especially since over 13 million children will be bullied this year. The rating is a result of the subject matter and some language (F-bombs) that are tossed around by bullies in the film.
Since the public outcry, the film was released as unrated, leaving it up to theater owners to determine if they will allow children or teens in to view the film. Some say this goes too far while others say it’s not far enough.
No doubt about it, when it comes to film ratings, controversy abounds. But the question remains: how should parents decide what movies their children can watch?
Here are some thoughts:
As a parent, I appreciate the spirit behind MPAA
It helps give some general direction as to the content of a film. I don’t want my kids exposed to things like soft porn or the clown from Stephen Kings “It” (which still gives me the shivers). In general, film ratings are helpful.
But the MPAA isn’t perfect and I’m uncomfortable letting any organization be the ultimate deciding factor on whether a film is suitable for my children. That’s my job. I am okay, however, with them providing guidance to make informed decisions.
Your movie rating trumps all others
There are websites devoted to telling parents if they should let their child see a film or not. If that works for you, great. But as a parent, I want the facts about the movie so I can use my own judgment on whether it’s suitable for my children.
This is why I use imdb.com.
They have a Parental Advisory page for each film that tells me the content which informs me on whether or not it’s appropriate for my children. Here’s their philosophy:
Since the beliefs that parents want to instill in their children can vary greatly, we ask that, instead of adding your personal opinions about what is right or wrong in a film, you use this feature to help parents make informed viewing decisions by describing the facts of relevant scenes in the title for each one of the different categories: Sex and Nudity, Violence and Gore, Profanity,Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking, and Frightening/Intense Scenes.
Parents need to be in the drivers seat when it comes to which movies or television programs their children should watch. The fact is, stories are powerful. They teach, inspire, and move us. They also serve as cautionary tales.
Real life is real life
Frankly, most older kids (and many younger ones, too) have heard the “bad words.” Parents have a responsibility to not simply shelter our children, but to train them to operate in the real world.
When I was 13, my parents took me to see “Boyz N the Hood” (rated-R). It was littered with violence, language, and even sexual situations. But the story had a profound impact on me and solidified in me the value of each and every human life. A lesson embedded in me when Ricky got shot in the back.
They could have given me a speech about that value of life, but they intentionally took me to see film that said it better than they ever could.
But at the end of the day…
Let kids be kids
Children are growing up way too quickly these days. And as a parent, we have a responsibility to preserve their childhood. I encourage us all to use wisdom and discernment when deciding what our kids should be exposed to. Let the kids be kids.
When the time is right, strategically introduce them to more serious topics. Be there along the way to explain things and coach them on the way the world is AND the way it should be.
Every film or television show is a teaching opportunity. Use it to your advantage.
What advice would you add to parents who are wrestling with this topic?
When do you think it’s suitable for children to watch PG-13 or R movies?