Should Kids Under Age See PG-13 Movies?

Most popular action movies are rated PG-13. Would that stop you from taking your child to see one?

It’s summer blockbuster season! We asked the Patch Moms Council if they let their children younger than 13 watch PG-13 movies? It’s a tough choice for some, especially since all the exciting super hero and adventure movies—such as X-Men: First Class and Transformers: Darkside of the Moon--are PG-13. We also asked the moms if they thought Hollywood was making movies too violent for children.

Tracy: My family loves movies. It's a relatively inexpensive form of fun when compared to the price of an amusement park or major sports event.

A little recap: the ages of my children are 17, 15, 13, 12, 10, and 7. Obviously, the 17-year-old is going to be able to watch movies the 7-year-old won't. I am still very cautious of what they see. Yes, even the 17-year-old has not been allowed to see some PG-13 movies.

I do not make a blanket statement that they can not see any movie that is PG-13. I take the time to investigate each movie. If I still have a question whether it is appropriate, I see the movie first. This is how it has always been, so my kids don't even question it. It is my job as a parent to watch over my kids. It is not up to school, or Hollywood or the government ... So I take the time and do my job right.

So far, my oldest is the only child who has been allowed to go to the movies, the mall, the park, etc. without a parent—either hers or one of her friends. It's not that my kids or their friends are looking to get into trouble. Let’s face it though, kids will sometimes get caught in a moment with friends and not always make the best decisions (my husband is guilty of this, and he is 40). I feel it is my responsibility to help them with those kinds of things until they have matured. It is another thing you can not make a blanket statement about. You have to look at each child individually.

Wendy: I let my son watch PG-13 movies--he is 12. I have been letting him for about two years.

It seems like we have been going to the theater a lot more often, especially because of this heat wave we are having. We even went twice a couple of weekends ago.

He has been going to the movies with just his friends for about a year. I think it depends on the maturity of the kid. You will know when they are ready to go by themselves.

Laura: We do let our 7-year-old see some PG-13 movies, but only after we've seen them first and know exactly what he's watching. Usually, we wait until they come out on DVD, so we can skip through any parts we've decided are inappropriate. We don't go to the theatre very often, because it's so expensive, and so far, the kids seem to prefer to watch at home. As for violence in cartoons ... it is what it is. We can't change it, obviously, so we just try to be careful about what the kids watch and make sure they understand that what they're seeing isn't OK behavior for them or anybody else. I'm interested to see how the summer goes with movies, because my oldest seems to be beyond Cars 2 but also seems to have gotten out of his Transformers phase ... so we'll see!

Emily: I have rarely gone to a theater to see movies since my teens. I was pretty young when I realized that the unjustifiable expense of making a movie that is passed on to common patrons and families were something I would avoid participation to a great extent. Later on, this issue was only one of many I have for patronizing this form of popular entertainment. If anyone catches me or my family going to a movie, it will be at a reduced-cost theater, or at a reduced-cost time.

I do not ban my family from seeing movies. My husband does not share the level of disgust I have for some forms of our society’s entertainment, and I am letting my kids grow up to form their own opinions. I do not really watch today’s cartoons or cartoon movies, so I have no idea if I would see them as “too violent.” 

I would find it hard to believe they could be much more violent than cartoons and entertainment programs from generations past.

I do not care about the marketing or the ratings of movies. I am pretty offended that our society has allowed ourselves to be manipulated into thinking we all need to be told what is appropriate or not for ourselves and our families with the subjective G, PG, PG-13 and R system.

I am not sure how anyone can rationally complain about the marketing techniques, yet still be willing to allow a ratings system to dictate your family’s age appropriateness for any given film. Our society is a consumer society, and kids are marketed to every day. It does not begin and end with the movie industry. 

This is another time when parents can begin a real meaningful dialogue with their kids, as appropriate to their age and capacity, which should be determined by the parents--and not a movie theater. Any given modern movie is going to have gratuitous violence, gratuitous sexually suggestive scenes or dialogue that many families do not like. So why not talk to the whole family about what goes into making movies and how to critically think about entertainment and the various media we all consume? Watch a variety of movies. Watch foreign films, movies with subtitles, classic films. If you do not like the latest Transformers, show your kids the traditional versions. The way our society is designed, the only way things will change is when people stop giving money and time to mediocre (at best) entertainment they don’t even like. There are so many creative alternatives.

Michelle: Yes, my child, who is 12, gets to watch PG-13 and some R-rated movies. It really depends on each child as to what they can handle. As far as dropping off a 12-year-old with a friend to see a movie by themselves … luckily he hasn't asked yet!

Denise: We’ve been extremely permissive with allowing my oldest watch PG-13 movies. He’s 12 now, but I know he was around 4 or 5 when we started letting him watch some PG-13 films, mainly at home on DVD. We mostly only bar movies on their “skin” content—if a movie is rated PG-13 for superhero-style violence or mild language, we’ve let him watch it with us. Typically, we’ve been making exceptions only for movies that kids ought to be able to see, like Harry Potter, Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings films—most of which we’ve seen as a family in the theater. Yes, I took a 5-year-old to see Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, orcs and all. We never took him to see a romantic comedy or anything “sexy.”

The kinds of films we want to see are rated PG-13 because they slip in a curse word or kill some bad guys—there’s a huge difference between seeing Pirates of the Caribbean and Kill Bill. We don’t see R-rated films or horror movies with him.

When he was younger, I carefully vetted films I wanted to see at parent review sites, or even went to the trouble of watching a questionable DVD first. Now that he’s 12, I consider him my movie-going buddy, and we’ll drop the youngest off with Grandpa to catch a few summer blockbusters that my husband isn’t interested in seeing with us.

But before you think I’m completely off my rocker, my oldest kid has always been extremely mature and responsible. He knew not to repeat any bad language and not to try any violent moves on his friends. He was also able to watch a movie quietly and not bother other people in the seats around us.

Personally, I think the movie-rating system is ridiculous. You know that filmmakers nudge action films into PG-13 with an extra curse word or two just so teens won’t think the movies are for “babies.” It pretty obvious that most of society agrees with me, seeing how every PG-13 action hero movie that comes along gets turned into toys and Happy Meal fodder.

My second child came really hampered our ability to see movies in the theater. We watched most of our movies on DVD at home and only arranged for a babysitter for must-see movies, like Harry Potter. However, when the little guy was 2, we discovered the Skyview Drive-In at Belleville—the last drive-in theater in the metro area. We’ll see as many movies as we can there, with the boys nestled in the back of the SUV on pillows. The Skyview is cheap fun, and I don’t have to worry about my preschooler bothering anyone else if he wants to chatter or play with his popcorn instead. And yes, we’ve seen PG-13 films with him.

Db September 05, 2012 at 11:11 PM
What About watching PG13 movies with a two year old?


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