Do you remember some of the movies you watched when you were a kid?
I remember watching Stripes at the first boy / girl birthday party I went to when I was nine. NINE! Stripes was rated R and included topless women, drug references, profanity (four F-bombs) and some violence.
Stripes, although the 5th most popular movie in the US and Canada in 1981, was not appropriate for a group of nine-year-old boys and girls in my opinion. It was exciting to be able to see it (I guess my wild streak started at an early age), I can remember being uncomfortable and pretty surprised we were watching it. I had seen nothing like it before!
What were those parents thinking, right? Although truth be told, my friends and I watched Purple Rain at my all girls 13th birthday slumber party. I don’t really remember the movie but I can imagine that Prince did not shy away from mature content. And my parents were conscientious and fell into the “strict” category!
Most parents are interested in ensuring the movies, TV and other content their kids see are age appropriate. Why? Well, essentially because as your kids develop, they need to have experiences that they can understand and process before they are ready to move on to more advanced experiences. Jumping ahead is thought to negatively impact a child’s development. Also – and without seeking to fuel the debate – some studies say excessive exposure to violence and risky behaviours can desensitize children, leading to poor life decisions. Whether that’s true or not, every parent has to decide what they consider to be appropriate for their kids.
But what is a parent to do when they’re just not sure?
First, you should be knowledgeable about the movie rating systems. In Canada, movie ratings are done at a provincial level by seven ratings boards. The Ontario Film Review Board, for example, uses the following ratings:
The other provinces are fairly similar although most included an additional rating: Adult – Content is sexually explicit, or graphically and excessively violent. Nova Scotia jumps from 18A to XXX and includes a designation “E” for material it has not reviewed, whilst Quebec includes a rating for movies appropriate for those over 16 and stops its ratings at 18A.
In the United States, the Motion Picture Association of America provides the ratings which are fairly similar to Canada: G, PG, PG13, R, NC-17. Television shows have ratings too, with TV-14, for example, indicating that a show is not appropriate for children under 14. Keep in mind, however, that there are different attitudes around the world. There is more leniency for sexual content in some European countries for example.
Ultimately, deciding what your kids can handle is for you as a parent to decide. If you want to go beyond the rating systems, which is generally a good idea, there are websites that lay out the facts for you to make a decision. IMDB, for example, has a parent’s guide. But the bottom line is that you will need to decide what is right for your kid.
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