Last weekend my son was at a friend’s house. The dad texted: “We’re going to watch a PG-13 movie, is that OK with you?”
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First thought: “Ugh!“
Second thought: “At least he asked.” I’m sure it won’t be long before my 8-year old son is doing things of which I wouldn’t approve at friends’ houses without their parents asking first.
Like when he recently played hours of “Call of Duty” at his cousins’ house, with “full blood” on, without my knowing it. But I digress.
We’ve always struggled with what media is appropriate for our son. We don’t want him to be that weird kid no one wants to play with cause he’s not allowed to do anything, covered in bubble-wrap every time he leaves the house.
But I can still distinctly remember my shock and horror the day a few years ago we picked my son up early from preschool to go see Ratatouille (rated G). When he announced he was going to “the movies” a 3-year old said “Are you going to see Pirates of the Caribbean? We saw it last weekend, it was awesome!” Um, no sweetie, that movie is rated PG-13, you shouldn’t be seeing it for TEN more years.
We don’t watch a ton of TV, and when we do it’s almost always recorded so we can skip through commercials. Even so, my son is still aware (from the times we don’t skip, from friends, from movie posters when we go to the theater, from the advertising chip a media company secretly implanted in his brain when I wasn’t looking) of movies like the one currently on the top of his wish list: Resident Evil Afterlife 3D. “It looks SO cool, mom!” That one’s rated R and even I don’t want to see it – not just cause of the excessive violence, but because it looks really lame.
My biggest concern with movies PG and above is usually violence and sometimes language. (Most of the movies my son actually wants to see don’t have a lot of sex or other themes I’m not yet ready to deal with, though I’m sure we’ll cross that bridge soon enough!) There are movies I’ve seen that I wish I hadn’t, for which I can’t get the gory images out of my head.
As a mom, I worry about the balance between over-exposure and over-protection.
We have broken our own “rules.” Last year we all really wanted to see Avatar. We checked with friends who had already seen the film, and checked our favorite movie-rating sites Kids In Mind and Common Sense Media to help us decide what to do. We justified the violence since the rating on those sites was about the same as for movies we’ve already let him watch like the Harry Potter series, or Indiana Jones (the first one.)
We talked to our son ahead of time about how some of the words in the film are words that are not polite and that we don’t use.
Honestly, as I type this I realize how much it was ME
wanting to see the movie that made us go.
And while I don’t totally regret allowing him to see it – it provided lots of conversation about oppression, greed, how to treat people who are different than you – we have been a lot more cautious about movie ratings since then. We can tell how watching the movie affected him, how much more interested he became in weapons, how fascinated he was with the impolite words.
So we won’t be seeing Resident Evil any time soon. And last weekend I called that dad back and said simply: “I’m sorry, I don’t feel comfortable with that movie rating.” And he was fine with it.