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This Blog is Rated PG for Parental Guidance
by JAK’s guest mom, Nicole Hunt, of Racine

You may be surprised to know that, in part, we have Steven Spielberg to thank for the existence of the PG-13 rating.  In the early 80’s the films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Poltergeist and Gremlins all received a PG rating.  I know that Poltergeist is not appropriate for my 8 year old; in fact it would freak her out.  So as a result of how violent these films were people started asking for a rating between PG and R; shortly after PG-13 was born.

This brings up a very interesting question.  How do we know what is okay for our kids to see?  I am in no way a “you must be 13 to see PG-13 movies” type of parent.  In fact, as a kid I always thought that was kind of a weird rule.  I am also not a liberal as some of my friends who are watching the rated “R” Matrix with their 2 and 6 year old.  I am not judging parents on either side of this spectrum.  I have cousins who were watching the Chucky movies at age 3 and neither one, to this point, have turned into violent killers.  I am, however, a big movie buff who is counting down the day when I can share great films like a Clockwork Orange and Apocalypse Now with my kids.  That being said, my husband and I spend a lot of time discussing what our kids are and are not ready for.

This has become increasingly challenging with our youngest.  It seemed like my oldest was watching Nick Jr. until she was at least 8, but my youngest, promptly at 6, sent all her Dora stuff packing.  Part of this has to do; I am sure, with the fact that she is copying her older sister.  I couldn’t believe it when she quickly became obsessed with Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber in the 1st grade.

 Eris and Trillian with Woody lego

I also think we are partly to blame.  I find we are always looking for things to watch as a family that is appealing to everyone.  This means less Nick Jr. and more Discovery Channel.  We went through a long run of nature documentaries, and now I feel like the only things we watch are Myth Busters and Pixar movies.

What makes it more difficult is that the 8 year olds’ favorite things now are Anime and Super Heroes, and we are quickly running out of things appropriate for her age.  You would think super heroes would provide a plethora of viewing options, but we have found they are getting more violent with each film.

Trillian dressed as Sailor MoonMy husband has been a big fan of the series of straight to video, animated movies being released by D.C. including a great Wonder Woman movie.  I have to say the feminist in me was super happy when Wonder Women became my daughter’s new favorite hero.  They are all rated PG-13 and on a whole we have found them acceptable for our youngest, but we recently were shocked by newest one, Flashpoint, focused on an alternate universe where the Flash isn’t the Flash (I am embarrassed I know this much about the plot).  The movie ends with a shot of a bullet wound through someone’s brain.  We both agreed we would rate this film an R and it was not appropriate for our 3rd grader.  Of course I can hear the parents yelling at me through the computer that it was rated as PG-13 or “Parents Strongly Cautioned-Some Material May be Inappropriate for Children under 13”.

So what is a parent to do? Do we break down the ratings system even more?  Since the implementation of the V-Chip in 1999, TV has added ratings for shows by each individual age.   One answer is the websites that give you a synopsis of every questionable section of a film so you can read up before deciding.   Two I can suggest are:  http://www.commonsensemedia.org and http://www.kids-in-mind.com.  Commonsense Media gives you ratings and reviews on everything from language, sexual content and violence with review from parents, the general public and kids.  I like it because you can get feedback from a variety of perspectives and you are sure to find some that match your opinion.  Kids in Mind gives you a point by point description of anything questionable in the film which allows you see if there is anything you are not comfortable with.  We recently used this for the film “Warm Bodies,” the zombie romance.  After reading about the one zombie ripping his face off on camera, we thought it might be a bit much for our youngest daughter.

My other and more important suggestion is to sit with your kids when they might watch something questionable and talk to them about it.  We do this with the 13 year old to the point that she didn’t think 28 Days Later was even scary because we spent the entire movie talking to her about break down of societal norms instead of the cool zombies.  She rolled her eyes at us when we gave her a twenty minute speech about how Kill Bill would be the most violent movie she has ever seen and how violence is really bad in reality but in some movies its awesome.  To quote Cher in the classic film Clueless:  “Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there’s no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.”

My final word is to wish all parent’s good luck regardless of what you decide is okay and remember it is only entertainment.

Eris and Trillian dressed up as Disney Princesses

Nicole Hunt works full time as the Employment Specialist at Human Capital Development Corp./First Choice Pre-Apprenticeship.  She lives in Racine with her husband and two daughters, ages 13 and 8.  In her free time she volunteers with her daughters’ Girl Scout Troop, The International Parents’ Travel Club to fundraise for youth international travel through McKinley Middle School, and the LGBT Center of Southeastern Wisconsin.

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