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The Informed Parent

Summer Movies And Kids

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jul. 27, 2009

Recently a local paper ran an editorial that was written by author and columnist Mitch Albom. As an author he is perhaps best known for his book Tuesdays With Morrie. Over time I have read several of his editorial pieces as well. I found them often to be straightforward and filled with common sense interpretations of current events or topics.

The local paper ran a column that was a commentary he had written after viewing a summer released R rated movie. He observed that there were many attendees under eighteen in the theatre. And the movie’s content had indeed been rated R for adult content themes as well as explicit scenes. Many of these kids were accompanied by their parents. He was disappointed and baffled by this lack of parental judgment. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. As a pediatrician I believe parents have the responsibility to offer and enforce age appropriate entertainment for their children.

Summer blockbuster movies have been a staple of family enjoyment for years. They are often a great escape, both literally and figuratively. It is not new that what may be entertaining for adults may not be so for kids, and vice versa. The answer is not to teach the kids to tolerate or enjoy adult themes. Parents have to take the time to assess whether or not a movie is appropriate for the whole family or just for adults.

Since most people do not have the time or money to preview all movies, it makes sense to try and follow a standard that can at least offer a rough guideline. This is what the movie rating system intends to do. Ratings may go from G to R and above based on content. Most families with young children should limit their movie choices to G or PG movies. Parents have to be willing to make the difficult and sometimes unpopular call to outlaw certain movies for family viewing for the emotional and social health of their children. Kids need to be shown what is and is not appropriate for their age group; they do not know this innately.

Some argue that kids attending adult movies don’t understand the content, and therefore it can’t harm them. I would stress that not understanding the full content can be just as problematic or more so for the child that is not mature enough to process some types of information. He may not know to ask questions if he doesn’t understand something that has happened. Parents have to show their children that they care about what they are exposed to and how it might make them feel. Parents also have to be good roles models for compromise to show that they are willing and happy to sacrifice their own wants for their child’s best interest. These are general and basic comments on this subject, but should at least serve as a starting point for discussion around the dinner table as the family makes plans for their summer fun!

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