Some of my favorite childhood memories took place in a movie theatre. Those Saturday afternoons were a sensory overload starting from the moment I purchased my ticket, smelled the popcorn at the concession stand and finally entered the dark room full of sounds and images projected onto a giant screen. Those were the days that, for less than one dollar I could be transported to a galaxy far, far away (any Star Wars fans out there?).
I still remember the day I brought home the 80’s classic, Short Circuit. I had fond memories of the film of the military robot, which is struck by lightning, gains a more human-like intelligence. “Girls you will love this movie!” I told my three daughters (ages 9, 11 and 13 at the moment) while inserting the VHS cassette. Shortly after, I heard my youngest say: “Daddy this movie has bad words in it.”
I had just discovered that PG does not stand for “Pretty Good.” Back then; a PG-rated movie could include profane language, sexual references and other elements that I did not appreciate my daughters seeing.
Allow me to share with you three general rules that helped me find family-friendly movies.
Know the Ratings
In the early 1980s there were complaints about PG movies that included violence and gore, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Gremlins. Steven Spielberg suggested a new intermediate rating between “PG” and “R” and “PG-13” rating was born.
Every parent should become familiarized with the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) film-rating system. Here is a quick summary:
- G: A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture. The G rating is not a certificate of approval, nor does it signify a children’s motion picture.
- PG: The PG rating indicates, in the view of the MPAA, that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity.
- PG-13: A PG-13 rating is a sterner warning to parents to determine whether their children under age 13 should view the motion picture, as some material might not be suited for them. A PG-13 motion picture may contain, brief nudity, drug use, sensuality, language, adult activities, depictions of violence or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category.
As rule of thumb, I did not allow my kids to watch a PG-13 movie before they turned 13. Even after that age, I would monitor the movies they planned to watch. You would be amazed all the things a PG-13 film can get away with!
Trust the Experts
I used to judge a book by its cover or a movie by its trailer. Now, I rely on the experts to help me make those decisions. Film critics provide a snapshot of the current movies showing at the theaters. They focus on the plot, who are the stars and director, the argument of the film and if its worth paying $10 or waiting for it to come to DVD. Although I seek advice from these “experts,” film critics not always have the interest of parents of in mind.
Websites like pluggedin.com have detailed information about popular movies, videos, television episodes, songs and games. They go beyond the snapshot and dive deeper into the content and the meaning behind it. They also offer news, polls, blogs and Movie Nights discussion guides both in English and Spanish. For information in Spanish visit conectados.pluggedin.com.
After watching a movie, take time to talk to your kids about what they just saw. Address inappropriate content or behavior. Ask your children questions about the plot, or help them summarize the show and use movies as a springboard for additional learning.
Now keep it quiet…the movie is about to start!
Fernando L. Rodríguez: Director of MCG Latino, the Hispanic marketing practice of Moore Communications Group. Rodríguez will provide insights and personal anecdotes about raising three bicultural and bilingual teenagers in America and the importance of a father’s role in the life of his daughters.