Magazine, website & books written by teens since 1989

Measuring Exposure


More by this author
I grew up in a conservative Christian household, went to a school at a particularly protective elementary school, and was shielded from offensive and inappropriate materials for most of my childhood. As a family rule, I was not permitted to watch PG-13 movies until I was thirteen years old, so I was consequently very na've and innocent compared to some of my other friends. You can imagine my shock when I entered middle school at age thirteen and was immediately bombarded with graphic movies, exposed to crude humor, and surrounded by kids my age who swore. Looking back, I now realize the great lengths my parents must have gone to to protect me from all those negative influences, and I am very grateful to them. However, many parents are not aware of the harmful effects inappropriate movies and other forms of negative media have on their children, mostly because movie ratings today are more lenient than those of previous decades. Movie ratings, which are made primarily MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America), should do their job of helping parents make informed decisions about which movies to let their kids see by better reflecting movie content, and parents should be aware of what their children are being exposed to.

Many adults are under the impression that movies today are basically the same as those of the past ten or twenty years, but this is not so. According to the Harvard Kids Risk project conducted by Professor Kimberly Thomson, 'today's movies contain significantly more violence, sexual content, and profanity on average than movies of the same age-based rating (e.g., G, PG, PG-13, R) a decade ago.' This means that adults who rarely get a change to go to the movie theater may not have a realistic idea of what movie ratings mean.
While a movie rated G (for general audiences) has no material that is considered offensive, PG (parental guidance) movies can contain some profanity and even brief nudity. The recent motion picture Marley & Me is one example of how a PG rating may still contain very questionable material. For example, it shows a little too much of the female lead's nude body jumping into a swimming pool and depicts a young girl losing her towel after stepping out of the shower, moving the camera away just in time. Later it contains implied sex, sexual innuendo and jokes, some violence, over ten instances of profanity, and deep thematic material that may be too dismal for many children. Is this what parents expect when they walk into a PG-rated movie with their kids? While advertised as a wholesome family movie, Marley & Me and other movies may have too much debatably inappropriate material for 'parental guidance' alone ' a fact that parents need to be aware of.

PG-13 (parents strongly cautioned) and R (restricted) ratings on movies may also be disputed. The MPAA says that as a rule, PG-13 movies have a limit of one use of the F-word. However, recent exceptions have been made to this rule that have not been made in past generations. Many filmmakers will include the F-word even when unnecessary ' such as in Bruce Almighty, when Jim Carrey yells it for merely comedic effect ' just to receive a PG-13 rating so they can target that specific audience of money-spending teenagers and adults. However, many adults bring their kids to movies such as this. Despite the fact that they are 'strongly cautioned' by the MPAA, many parents continue to expose their young children to this inappropriate content without a second thought. If this is due to a more permissive parenting style, it cannot be helped except by the parents themselves. However, if parents let children watch PG-13 movies out of ignorance of its content, accurate movie ratings could help solve this problem.
Parents should be aware that movies may be rated PG-13 for a variety of reasons, from violence to sexual content ' or even for a combination of several offensive areas. While parents are responsible for researching why movies are rated the way they are, oftentimes they cannot determine the intensity or relevance of such offensive material without viewing the movie themselves. Professor Thompson's study recommends that parents 'should be aware that movies with the same rating can differ significantly in the amount and types of potentially objectionable content,' and that parents should be cautious because 'the criteria for rating movies became less stringent over the last decade.' The PG-13 rating covers a wide range of films and their content, some of which have minimal objectionable content, and some that cross the line and probably deserve an R rating.

The final decision of what films are suitable for children will always be left up to their parents. However, accurate movie ratings and knowledge of the implications of these evaluations may be very helpful in informing parents of the content of movies. This may also protect children from being exposed to unsuitable materials prematurely and consequently boost moral character among youth.



Join the Discussion


This article has 3 comments. Post your own!

13silentwishes said...
May 8, 2009 at 2:39 am:
...i agree with some of the stuff you brought up, i think you brought up some good points- i don't agree with most of them, but they were good points. i was raised roman catholic, went to a catholic school and have four older siblings. i also swear (not in front of my parents, adn adults) watch rated R movies (though i'm "technically" not supposed to)
i'm sorry, i've had high school health class... there is nothing in the film industry remotely LIKE the sex ed videos we had to... (more »)
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
musicgirl757This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 2, 2009 at 2:32 am:
Yes, but movies arn't the only thing that kids get bad things from. even if we made all the ratings exactly correct, kids could still get exposure from other freinds, online, TV, magiaines, books, you name it. plus nothing says "this movie has got to be good we gotta watch it" than a mom saying they cant. that is why i worked extra hard to see the simpsons movie, it just makes the movie seem better if there told they cant watch it! i think kids should choose and if they parents are really aga... (more »)
 
bebe replied...
Apr. 27, 2010 at 11:44 am :
i completely agree with you.
 
Reply to this comment Post a new comment
 
Site Feedback