My conservative, Catholic cousin-in-law was once shocked when I admitted to watching R-rated movies as a teen. “Didn’t you?” I countered. He told me no, that his mother wouldn’t let him and he didn’t watch a single one until he was 18. That sounded sort of pitiful to me, but I guess I sound pitiful to other people—I’ve never smoked pot, for example, and I didn’t drink or do drugs in high school. I suppose I should have asked him if he did any of those things.
Then, the other night at a mask-making class, the teacher asked kids to identify a favorite movie that might inspire a mask. While looking at the masks, my seven-year-old was obviously reminded of the movie Labyrinth, which we love. The teacher remarked, “Labyrinth! Wow. Any other movies?” He then decided to use a girl’s example of Beauty and the Beast—a movie in which people die, by the way, while no one dies in Labyrinth; and instead of a girl tolerating emotional abuse, it involves one courageously saving her little brother—for the mask-making. A librarian remarked later, “Labyrinth’s a little old for her, isn’t it?”
Seriously? I know dozens of parents who let their kids see movies like Avengers, which is filled with death. I even know a mom whose toddler watches Lord of the Rings movies, which is just incredible to me—my daughter will not be watching those movies for at least another year or two. How is okay that all of these kids can watch shooting and death and violence, yet it’s wrong for my kid to watch puppets dance with David Bowie?
Tonight I let her watch The Neverending Story, my favorite movie when I was her age. Nevertheless, I kept my fingers on the remote, ready to stop it if she got scared at all. But she really enjoyed the movie—especially the bat and the luck dragon, just as I had expected—and I felt like my judgment was spot-on. It’s not always, but it usually is—and that’s what I trust when it comes to my daughter.
What about you? What do you do to decide whether or not something is appropriate for your children? Do you use ratings, or do you have another system in place? Do you watch movies before sharing them with your children, or trust other parents’ reviews? Share your thoughts below.