Tips for Parents: Understanding Movie Viewing Guides

Although the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) offers a ratings system for films, their system is based on general guidelines. Some parents may or may not agree with the criteria that the MPAA uses to determine a film’s rating. Since every child is different and many parents have their own feelings about what is and isn’t appropriate for their children to view, parents should take the MPAA rating as a general guide, but investigate movie reviews themselves.

General Audiences G

G-rated films are the most family friendly of the bunch. Nudity, sex, violence, and drug use are all taboo in G-rated films. However, parents should note that, according to the MPAA, “Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation, but they are common everyday expressions.” The upcoming film, “Monsters University” by Disney and Pixar is a good example of a film that is suitable even for young children.

Parental Guidance Suggested PG

Although not quite as tame as general audience films, PG movies are often okay for pre-teen children, but parents are encouraged to watch with them. They may contain minor profanity, brief nudity and more realistic violence. PG movies are often slightly more mature films geared towards young audiences such as “Oz the Great and Powerful.” However, the line between PG and the next step-up, PG-13 can be very fine.

Parents Strongly Cautioned PG-13

PG-13 movies may contain non-graphic sex scenes, some drug use, and profanity. They also often contain a fair, but not excessive, amount of violence “Iron Man 3”, “Star Trek: Into Darkness” and the upcoming “Man of Steel” all fall into this category. While these films have huge “kid appeal”, they may contain scenes inappropriate for viewers under the age of 13 and parents should definitely research these movies to determine if their children are mature enough to view them.

Restricted R

Sex, drugs, profanity, and violence all go to a higher-level in R movies. Theoretically, an adult must accompany children under 17 to see these films, but this practice is rarely enforced by movie theatres. Restricted films are definitely not for young children and parents have to use their own judgment as to whether or not teenagers should be allowed to see these movies, as they do tend to have very adult content and themes.

No One 17 and Under Admitted NC-17

Movie theatres do enforce the NC-17 rule. Although NC-17 films are not pornographic, they may contain much more realistic sex scenes, explicit violence, and reckless drug use. Many R-rated films initially border on NC-17 and may have to make edits to lower the rating. These are adult movies and are only appropriate for very mature teenagers.

The best rule of thumb for parents is to research the movies their children want to see. The MPAA ratings system isn’t perfect and sometimes things that parents may not want their children to see “slip through the cracks” into lower-rated films. If you are concerned about what your children are exposed to, it pays to get online and read movie reviews from actual viewers who will discuss the content honestly.

Paula Robinson loves to take her kids to the movies. They’re currently watching for updates on the June 2014 release of their favorite gang of turtles!