There was a poll in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch today asking this question: “What age would you allow your children to see an R-rated movie?”
The poll had four options: 10-12; 13-14; 15-17; and 18 or older. Aside from the fact that the last option is kind of ridiculous, as a lot of 18 year-olds are no longer living with their parents full-time, and are old enough to make that decision for themselves, I couldn’t answer the poll.
Because I don’t think it’s a black and white issue. In my opinion, there are several factors to consider when determining whether or not to let your child, regardless of age, see an R-rated movie.
I’ll admit that according to this poll, I’m probably a bad parent, because my two oldest children, who are currently 12 and 11, have seen an R-rated movie, The King’s Speech, and at least one of them was under 10 at the time we watched it. But there were several reasons (other than, “I’m the parent, so I get to decide”), that I felt this was an appropriate decision.
- It was timely to our history lessons. As a homeschooling mom, if I can find a book or movie to support what we’re learning in history (or any subject for that matter), I jump at the chance. The King’s Speech fit the bill perfectly, and as it was already one of my favorite movies, I knew that as soon as we hit that period of history, we would be watching it.
- It was appropriate. You cannot tell the story of The King’s Speech without including language. It would lose all meaning without it. I’m no fan of gratuitous language (or violence, or sex), in movies, but in this movie, it wasn’t gratuitous. It was a key plot point, and really demonstrated how speech disorders work. I wish they hadn’t made a downgraded, PG-13 version of this movie available, because without the original profanities, the movie loses a great deal of its impact.
- The primary reason the movie is R-rated is because of the aforementioned language. A lot of people think The King’s Speech shouldn’t even have received an “R” rating. Other than the language, it’s really quite a tame movie. And maybe some would suggest that since this is the movie I’m using for my example, it doesn’t really count, because “it wasn’t that bad.” But isn’t that why this isn’t a black and white question? Different people have different opinions of the rating system, and what movies do or do not deserve certain ratings. That’s why it’s such an individual decision, whether you’re an adult deciding to whether or not to see a movie for yourself, or deciding for your minor children.
- I know my children. My two oldest children, at the time they first watched The King’s Speech as well as now, were able to watch a movie with extended amounts of swearing without laughing or acting silly about it or repeating it. And because their younger brother has dealt with speech problems, they had an extra amount of empathy for the struggles of King George. My younger children, however, have not watched the same movie, because I don’t believe they’re currently able to respond in an equally mature fashion upon hearing profanities. So while the decision for when an R-rated movie is appropriate varies from family to family, it can also vary from child to child within a family.
There are probably other reasons why watching this R-rated movie was OK for my children. There are plenty of reasons why not watching many, many R-rated movies is currently not OK for my children, as well. But, it really depends on the movie, the reason for the rating, and the individual child, and those issues are too complex to allow me to answer definitively in a simple poll!