As we find ourselves in the thick of summer, heat wave and all, I find myself in an ongoing debate over whether Ryan, age 14 – soon to be 15, should be able to see R-rated movies. I know many of his friends have gone to and rented R-rated movies, including The Hangover, The Fighter and yes, one parent even rented The Exorcist for a group of 13-year-old boys.
I realize movies are rated R for different reasons: language, violence and/or sexual content. Regardless of the reason, I do believe an R rating reflects inappropriate content. I don’t think Ryan needs to be spending his time watching movies with perverse language, gratuitous sex or unnecessary violence. Do you think I should let Ryan join his friends?
Okay, how old am I now? Almost 15, less than nine months away from being able to legally get behind the wheel of a car and drive it down the street. I think I can handle hearing a few “F bombs” in a movie. I’m old enough to know what is acceptable to say.
As for nudity in movies, I think that’s also something I can handle. Let’s be honest, soon I will have to refuse my friends when it comes to drinking and drugs. If I’m old enough to make those decisions, which can be life changing when not chosen correctly, I think I’m old enough to see and hear mature content in movies. I know, Mom and Dad, that you think these movies could have a negative impact on my life – the way I speak and the way I decide what is appropriate and what is not. The truth is, I have had 14 years to learn what is right and wrong, and I don’t think two hours of “mature content” is going to change me. 14 years, ruined and changed completely by a few two-hour movies? I don’t know about that.
There are R movies and there are R movies. Each one probably needs to be evaluated on an individual basis. Is it swearing, violence, brief nudity or heavy sexual innuendo (sometimes much more direct than innuendo)?
As most parents with several kids know, what we do for the oldest child is dramatically different than what we do for the youngest. By the time the youngest reaches 14 we tend to have a little more perspective, and have a better idea of social norms. While the oldest may have to wait until she is twelve and a half to see a PG-13 movie, the youngest is joining the whole family and seeing I, Robot on Saturday night at 10:00 p.m. at age five.
I think it’s a judgement call. Parents have to know their kids and what they can handle. The only caveat is check with the other parents first. What may be okay for me and my kid may not be okay with another parent.
The thing about R-rated movies is you have very little control over what your kids watch. Seriously, the only place that you have control is in your own home. And that in itself can be a powerful tool. If you never watch R-rated movies with Ryan in the house and you make it known to him that you disapprove of him watching them, then maybe he will take that to heart.
Personally, I have only met a few kids who were loyal to their parents rules. Sure, they may not be able to watch it in their own house, but that’s not every household’s rules. And in middle school and high school, kids are often at friends’ houses.
When I was Ryan’s age, I had seen many R-rated movies, mostly horror flicks, and to tell you the truth, I feel like watching those movies helped me grow up. My roommate refuses to watch horror movies and stays upstairs until the scary movie is over. I attribute that to the fact that there were never horror movies in her house. So she never developed an interest. For her, haunted houses are a no, living on the bottom floor is terrifying, and at 21, she still won’t watch a scary movie. Being afraid is an experience that I think kids need to have. If not they become terrified of life.
So I think that if you don’t agree with him watching R-rated movies until he’s old enough, then don’t allow it in your house, but you need to know he is probably watching them anyway. And there are worst things that he could be doing besides watching a movie.
When it comes to sex scenes in R-rated movies, movies for guys aren’t typically rated for sex. It’s usually the R-rated chick flicks that have sex in them. The most sex in a guy R-rated movie would be in a more joking atmosphere like in Superbad. There are many sexual references, and the boy’s ultimate goal is to get laid, but there isn’t anything super bad. Again I have to emphasize that even if you disapprove, your kids are watching R-rated movies and even if there is sex in the movie, it’s not like they wouldn’t have seen anything new. By high school, I am almost 100% positive that most teenage boys have watched online porn… At least R-rated movies aren’t rated XXX.
I feel like the line between PG-13 and R has become a little faded. There’s plenty of violence and vulgarity in teen movies that I find is equal to that of the restricted movies. Not to mention, our generation has become incredibly desensitized to violence and sex. An R-rated movie from the 60s with terrifying violence would only mildly affect today’s teen. Inappropriate language is no surprise for a 15-year-old, who most likely hears it all day at school.
In general, I feel as though movies rated R for language shouldn’t be too much for an incoming freshman to handle. A violent movie might be pushing it, if one isn’t used to it, but you’d be surprised by how many kids aren’t bothered by that kind of graphic imagery. Extreme sexual content is where the line should be drawn. It’s one thing to let Ryan watch a movie that implies a sexual act (i.e. two people walking into a dark room, and then the scene ends) but if it’s going to be the type of movie that solely revolves around heavy relationships with a lot of intimate material, well, he can wait till he’s 17 to watch that.