Movie Rules for Kids
Berkeley Parents Network >
School-aged Kids >
Movie Rules for Kids
My daughter's father and I were never married and generally our
relationship is contentious (we only email each other). He was not
involved in her life until she was 4, then he filed for visitation
rights and was granted every other weekend. She is 6 now, almost 7.
For the most part, I do not speak up about what I think are poor
parenting practices because I don't need another flame war in email.
But I am very bothered by his practice of watching PG-13 movies with
her. Examples are the whole Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry
Potter movies, and Iron Man.
I was thinking that perhaps I could email some links to studies
showing the negative effects of watching violence at such a young age.
Or am I just overreacting? I'm not really sure this is worth a big
fight, but I was hoping if I could point him to some evidence that
this is really not good for her, he might be swayed. For some
context, the other poor parenting practices that I have let slide are
late bedtimes, a lot of computer time, and a lot of movie time.
Any advice or suggestions of links or other thoughts welcome.
If your kid doesn't show signs that these movies are
bothering her, I would let it go. Many kids are able to
''handle'' watching movies like the ones you listed and can
easily distinguish between reality and fiction (My four year
old girl can, my nine year old boy cannot). There will be
so many more contentious issues in the future that will
require negotiation between you and with your ex. But, let
him know that this is something that has been on your mind,
however, you trust his judgment on the matter. Also, check
in with your kid. If she is enjoying movie time with her
dad and she isn't showing any negative signs from it, let it
I know this may be the last thing you want to hear, but...
I think you should let your daughter's father parent in his
own way. Even though you may think he's a stupid jerk, he is
her dad, and it's great that he is interested enough in her
to have pursued visitation rights. Do everything you can to
support their relationship. Seriously.
PG-13 movies might not be ideal for her at this age, but on
the scale of bad parenting, it's not so bad.
Here's the real cold, hard truth for you to think about:
I can guarantee you that the ''contentiousness'' you mention
between you and her dad is WAAAAAYYYY more damaging to her
development and sense of self than any ''inappropriate'' movie.
So, rather than sending her father studies about movies, try
putting your energy towards improving your relationship with
him. Please don't take this as criticism- I don't mean it to
be. I know co-parenting with someone you don't like is
sucky. But it is up to you to do the very best you can for
your kid. You COULD be that amazing woman who rises above
the dumb conflicts you and her father have created and
really provides wonderful, loving co-parenting for your
child. Just something to consider.
-Child of ''contentious'' divorce
I don't know if you'll get many people agreeing with me, but
I would say that the amount of tv time is more concerning.
While studies show that exposure to tv violence can make
kids more aggressive in the short-term, it is not an
indicator of long-term behavior. This is particularly true
if parents are careful and conscious about the values they
are teaching to their kids. I watched R rated movies when I
was very young, and was once accidentally admitted to an
x-rated movie (an extremely silly one-long story that I
won't relate here) when I was your daughters age. I was
exposed to lots of tv and movie violence (have you noticed
how violent children's cartoons are?) and yet I am an
extremely non-violent person (not a pacifist, but very very
anti violence). I was not a violent child, either. I think
this is because my parents always had conversations with me
about their values, which included non-violence. Also, kids
know from a very early age that tv and movie violence is
''pretend'' not real, and they know the difference between the
two (pretend and real violence).
So, I wouldn't worry so much on that score, and, if your
daughter is only watching tv every other weekend, I wouldn't
worry so much about her screen time either. Limit it more at
your house, if you haven't already.
Non Violent Former TV Watcher
Do you use commonsensemedia.org? It is our main source for
decision making around whether a movie, show, book or game
is appropriate for our 7-year-old. Maybe you could point
him toward that and agree to use their recommendations?
My son whose 7 just watched his first PG 13 movie (Star
Trek) and we watched with him and fast forwarded the sex
and violent stuff. We felt ok with that, although wouldn't
make a habit of it. You mention Lord of the Rings. That
has some pretty scary parts. Those orgs can give ME
nightmares, so I wouldn't show him that (although I love
the trilogy). It's too bad that you feel like you need
statistics to get your son's dad to get that it makes you
uncomfortable and might make your son scared. I bet he's
(dad) is bored with kids movies, so wants to show him
stuff he enjoys too. Not a bad thing, but Lord of the
Rings? Nah. This may be work on your part, but look for
movies that they can enjoy together. For example, Star
Wars is much gentler. Or, might there be other feelings
you have with your son's dad that are coming out in movie
choice? Not sure...
My advice is to not fuss with your ex regarding things
like bedtime, computer time, and types of movies being
watched (if they were R rated that would be something
else). I don't think those are really critical issues and
he has the right to have his own rules/practices at his
house. I would save your requests for changes for the
things in the future that will come up that you really
feel impact your child's safety.
my 2 cents
What's hard is that you spent the first 4
years in full care--and full control--of everything your
daughter experienced, and now you have to share that w/
her (at least somewhat lame) father. It would piss me off
too, and it would scare me, and I would hate it. But she
has a dad, and law and logic tells us that having a
relationship with her dad is important for her self-
esteem. Never mind that he is apparently undisciplined and
more lax than you. OK, so when she comes back home she's
exhausted and wants to spend more time in front of a movie
or computer screen, and you have to deal with that. But
it's every other weeeknd. Big deal. What's more sad is
that he doesn't know how to relate to his kid. You will
make things easier on yourself, your daughter, and your co-
parnting relationship if you just focus on the important
things. Don't worry about the bedtimes-it's the weekend.
IF she has a big project to finish at school, or a Monday
morning field trip, you can ask him if he could help her
out that one weekend by making sure that she gets enough
For a little context, I live with the father of my child,
and he watches more TV than I would like. I hate it.
That's life. Your daughter's father was a flake for not
being involved in her early life (unless you didn't tell
him about it). But it sounds to me like you should be
grateful for the fact that you already instilled good
habits in her when she was really little, and may have
needed you more (and clearly wouldn't have benefited from
so much screen time and lack of sleep). Now back off and
let the two of them have a little fun. And remember that
there are many people around you who are quite successful
who grew up with not one but two parents who do all the
bad parenting things you point out.
Your daughter will be fine. You'll be fine after a couple
of deep breaths and enjoying your free weekends.
Here's a link to Elizabeth Vandewater''s articles which i
believe you can send for. She is coming out with a lot of
articles about the negative effects of tv and games and
other digital media. I don't think it's nothing!
Check out commonsensemedia.org for great reviews and
specific advice about age appropriateness, not only for
particular movies, but also video games, computer games,
etc. Also some good overall advice about media.
Honestly, this is not something I would worry about. Unless
your girl is having nightmares because of the movies I don't
think it's a big deal.
Lot's of 6 year olds will watch a Harry Potter movie and
think it's great. They might think it's a little scary but
like it anyway because of all the other cool stuff. It
sounds like dad is at least trying to get kid friendly movies.
What about movies? (As in, "But everybody ELSE has seen it!!") I tend
to be little more restrictive in what my 11 year old can see, and I
want info. before she goes. Is it PG-13? Why? "Oh, it's just the
language and I hear that at school anyway." She's seen several PG-13
ones lately, but I hate to think of the really brainless "teen" ones
that are around. I use the Tribune Family Viewing reviews, which have
been helpful. Going to the movies with friends is a fun, relatively
safe, and "hey look how independent I am" thing to do, so part of me
hates to say no, but... My friends without kids say to let her see
anything she wants! Helpful...Any ideas?
oh, this issue!! what i hear "all of my friends get to watch R rated
movies any time they want....i'm the only person i know that can't watch
whatever they want..." . this is probably true, and has been for quite
some time. our daughter is 12 1/2, and only last year did we allow her
to watch pg 13 movies. i think that this is an issue that only you can
decide for your family, but i think that it's ok to have a restriction
based on whatever your values are--in our situation, we don't feel that
she needs any more exposure to "adult" themes, be they sexual, language,
or violence, than she is already getting. she is very mature, but after
all only 12 1/2, and has a whole adult lifetime ahead of her to watch
whatever she wants. i also find that her friends who see some of these
movies don't really get them--but want to see them because they are
"cool". you know what your family situation is, and can set limits
accordingly in spite of the fact that "nobody else's family does...."
I drew the line with PG-13 movies. Although some R-rated movies are
only for language, I still said "no." The response was it wasn't
anything worse than what they hear at school (which is distressing in
and of itself) but I told them that they didn't need to hear it
everywhere else. As for those no-brainer teen movies...it's all part of
the fun and unless it contains something really objectionable...promotes
drugs, etc., I'd go ahead and let your child go.
"everyone else is doing it/has it/can go to it, etc" is classic. At some
point you just need to be the bad guy and say "too bad, you're not
everyone else." It's easier if you can think ahead and pick your battles
where you really want to make a stand, and let some of the other stuff
go; but of course, sometimes you can't think ahead....
Another trick that I've tried that works for diffusing information
aquired via rotten movies, TV shows, etc. is to insist that if my
daughter wants to see it, she's going to have to describe/critique it
for me afterwards. On occasion this has even elicited the reply that the
movie wasn't that good after all, and has led to discussions (however
brief) on violence, bad behavior, and realtiy vs. the movies. If your
kid is going to be exposed to trash, which is inevitable, some critical
thinking to go along with it can help them work their way through it.
Many thanks again for making this forum possible.
this page was last updated: Dec 10, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network