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6-year-old's dad is watching PG-13 movies with her

April 2010

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. concerned mom


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 go. Anon
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? Debbie
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... anon
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 sleep.

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! http://www.he.utexas.edu/hdfs/vandewater.php
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. Good luck. another mom
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. anon

How much to restrict 11-year-old's movies?

April 1999

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.


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