Violence, Nudity, and Little Kids at PG-13 Movies…

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So, I brought up this query on both Facebook and Twitter a few days back–


If your seven-year-old were invited to a birthday party where they’d be screening The Avengers (which is rated PG-13), would you let him go?


It was inspired by a conversation I had with a group of moms at the ball-field.  It wasn’t my kid who was invited to the party, but it was interesting to hear all the varied responses.  Much like the ladies at baseball practice, your opinions varied immensely.  You all had this to say:

  • “definitely no”
  • “negative”
  • “no”
  • “I’ll go against the grain and say, probably.”
  • “Probably.”
  • “I’d look up a detailed synopsis and then decide.”
  • “Not to be a pain, but I don’t know. I don’t like arbitrary age restrictions. I checked the movie out online, the PG-13 is for intense sci-fi action, violence and a mild drug reference. I usually handle these on a kid to kid basis. Can I attend with my child? That would make a difference. I’m not sure there is a right or wrong answer here. :)”
  • “Well I’ll just tell you about us heathens over here in my house. R is 5. He’ll be attending with Mommy, Daddy and Poppop on opening weekend. He saw Thor in the theater and I was very traumatized that all the mommy police would be evil looking me, but discovered my town is full of heathens…tons of 4ish year old boys were in attendance. R also saw Captain America in the theater. Iron Man started with Daddy skipping ahead on the bluray to the flying scenes. I vetoed Iron Man 2 as there really was one scene that bothered me for kids. Generally the super heros are battling non-humans or seriously overblown evil guys. R seems to understand it is not real and these are actors. Especially when the same actor shows up on a commercial for something else. But if had had my way (ie Dad had no involvement) we’d have been straight PBS so far and then I’d say no. BUT really old school kid movies like Disney are wickedly violent, so I caved on the super heros. (I’ve drawn the line at the Dark Knight series though)”
  • “No way, no how… We don’t do movies very often at all.”
  • “I think 7 yo is fine for super hero movies. Heck my 4 yo girl has seen Iron Man and Green Lantern without ill effect. It’s comic book bad guys-violence giving it the PG13 rating. Boys that age love super heroes.”
  • “I think the movie is a bit long for the average child that age to sit through at a theater. It also seems like it might be a bit much content wise as well, though this really depends on the child. I think it would definitely be a movie I would need to know more about/see before I would let a 7yr old see it. The PG-13 rating alone wouldn’t determine my decision.”
  • “Me-absolutely no way! My hubby-would be disappointed he didn’t get to go, lol…he has let my kids watch tons of things I would never have!”
  • “Well, are you invited as well? To filter some questions and bring up convos later? In not, then no. If yes, maybe…”
  • “no! It’s a PG-13! That’s twice the age! HIS parents shouldn’t allow it in the first place!”
  • “yes I’ve seen Iron Man, Thor, etc & it’s mostly comic book violence. Plus kids love super heroes!”
  • “nope. end of discussion ;)


Lots of opinions, huh?  I, for one, think that only makes sense.  And I’m not in a position to say anyone is “wrong”– after all, these aren’t all MY children that we’re talking about here, right?


For the record, I would NOT let my seven-year-old attend that party.  At the risk of someday embarrassing him, I’ll just tell you that he finds Gothel from Tangled to be a bit on the scary side.  So… there you go.  If a PG movie (and a really, really good one!) is pushing it, there’s simply no way that I’d send him off to a PG-13 film.


[I'd also like to mention that I am super, super disappointed with the trend as of late of releasing "superhero" movies, which obviously appeal to little boys, that are so violent they receive PG-13 ratings.  All marketing is geared toward our young sons-- pajamas, notebooks, lunch boxes, Happy Meal toys, for heaven's sake... but the movies themselves really are NOT appropriate for those ages.  It makes it hard, as a parent.  There's a very fine line between, "No way, no how-- it's not meant for a young child" and "I'll go with him and I know what my child can handle."]


So.  I’m not saying there’s a right or a wrong answer, overall.  I’m saying that I would NOT let my child attend that party.  That much I know.


But here’s where the conversation went all crazy wonkadoodle.  The bleachers grew absolutely SILENT when I dropped this little bombshell:


“I’m more concerned about the violence my kids might see in movies than I am the nudity.”


A bunch of chatty women grew silent and at least a dozen eyes fell on me.


But it’s true.  And here’s why–


Nudity, when portrayed in a normal, healthy way, is not likely to scar a child, in my opinion.  Seeing someone naked climbing in a shower should not be alarming.  It is a normal activity, performed in an appropriate fashion.  There is no reason to assume that a child who witnesses such behavior will be traumatized.  Do they *need* to see it?  Of course not.  But I’m not really convinced that it would be damaging.  A flash of breast exposed in the act of feeding a baby?  Even– gasp– more than a flash?  Not concerning to me.  It’s nudity for a normal, healthy purpose.  Again, I see no reason this should upset or scar a child.


Now, sexuality is different.  And I think that young children can be confused and troubled by seeing scenes of intimacy– mainly because it just doesn’t make sense to them, to be honest.  I don’t really want my kids seeing “sex scenes”– let’s be clear about that.  BUT– and this really is a big BUT, my friends– I actually expect that my children will one day incorporate nudity in the form of intimacy into their lives.  Much later, of course, but I do expect it to happen– and I will consider that a normal, healthy part of their lives.


Violence?  Is not really “normal” or “healthy” in my opinion.  I don’t expect my children to ever run around killing and slaughtering perceived “enemies” or “villains”.   And, yes, there is a difference between accurate portrayals of killings that occur in war-time or throughout history for various reasons and the glorified violence more frequently spewed forth on the big screen.  I realize that.  While I respect accuracy, that doesn’t necessarily make it “healthy” or “normal” either…


The simple fact is, my kids are going to be naked.  They’re naked a couple times every day.  They will also see other people naked at various points and for various reasons.  Some of those reasons?  Had better be later rather than sooner, but you get my drift…


It’s interesting though, isn’t it?  I know lots of people who wouldn’t hesitate to let their little boys, especially, watch some truly violent movies but would FREAK.OUT if a breast were exposed.


I don’t want my kids seeing either.  (That’s one reason why I’m not letting them go to movies rated way too high for their ages.)  But if I had to choose?


I’d pick the boob.


Weird?  Maybe.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole matter…

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26 comments to Violence, Nudity, and Little Kids at PG-13 Movies…

  • OH YES it’s so frustrating how it is marketed to little kids. What 13 year old is carrying a lunchbox or wearing 3T jammies?
    I agree with you on the naked…sex scenes, no, but a flash of skin on the way to the shower is normal living.
    ANyway, as I clicked on this we were discussing the best time to go the The AVengers because we want to go ASAP but not when it’s hideously crowded.
    I’ve told Reese if he hits people he won’t be able to watch movies anymore as I will assume that’s where he’s learning it. It seems to have worked so far.

  • Celine

    I love your response and the insight you have into your child. I definitely would not let a child bothered by a character in Tangled see a movie like Avengers.

    I also agree that I would rather my child see natural nudity over violence or sexual nudity.

    I can’t stand the way that movie products are marketed to age groups that are far to young for the movie. I don’t even particularly even like the kid appropriate movie/show merchandise. I

  • FishMama

    You make me laugh. Tell Thor I think Mother Gothel is scary, too. As for ratings, I really don’t get them. I am pretty sure that TinTin (an awesome movie, btw) got a PG13 – because there’s drinking in the movie. Definitely an issue to discuss, but it surprised me that that triggered the higher rating. Rapunzel had drinking, too. Weird

    • The whole ratings system is a hot mess, in my opinion. The people assigning the ratings aren’t really “qualified” in any way and it’s all so subjective, anyway. I’ll be checking out TinTin now!

  • Most of the time when you post these matters f opinion kinds of things, I come away from the “discussion” pretty much sure that you are one of the very few SANE moms out there!! As always, sweetie, you are right on the money!

  • Laraba

    I agree about a little nudity being Ok, but so many movies have unhealthy sexual relations and that really bothers me. I watched Iron Man with my husband and actually really liked it as the main character was clearly a jerk in the beginning, but straightened out quite a bit. Then Iron Man 2 was a big disappointment as he got totally jerky again for at least half of the movie. If a movie shows a married couple with affection and maybe some nudity, that doesn’t bother me — but so OFTEN it is the “hook up” or something like that, and I don’t want our kids seeing that!

    Our children are mostly very sensitive because we limit what they watch. Our 9 year old son got scared by very fake monsters from the old Doctor Who series from the 1970′s (not sure if you are familiar with that.) So we definitely will not let our kids watch the Hulk, Thor, etc. YET. I actually liked some of those movies quite a bit and at an age appropriate time we’ll let watch them but every kid is different and ours are not ready for those movies yet.

    They can be a good opportunity to discuss worldview, and that is a good thing. But some movies are off limits in our home forever…I am pretty careful what I watch too!

    • Oh, I totally agree about not wanting a bunch of unhealthy sexual relations of over-the-top hook-ups and what-not in the things my kids see… quite frankly, *I* don’t even like seeing that! ;) But I actually really DO like shows/movies that portray healthy marriages with a fair bit of AFFECTION. I think that’s a very good, healthy thing for kids to see.

      • Laraba

        Yes, we are affectionate with one another at home (my dh and I kiss and hug in front of the children) and the older kids have been told quite a bit about sexual intimacy (age appropriately.) And with soon to be 8 kids, they are all familiar with nudity; soon they’ll be watching me change our new son, and the toddler is a girl. That doesn’t bother me at all. It’s the negative sexual stuff that bothers me. A few months ago, I watched part of a James Bond movie with Pierce Brosnan before giving up in disgust…there is a scene where a beautiful actress comes out of the water, she and the James Bond character exchange a few witty remarks, and the next scene they are in bed rolling around. THAT is what drives me crazy — clearly this behavior is being portrayed as good and cool and fun — no discussion of emotional and spiritual devastation, or the possibility of disease or pregnancy. Nope, just FUN. That’s the kind of movie I don’t want our kids seeing! On the other hand, The Fugitive (from 15 years ago or so) has some bedroom scenes but it is between 2 married people and I don’t mind that at all. Not that my kids are ready for THAT movie because the scenes of the wife being killed are very disturbing.

  • My toddler does not specifically watch t.v., unless you count glancing up at it as I wait the five minutes to catch the local weather before leaving for the playground. Now he’s old enough where even five minutes can be scary…I’m not sure I want to think ahead for what movies will be like at age 7.
    Good for you for taking a stand on your views with other mothers. I know that your son may not have been in the conversation, but having a mother who is clear about her views-under peer pressure-will help him deal with peer pressure himself, if you catch my drift.
    As for me, I wouldn’t want my son to attend the movie. There are so many better choices out there!!!

    • It’s crazy to me that I even have to THINK about this stuff at this point, but, alas, we’ve gotten to that point. We don’t even have cable, so… yeah. Not much exposure to anything happening here. ;) I like the point you make about modeling standing up for your views, though– that really is so important! Thank you!

  • mlearley

    I completely agree with you that violence is way worse than a little nudity. Alex has seen us getting into/out of the shower and it’s completely natural, however, she’s never seen any violence other than kids from daycare. So when someone gets hit or worse, it really bothers her. My child is very sensitive…birds scare her but she’s only 3, so I can’t tell how she’d be at 7. Alex also watches very limited TV and we are extremely careful as to what she watches. Even the “kid” shows on tv have too much violence, sexuality, and bullying.

    However, I also agree with the others who said they would have to watch the movie first or at least read about it more. I think parents need to be more involved in what our kids are watching/reading. Parents cave into peer pressure more than our kids do. I think it’s part of the whole attitude of “I want to give my kids more than I had or let them do stuff I wasn’t allowed.” Great but at what cost to the child?!?

    • “Even the “kid” shows on tv have too much violence, sexuality, and bullying.” <– YES. Absolutely. It’s kind of a mine-field out there and it really is so important that we 1) know our children, 2) review the material, and 3) feel confident taking a stand. Good points!

  • Adrienne

    I agree. My husband came from a family where there was no censorship for media and I came from one where even some disney movies had to be watched with parents, so you can imagine some of our conversations regarding movies! That being said, whenever it is a non-disney movie we usually watch it first, or at least watch it with L so we can turn it off if it ends up being too much. My husband wanted to take L to the theatres to watch Cars 2 and after reading a little bit about it (cars being tortured, car parts floating down the river etc…) I was completely against it, and caught a lot of flak about it from his family. We bought it, and started to watch it with him, and he wasn’t even interested in it! The content was just way over his head he’s 3)

    The way I see it is, as parents we have a responsibility to protect our kids minds as much as we protect their bodies. If my kid is reaching for a hot stove burner I’m going to grab his hand, if he’s going to watch something that isn’t morally concrete it can cause the same damage to his mind long term.

    • I think that’s a good point, too, Adrienne… even when there IS a good, valuable plot-line, it’s often over the heads of small children. I think back to the first Spiderman movie they came out with, what, 10 years ago now? It had a really good storyline, truth be told, but it would be over the heads of even the brightest young children I know…

  • Kathy

    We do let our boys that are older than 7 watch the super hero movies, but we always check every movie that they are going to watch out on the website plugged in. It is sponsored by focus on the family and will tell you exactly what is in the movie. They break it down into language, violence, sexuality, spiritual, etc. We even look up movies we have seen to see what they say because it is amazing how much we don’t “see/hear” when we are watching the movie. Our boys will even ask now “have you looked up “x” on the website to see if it is appropriate for us to watch”. We don’t look at ratings we look at content. We look at all categories but are really careful about what the movie is saying or portraying that might not match our very conservative fundamental Bibical values.

    • I think this is key, Kathy– looking at content, rather than just rating. It’s very important to know where you stand and to make decisions that align with your family’s values.

  • Girl, I knew we were kindred…

    And why are we in such a hurry to have our kids grow up so fast anyway? If they go to PG13 movie at age 7, where do you go from there?

    and as long as it was not intimacy-related — yeah. think I’d pick the boob, too ;)

    I am so glad I know my child well enough to make the best decision for him! I would love to trust in other moms to do the same.

    • mlearley

      The thing about this whole issue is why are parents having parties like this. To me this puts the parents of the other kids in a very difficult position. You want your kids to go to parties and have fun with their friends, however, you also have standards of what is acceptable for kids.

      This happened to a co-worker but in a different way. Her daughter is in a book club and the next book series was the Hunger Games. Well after reading about the books and reading them, she decided that her daughter (11) was not old enough and couldn’t handle these, so for the next 3 months her daughter can’t go to book club. To me that’s inconsiderate of the leader to pick a book that is labeled Young Adult. I’m sorry but 11 is FAR from young adult. Plus I’ve read the first one and it’s way to violent for 11 yr olds. My friends daughter was so upset that her mom was taking her from her friends and her joy of reading but this wouldn’t have happened if the parent leader thought about the position she could be putting other parents in. Sorry rant over! ;c)

      • Oh, that makes me sad… for the mama and the daughter. :( Seems unfair…

        Also? I was talking to my husband and I said I was shocked that the theatre is even allowing a 7yo bday party at that movie. Most 7yo parties in our area seem to be drop-off parties… are people allowed to drop off their kids for a movie rated so much above their actual age? Do they even care??? (My feisty side may have come out a bit… ;))

    • Oh, that whole “rush to grow up” thing… I see it all the time. Kindergarteners having “Justin Bieber parties”… what’s up with that??? Save the boy-singer-crush thing for junior high, I think. :)

  • Jamie

    I am going to go against the grain here and say I would let my 7 year old see this movie or go to a party showing it if I had seen it first and deemed it okay. I guess I am saying it would be a case by case basis.

    I grew up watching action flicks with my dad which ranged from PG to R (gasp!) and it had no ill effect on me. Occasionally even being told “cover your eyes” for an exceptionally “bad” scene.

    My friends 3 year old son won’t watch many movies that my 2 1/2 year old daughter loves because he thinks the antagonist is too scary (Lion King, Nemo, Shrek, all G rated) and I think it is silly and I am glad my daughter is not afraid of those things. So to me it seems to also depend on what your own child can handle.

    To each their own, we are all (hopefully) trying to raise well rounded kids and if someone chooses for theirs to NOT see it I respect that just like I’d ask for the same for allowing mine to.

    • Absolutely, “to each their own” and, even more importantly, to each their own children! :) I tried to be sure and acknowledge that I am not parenting everyone else’s kiddos and I would never presume to know what’s best for them. I truly believe that most of us are trying to make good, sound choices that align with our own values and experiences.

      I’ve raised a couple of those kiddos who also found villains/antagonists scary… and maybe that is silly, but I would never make them feel bad for it. I think it’s also a result of simply not seeing many of those movies as toddlers. My guess is that families who spend more time enjoying such films together probably raise children who are less sensitive to them.

  • [...] was baseball practice, a place where lots of intense conversations seem to take place. We chatted about our first grade boys, compared homework loads, discussed reading level goals set [...]

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