We’ve all ignored them at some point in the past, whether for our own kids or someone else’s. Perhaps it wasn’t that long ago that we were kids ourselves, begging our parents or older relatives to sneak us into a film, or buy a video game that was too old for us. We recently learnt (the hard way) that age restrictions are definitely there for a reason!
My daughter is currently learning about the Scottish Wars of Independence in school and begged us to let her watch Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace in Braveheart. It is a well-loved film, used often to settle ‘Scotland v England’ debates, so we both agreed she could see it.
It’d been a while since I’d had the chance to enjoy the story, so many of the plot points were a little foggy. Firstly, one of the early scenes contains multiple hanging bodies which I’d forgotten about – immediately off to a bad start. Then I found myself having to explain the concept of rape to my child after a scene at the end of a wedding – alarm bells were ringing. The final straw for her was the horrible death of Wallace’s wife, followed by the swift and grisly retaliation. By this point, my daughter was sobbing and we all agreed that 15 rated movies are not suitable for 9 year olds!
While this was our first experience of bending the age rules for our children, I remember it being a common occurrence when I was a child. Before 2002, and the release of the 12A cinema category in the UK, many of my friend’s parents would sneak them in to see these films. There were a couple of times my dad sneaked me in to see a 15 rated film (I never tried it with an 18) and I would always persuade my Grandad to purchase age restricted videos and DVDs for me. Given these examples, it didn’t really occur to me to check the suitability before proceeding with our family DVD night.
After re-evaluating our choice of movie, it also got me thinking about other entertainment kids are exposed to. Some parents are stricter with movies, but games and comic books are often overlooked. Why stop your baby from seeing ‘Taken’ when you let them play games from the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise? Comic books are only read by children, so ‘Fight Club 2’ is totally ok, right?
I suppose what I’m trying to get at here is be aware of what your children are exposed to. Check for age restrictions and research the story-line of the DVD, game or book. Don’t base your own exposure to media as a child on what children should be able to handle today. I know many of the early James Bond films were rated as PG, whereas those released in more recent years are rated as 12 or 15.
While following age ratings provides us with a starting point for the best guidance on content, common sense should always be the most important factor when allowing your child access. Violence was the main cause of distress in our case, but many 15 rated movies only contain sexual scenes and bad language. It’s up to you to decide if your child can handle the content once you’ve researched it a little.
As a final point, take the time to ask your child what kind of genres they enjoy. I’ve always been a fan of horror and gore, but I just have to accept that my daughter may never be comfortable with learning tips for the impending zombie apocalypse! Children also change their minds so often that I can never keep up with current trends, but it will never be a hardship for me to put up with fairies and princesses so that she can enjoy time with her family!