Movie Ratings and Your Kids

Mercedes Samudio, LCSW by Mercedes Samudio, LCSW

movie ratingsReady for another series? Of course, you are!

This time we’re doing a 3 part series on Media, Parenting, and Kids.

The first post will focus on movie ratings and how to pick movies that are appropriate for your family!

I don’t know when I became a prude.

When did I become the person who noticed how much gore, violence, sex, and adult themes permeated the current movie I was watching?

I’m not sure when I began to be aware of movie themes and how they were portrayed, but all I know is that now I’m the friend who asks others if they realized how much sex was in that PG movie.

But, are you doing that parent? Are you concerned with the differences between PG, PG-13 and R movie ratings?

When I was in middle and high school I had a great scheme for getting into rated PG-13 and R movies [theaters were far more strict in the 90’s]: ask an adult to buy the ticket for me or buy a ticket for a G-rated movie then sneak into the PG-13/R-rated one.

It was full-proof; and, I watched my share of R-rated movies during those years. I remember watching all the sex, sexual innuendos, violence, and gore wondering, “Why is this movie restricted to me? I can handle this.”

Boy, was I naïve and young. Back then, however, everything that showed anything passed a bare back or a cut-away of a knife then a person on the floor was rated-R. But, this is not the way things are now!

Now, frontal nudity and gore have all become standard parts of the PG and PG-13 movie ratings.

Many parents have yet to realize this and tend to send their children, or even take the kids themselves, to movies that are a bit too adult for their little eyes. But, if I can be completely honest, even some G-rated movies make innuendos that while they might go over the child’s heads in terms of contextual awareness.

I’ve seen my share of children turning to their parents and asking about a character kissing or raising their eyebrows in a suggestive manner. So, what is a parent to do? Watch every movie first then take their children to watch it?

No, that’s way too much! Let’s look at what options parents have to make better decisions about the movies their children watch.

Getting In the Know

Taking time to read about the movies that your children are watching might seem like a useless task.

It can feel even more exhaustive when you think of my little scheme that I was able to pull off when I was a kid. But, the truth is, children don’t just learn about life from you parents.

They also learn about sex, drugs, inappropriate jokes and language, and even making friends and developing romantic relationships from movies and entertainment.

Some of the movies that are rated PG or PG-13 don’t always have family friendly themes; some of the movies have used loopholes to get a lower rating to increase  the likelihood of earning more movie over the weekend!

Here are the things you want to look for when reading about the movie, looking at reviews, and especially when watching a trailer:


There is a lot of violence in every action, sci-fi, and superhero movie that comes out today. The differences between realistic violence and comic book violence is the amount of blood shown. In comic book violence [also known as cartoon violence], there is little to no blood seen in fights or when characters get hit hard. “Marvel’s The Avengers” is a good example of comic book violence: although the characters are fighting a lot, there is little to no blood visible when the fight is done. However, in “Pacific Rim”, a recent sci-fi monster movie, there is lots of blood and the violence is more realistic because the characters die gruesome deaths [that wasn’t a spoiler, promise!!]. Levels of violence are hard to determine in trailers, but looking up reviews can be a good resources for finding out if the violence is comic book or realistic.


This is one of the biggest shifts in movies and what is allowed for a movie rating. Sex and sexual innuendos run amok in many PG-13 movies. You get anything from suggestive nudity and romance to full on nudity and actual sex. Of course, the way they love scenes are done is a huge factor. However, if you have not discussed this topic with your child or are uncomfortable discussing it, a movie with sex in it can really dampen a family movie night! The rule of thumb in determining how much sex is in the film is to look at the little box to the right of the rating.



This box is very informative in terms of what level of sex/romance.

This site has a lot of great information for what the information in that box means for movie ratings!

Red Band Trailer:

Trailers are one of the biggest pulls in getting attention to a given movie.

Most trailers are shown with a green screen with the rating for the film and the language that the trailer is approved for all audiences. Great!

However, there is a new trend in movies [mostly rated-R ones] where a separate trailer is shown with a red screen before the trailer. This denotes that they trailer is going to show the real adult stuff: the gore, violence, sex, and language.

Of course, many PG-13 movies do not come with a red band trailer, but in making up your mid whether the let your older kid see a rated-R movie, you should search for the title of the film, then add “Red Band Trailer” to it. Viewing this trailer will help you to make a more informed decision!


Movie ratings have gotten a little lax on how movies are given rating based on language. Even G-rated films use offensive language at times! [Prude alert!: The words “damn”, “hell”, and “ass” are considered offensive for a G-rated movie] But, similar to the amount of sex in a film, the movie rating now comes with a blurb about the language in the film.

Still, I suggest watching the trailers for the film and reading the reviews for it to really determine if the language is suitable for your children.

These are just a few ways that parents can begin to use movie ratings to make sure that they are picking the appropriate movies for their children. Also, I encourage parents to not just restrict the movie, but to involve their children in a discussion on why they can or cannot see a movie. This allows the child to understand what is appropriate for them, and it also allows the parent to see what their child thinks about violence, sex, and language. Also, by involving the kids in the process, you can hopefully reduce the risk of the child sneaking to see the movie anyway!


Movie Ratings Resources:

Common Sense Media

Film Ratings.Com

Parent Previews