Education Feature
PG-13: Too Intense for Young Viewers?
By Yvette J. Brown
CWK Producer

“We as parents have to do our homework and see for ourselves what the rating system is like.”
Robert Simmermon, Psychologist.-

Sometimes they’re hot and sexy. Other times… bold and daring… or even a little dark and scary.

PG-13 movies run the gamut when it comes to content and theme. “PG-13 can use a little more language and violence than PG but less than R… there’s also drugs and sex,” says 14-year Sterling, an avid movie-goer.

According to the Motion Picture Association, the PG-13 label means the movie is fine for kids over the age of thirteen. It may not, however, be appropriate for children under thirteen because of language, violence, nudity, and other mature content. But some parents say many PG-13 movies make them uncomfortable.

“I think they are too suggestive,” says Pat Williams. “I can see (the behavior) in my own children who are turning teenagers. I don’t see many movies that are good for 12, 13, and 14-year olds.”

Experts say, more and more, the line between PG-13 and R is getting blurred.

“I think there’s a moving target, ” says Robert Simmermon, an Atlanta-based psychologist. “As our culture changes and the morays and values of this culture change the criteria will change as to what’s R-rated and what’s a PG-13 movie.”

Many parents assume a PG-13 movie is safe, when in fact it may not be… for your child. The bottom line says Simmermon: don’t rely on Hollywood.

“A lot of times parents want the work done for them. But I think we as parents have to do our homework and see for ourselves what the rating system is like.”
The Facts About Movie Ratings

By Tom Atwood
CWK Network

Since 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the National Association of Theatre Owners have sponsored a voluntary rating system designed to enable parents to decide which movies they should allow their children to see. The ratings (G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17) are actually determined by a committee of parents called the ‘rating board’ of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA, As a group they view each film, discuss it, and then vote on a rating.

According to CARA, the rating board uses the same criteria most parents use when deciding what is suitable viewing for children. Theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use are some of the criteria often considered. CARA says the rating board places “no special emphasis on any of these elements; all are considered and examined before a rating is given.”

Here’s an explanation of the five rating symbols from the Classification and Rating Administration:

G General Audience. All ages admitted. This signifies that the film rated contains nothing most parents will consider offensive for even their youngest children to see or hear. Nudity, sex scenes, and scenes of drug use are absent; violence is minimal; snippets of dialogue may go beyond polite conversation but do not go beyond common everyday expressions.

PG Parental Guidance Suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children. This signifies that the film rated may contain some material parents might not like to expose their young children to - material that will clearly need to be examined or inquired about before children are allowed to attend the film. Explicit sex scenes and scenes of drug use are absent; nudity, if present, is seen only briefly, horror and violence do not exceed moderate levels.

PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. This signifies that the film rated may be inappropriate for pre-teens. Parents should be especially careful about letting their younger children attend. Rough or persistent violence is absent; sexually oriented nudity is generally absent; some scenes of drug use may be seen; one use of the harsher sexually derived words may be heard.

R Restricted-Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian (age varies in some locations). This signifies that the rating board has concluded that the film rated contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their children to see it. An R may be assigned due to, among other things, a film's use of language, theme, violence, sex or its portrayal of drug use.

NC-17 No One 17 and Under Admitted. This signifies that the rating board believes that most American parents would feel that the film is patently adult and that children age 17 and under should not be admitted to it. The film may contain explicit sex scenes, an accumulation of sexually oriented language, or scenes of excessive violence. The NC-17 designation does not, however, signify that the rated film is obscene or pornographic.

A Psychologist’s Advice

Bob Simmermon, a psychologist in Atlanta, sees the movie rating system as a guide, but Simmermon says parents have to do some “homework” on their own to decide if a movie is appropriate for their child. More importantly, Simmermon says, parents need to talk with their children about the movies they see. “It’s a great opportunity,” Simmermon says, “ to talk to our kids about ‘this isn’t what reality is like, this isn’t the way everybody behaves.’”

“What we can do is turn it into a moment where parents can talk to their kids about how they feel about drugs, sexuality and violence, so we always have a ready opportunity to talk to our kids and then they get our values.”


Motion Picture Association of America
Classification and Rating Administration
Bob Simmermon, Psychologist