September 18, 2011

Hard to decide when movies are appropriate for kids

As a sometimes-movie critic, I'm comfortable telling people what films they should and shouldn't watch. With my own children, however, I have no idea.

Movies are an important thing in my life, and I want to share them with my sons, ages 9 and 11. The problem is that I'm never sure when the appropriate time is to show them favorite films from the past.

Yes, I know that "Star Wars" is fine, and "Scarface" is not. There's a lot of gray area between those two, however. I'm willing and anxious to get advice from any parents out there. When can I take some of the old VHS tapes off the shelf and show them to the kids?

Obviously every kid is different and matures at a different speed. What's right for one 11-year-old isn't right for another. My friend showed his young children "Jaws" with no ill effects; my kids would never swim again.

One problem is that over the years we can forget certain details of a movie. Suddenly you can be hit with a wall of obscenity or sexual innuendo which you'd rather not explain yet.

I almost popped "Caddyshack" into the DVD player for the kids, thinking they'd love that rascally gopher. Then I watched it again myself, and sure enough, there's a reason or two for the R rating.

This, however, is far from a simple question of how much violence/sex/obscenity is age appropriate. The bigger question is are the kids mature enough to appreciate the intricacies of the plot, the subtleties of the humor. If I hit them with a fantastic movie before they're ready for it, the film may be ruined for them forever.

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