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Q&A: How do I say "no" to a PG-13 movie that seems inappropriate for my 13-year-old?
Q. My 13-year-old wants to see World War Z, but even though it's rated PG-13, it looks too violent to me. It's hard to argue when my kid is clearly in the target age range. What should I do?
A. The PG-13 rating is a head-scratcher for many parents. And the MPAA's ratings explanation isn't too enlightening. Plenty of PG-13 movies -- including World War Z, The Dark Knight Rises, Jack Reacher, and Taken -- have violence levels that Common Sense Media rates inappropriate for the 13-year-old target age.
You're right to be cautious. A study in Pediatrics, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that the amount of gun violence in PG-13 movies has more than tripled since the rating was introduced in 1985. The effect of media on violence is difficult to measure, but most studies show that overexposure is bad for kids.
Common Sense Media believes that young teens may be able to handle depictions of non-graphic violence, but all violence still needs to show consequences. Scenes of torture and gratuitous violence aren't age appropriate. And your own personal criteria -- as well as your knowledge of what your own kid can handle -- matter, too.
Kids always want to push boundaries. Push back. Look beyond the conventional ratings to find out more about the content. Watch the trailers, read reviews, look at our ratings, ask your friends. Factor in your own personal values and your kid's sensitivies.
In the end, you'll need to stand firm in your decision. Offer him alternatives, like renting or streaming other movies that are similar to the one he wants to see. (Check our movie recommendations for ideas.)
And if by some chance he does see the movie in question, discuss it with him. Talking about it can help put the scenes in context and provide a little more perspective for your kid. In the process, you'll be sharing your values, and your messages will come through.
Do you think PG-13 movies are getting more violent?