Irresponsible parenting

18When I was a teenager, the films that my friends and I most wanted to watch were marked with a large, lurid “18” logo. There was no explanation whether this was because of sex, violence or bad language (or all three.) We had to guess from the cover. Nowadays, the situation is more nuanced. Certificates are accompanied by explanatory material, justifying the rating.

So, for example, in our collection at home we have:

  • Thomas the Tank Engine (Certificate U – contains mild peril)
  • Mr Bean’s Holiday (Certificate PG – contains irresponsible behaviour)
  • The Hunger Games (Certificate 12 – contains intense threat and moderate violence)
  • Terminator (Certificate 15 – contains strong language, bloody violence and horror)
  • Dirty Harry (Certificate 18 – contains strong violence)

I’ve watched all of these with my kids, making me officially an irresponsible parent. I do use my judgement however. After watching Terminator (contains strong language), I asked my youngest son if he had heard any words he didn’t already know, and he replied no, so I figured no damage had been done.

There are of course, some things that I would never watch with my kids. Downton Abbey for example (Certificate 12 – no reason given) would bore them stupid.

But seriously, I watched all kinds of inappropriate films as a teenager, and I have never once robbed a bank, murdered a prostitute or called a policeman a motherfucker, even though I saw all those things happen on screen.

One of the great things about fiction is that it lets you experience extraordinary and dangerous events without exposing yourself to actual physical harm. And there’s always a moral context. It’s an enriching experience, and I hope my children will develop a strong and healthy appreciation of fiction, both on film and in books.

To miss out on that would be terribly damaging. Without fiction to educate, guide and inspire them, who knows how they might turn out? They might grow up to be serial killers or something.

Go ahead, punk, make my day!

Go ahead, punk, make my day!

32 responses to “Irresponsible parenting

  1. Growing up, my parents pretty much let me watch anything I wanted to, including the old Playboy channel, with no ill effect. (Although perhaps those who know me might disagree.)

    I have friends who strictly controlled what their kids could watch, and who experienced ongoing frustration when their kids saw it anyway at someone else’s house. The first thing their oldest did on his 18th birthday was buy a whole bunch of R-rated DVDs.

    • I guess they figured it was just soft porn, so whatever, right? 😉

      I remember finding “Afro Erotica” and making my poor mother watch it. (She didn’t know how to turn off the VCR, so she averted her eyes and yelled at me while I laughed.)

    • I am clearly being way too strict with my kids 🙂

      • Just to be clear, the Playboy channel wasn’t available to us until I was in my early teenage years. I’m sure my parents made the calculation that I was going to find that stuff anyway, so better to remove the allure of forbidden fruit and at least be aware of what I was watching.

        But I remember watching Dirty Harry when I was 6 or 7. (I actually found it boring, not really understanding a lot of what was happening.) Later, when I asked, my dad took me to see Jaws,although I have to admit that movie traumatized my 8 or 9 year old self.

        • The judgement is often whether the children are old enough to understand it, so that they a) enjoy it, and b) put it in context.

        • Usually if they don’t understand it, they’ll lose interest. I think avoiding the forbidden fruit reflex has a lot of merit. For instance, we eventually got rid of the Playboy channel since, once the novelty wore off, no one was watching it.

        • LOL. The Playboy channel must have been terribly boring for a 17 year old boy. Downton Abbey has a much stronger narrative, and the dialogue is more convincing.

        • There’s a lot to be said for removing the allure of forbidden fruit. I remember a childhood friend who’s father was a preacher, and she couldn’t watch TV at all. She was one naughty girl. I’d never met anyone quite so fixated on doing naughty things…she stole things and lied constantly (I remember one in particular. She told me that if you rub soap on your nipples you’ll have more milk for your babies when you get older.) At six years old she wanted me to have “sex” with her brother—I kid you not. I was about four, her brother five. (Her version of sex was not detailed enough to count, but it was stunningly close.)

          I found her photo when I was going through my mother’s things this month. I just had to keep it…I wonder what happened to her.

  2. We’re a mostly censor-free house…for the exact reasons that you give. We don’t worry about language (they’re just words, and Grace knows when not to use them) or violence (she’s demonstrated exactly 0 tendencies toward violence) or sex (why does everyone act like there’s something wrong with sex???)…so far she seems pretty balanced and sane. 😉 Since we don’t censor, she doesn’t have to read and watch things on the sly, and that means that we have the opportunity to discuss things with her instead of her getting all sorts of crazy notions in her head. Irresponsible parents, unite! 😀

  3. In movies, as with life, there are times we experience bad language and behavior. We put it into proper context with the rest of our experiences. It becomes problematic when those negative behaviors saturate the experiences of anyone. There isn’t any way to put it into proper context. One learns those are the norm and expected behavior. Most people are not in those situations.

  4. Watching with your children is the most responsible sort of parenting, especially if you discuss what you watch with them afterwards. Ditto for letting them read anything that happens to be in your house, as long as they feel free to ask you questions about it as they go. The world in all its non-glory is out there, and far better they discover it with you than (as nerinthebrain has commented) on the sly. I’d rather my nine-year-old son ask me in a darkened movie theater, “Mommy, what’s a motherfucker?” — as he did — than creep around inquiring of his friends.

    • Yes, I prefer to take things into my own hands, rather than let a censor make decisions on my behalf. There are moves we haven’t (and won’t) watch.) And discussion is worth its weight in gold.

  5. When I was eight-years-old, I was watching late-night Cinemax pornography, so I don’t think you’ve crossed the line. Lol.

  6. Perhaps the idea of film censorship seems a little anachronistic in an age when kids have smartphones? [Is that an anachronistic term – ‘smartphone?]

    • Yes, censorship I think is certainly anachronistic, especially since most content my kids are able to access on the internet is entirely unregulated. Having said that, I find these guidance notes (violence, sex, etc) helpful.

      Smartphone is a technically correct term, although fone may be what teenagers call them. That doesn’t make them right, however.

    • “Is that an anachronistic term?” LOL!

  7. but are you really justifying letting children watch inappropriate content because though you didn’t turn out to be a psychopath why would you even want to risk the possibility of that ever happening?Don’t you want the best odds for your kids and the society in general?Moreover experiences earlier on in life can make or break you especially when you are exposed before your conscience fully forms.Why risk the long-term damage?
    For sure those things don’t affect everyone case in point you but you have to keep in mind that they may affect others that’s why these ratings are out there in the first place.For that one in a million person who becomes a killer can cause a lot of damage and you cannot ascertain who is in that category and who isn’t that’s why we have to be careful.
    Don’ be too quick to throw out the rule book it is there for a reason.Better safe than sorry is what i always go for.

    • Well, I don’t think that the content is inappropriate for my children at their age. The label on the box recommends a certain age, but as I have watched all these films myself, I am familiar with their content, and judge them to be suitable for my children. I am certainly not saying that all kids should be allowed to watch anything at any age.

      Also, since they will certainly be exposed to all kinds of content at some point (as I have been myself), I judge it helpful to introduce certain types of content in a particular way, and to watch it together with discussion afterwards.

      I really think that fiction has a civilizing influence, and it is extremely rare to find a movie that doesn’t contain a strong moral message, perhaps especially when the characters behave badly.

      • aah! Ok i see,it is certainly better to expose and explain them to some inevitable scenes before getting the same exposure and explanation from an untrustworthy source.
        And as avid a movie watcher and book reader as i am, i most definitely agree that there is certainly a civilizing influence associated with all kinds of fiction be it theatre, film, novels you name it…especially the more risqué fiction.

        • This reminds me of a story. When my eldest son was very small, I used to read him nursery rhymes like the Three Little Pigs. One day he told me that he enjoyed this story, but he would prefer it if there were no wolf. The wolf scared him.
          I explained that without the wolf there would be no story. The three little pigs would build their houses and live happily ever after, and nothing would happen. The pigs would face no challenges. They would not make mistakes. There would be no lesson.
          I didn’t tell him this, but there would be no moral context. We need to read about the big bad wolf. We need to understand that he is dangerous and powerful. And we need to know that we can defeat him.

          When my children are a little older, I plan to watch The Godfather with them. This will not only show them evil close up, but also its allure and glamour. That’s another important lesson for them to learn, but they’re not quite ready for that, whatever certificate the movie may have.

  8. I was not allowed to watch and if I tried, I got a spanking. It is called parenting. Do it sometimes. i think there is a time and place for this type of entertainment. For the right audience and the right age group.

  9. Reblogged this on whedonfreak976 and commented:
    I was not allowed to watch and if I tried, I got a spanking. It is called parenting. Do it sometimes. i think there is a time and place for this type of entertainment. For the right audience and the right age group.

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