Monday, April 20, 2009

How Much Is Too Much? (Or, "The Post When I Finally Mention Twilight")

Recently, with all the current hype about that popular vampire movie and book series, I've been a part of more than a few conversations about parenting choices.  You know, the choices we all have to make that look differently for each, but boil down to the same thinking.  How much is too much?  When are they ready?  What can my kids handle -- or, rather, what SHOULD my kids handle?

It started when I found out a buddy
 of mine was letting her 4th grade
 son read the Twilight series.  He had already seen the movie and was well into the second book.  I also discovered one of my 3rd graders read the book with his parents, which really surprised me.  Then, I found out my niece (also in third grade) received a copy of the movie from the Easter Bunny(Apparently, the Easter Bunny that hippity-hopped down their lane must have been the wild "black sheep" younger bunny brother of the one who brought gummies and nail polish to my girlies.)  

I admit openly that I have neither read the books, nor seen the movie.  It's not because of any deep, moral or religious opposition to the content - I'm just not into vampires.  I've never been into reading or watching things like werewolves, vampires, zombies, and other "undead".  Nothing personal, folks.  I just prefer a different topic.  I'm a bit more of an "Oprah Book Club" type reader.

That said, I also know that the major themes of this book center around romance, love, sensuality...a.k.a. SEX.  That has to be true or all the women in America wouldn't be swooning over Edward and talking about vampire crushes, right?  
In my desperate attempt to either validate my own thinking or determine if I'm just a prude, I found a great resource for parents on the ever reliable IMDB.  I know you all know this already, but I had no idea that Bella is almost raped by four men!? And she's nearly crushed by two cars!?  Plus, after reading the list of offenses in the "violence and gore" category, it seems that people and/or vampires are being beaten, burned, broken and bloodied throughout the movie.  But, I'm taking all this with a grain of salt.  I haven't seen the movie.  

I still wouldn't let my child see it, though.

Apparently, not everyone agrees with me.  (I know!!!  I am amazed, too!!!)  

Then, I remembered:  this movie is rated PG-13.  As a parent who was, aparently, raised in a very "by the book" household, that verifies my thinking.  You can't see it until you're 13 and even then, I'm seeing it with you.  Right?

Wait a minute.  Freeze.  I think I'm beginning to understand that not all parents pay attention to those ratings.  But, some must, right?  I mean, just the other day I was chatting with a few girls in my class about movies and 17 Again came up.  I assumed they would rush right out to see it.  It looks like a cute romantic comedy.  And, hello!, Zac Efron is the star!  But, nope.  No go.  It's PG-13.  

Again, WOW.  I haven't seen that movie at all, either, so I have no idea why it's PG-13.  But these parents aren't letting their kids go see it, and I totally respect that.  **Note: I looked it up.  "This film has been rated PG-13 for language, some sexual material and teen partying."  I never found that same type of summary for Twilight.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they compared in a sentence.**

All this thinking made me wonder.  When my girlies get older and the lines between childhood and adulthood begin to blur, how will I decide?  Will I base my decisions purely by the rating?  Will I make exceptions?  How will I know?  

And then I wondered, have I already begun to make these decisions without even realizing it?

As a teacher, we are permitted to show only G rated movies in class for special events.  Because of this rule, I've become painfully aware of how few G-rated moves are made today.  Any of those old classics from our childhood that have been remade, such as Shaggy Dog, apparently lost some wholesomeness in the remaking process....because they went from a G to a PG movie.  Even some very popular and seemingly harmless animated moves, such as Happy Feet, are rated PG.  

I remember the first movie I had to censor from Big Girl.  Brother Bear.  We totally trusted Disney - and still do.  But, one day she dropped a "shut up" from her precious two year-old mouth.  We had no idea where it came from, until we heard the Moose the next time we watched that movie.  At the time, we decided to pull the movie after, of course, trying to explain that "shut up" was "not nice".  CENSORED!

However, throughout the years I've learned after the fact of her various television viewing with Fire Daddy.  He was so proud the night he told me as my jaw dropped to the floor how calmly and maturely she watched to my horror some survivor dude use the carcas of a camel for shelter.  Yeah, you're right.  That show was NOT on Discovery Kids.  

Ultimately, I'm realizing, we all make our own rules.  We all use our own judgment...or, however reluctantly, that of our spouses.  When I sent out a flare to the twitterverse for feedback, I got very little response I heard that parents are not basing their decisions on the judgment of the Ratings People, but rather, their own judgment.  

A thought that makes me wonder why they're even rating movies anymore if people aren't paying attention to the ratings.  Should we, as a society, consider modifying this system?  But, then again, without those ratings parents would need to watch the movies first and determine if their child can/should see them...

Well, ain't that great.  That brings me right back to my original question...How much is too much?  Where do you draw the line in the sand?


Gotta love introspection.  Always so productive.

Anyone want to copy of Brother Bear?  I have the DVD, but my girls aren't allowed to watch it...
PS: You're more than welcome to disagree with me.  I respect that completely.  I won't even hold it against you!  Just be sure to talk to me before you take my child to a movie, OK?  


  1. So, I don't have kids, but I am a Twilight saga junkie (and a teacher, so that gives me a little more qualification). :) I DEFINITELY wouldn't recommend it for your little ones....and to be quite honest, no one in elementary school should be reading the books. (The movie really isn't all THAT bad, I mean Bella gets saved b/f any of those 4 guys can say "boo!") I saw a SECOND GRADER reading Breaking Dawn (book 4) and I almost fell to the floor. They can call the words, but will not understand the themes and underlying tones of the books until they are MUCH older. But as you each his own. In regards to movie ratings, I say, unless you can pre-screen the movie yourself, go with the ratings and any reviews given by other parents. :)

  2. Thank you, Alice, for your feedback. This question is much bigger to me than just the Twilight series...but, just to clarify, I NEVER have even REMOTELY considered letting my baby princesses see/read any of the series/movie. I really appreciate your contributing to the conversation. You have great thoughts!

  3. Well, you know where I stand.I look at it this way, with the exception of a few movies out today, most of the movies I let my daughter watch are movies that I watched growing up right around the same age she is now. I know my daughter and I know how mature/immature she is with regards to what information I need/want to give her.

    I tend to overlook cuss words and words like shut up, etc......

    The reason I do that is either during the movie or afterwards, I explain to her why we don't say those words and why they're hurtful.

    I don't believe in censoring (with the exception of extreme violence or extreme sexual scenes) any movies or books from my daughter.

    I feel it's my JOB as a parent to teach my daughter that not only are fiction books not real but that MOVIES aren't real either as well as teach her right from wrong.

    Having said all that, if the parent of one of my daughter's friends feels the way that you do and they're over at my house wanting to watch a movie that the parent would normally prohibit, I would totally respect the parents wishes and not allow the movie to be seen.

    After all, everyone parents differently. And I respect that, 100%. And totally do not judge.

    Great post!

    Oh, and just for reference sake, my daughter's age is a factor in some of my comments.

  4. Non-mom here, but as a former middle school teacher (who often gaped at the books she saw her kids bring from home), I'm very cognizant of this issue and often think about it when I entertain the idea of having my own kids.

    Firstly, I think elementary-aged kids are WAY too young to read/watch the Twilight series. Of course, I also think parts of Harry Potter are a little too much for some littles (and no, I'm not anti-magic nor prudish). Most schools reserve the reading of To Kill a Mockingbird until 8th, 9th, or 10th grade, but then I saw on Twitter the other day that a 5th-grade class was reading it. And I thought to myself, not *my* 5th grader!

    I think ratings (and recommended age groups on books) should definitely serve as a guide. I, too, was not allowed to watch PG-13 movies until I was 13, and even then, my mom was usually watching them with me. But by the same token, I can remember watching Monty Python skits with my dad as a wee lass. (Not to mention, I can remember watching soap operas over my mom's shoulder when I was in elementary school.) So there the line becomes somewhat blurred, I guess.

    Anyway, my personal opinion is that parents should be reading what their kids read and watching what their kids watch. While I think the ratings should serve as a guideline, it really does come down to the judgement of each individual parent in what they think their child is mature enough to handle. For me, the world makes kids grow up fast enough as it is. With all the testing and peer pressure, etc. happening in their lives much earlier than we had to deal with it when we were kids, I guess I like the idea of keeping their fantasy worlds as innocent as possible for as long as possible. Maybe I'm still wearing my own rose-tinted glasses, but I think there's plenty of time for vampires and romance when they get older.

    But that's my personal opinion for my own (imaginary) kids. I respect the right for each parent to make that decision for their own. Great conversation-starter, Jenny!

  5. Great post Jenny! I'm right there with you. It's very hard, especially as they get older, to decide where to draw the line. I'm on the stricter side when it comes to what my kids can watch and read. It's hard though because many of their friends have seen/heard/read things that my kids have not yet been exposed to. The hard thing is to decide when is the "right" time to expose them to certain things and topics. I want them to hear the right explanation from me rather than their friends, but I also don't want to share things until necessary. My kids are definitely more naive than probably most of their friends. My oldest (8) thinks that a bad word/cuss word is the "S" word...stupid. I am really struggling with her because she's coming to the age when kids are really starting to talk about mature subjects. She is not one to share or ask questions, so I'm not sure how much she knows or has heard. It's probably more than I realize. I don't want to keep her completely in the dark, but would like to keep her protected and innocent as long as I can. I have also found that the younger two are exposed to things at an earlier age because of their big sister. When the oldest was 3 she listened to "The Wheels on the Bus" and other songs like that. But my youngest (currently 3), jumps in the car and immediately requests Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana and of course knows all of the words! My younger two also ask A LOT more questions as opposed to the older one. For example, "WHERE does the baby come out? HOW does the doctor get the baby out?" So, once again, this is all just one more of the challenges of being a parent. You have to do what is right for YOUR child and raise the best child you can. It's definitely not easy.

    Jenn Davey

  6. I'm loving your comments, friends! I can relate to each and every one of you. I think the thing that stands out the most to me is the conversations and guidance that accompany whatever movie, book, song, magazine, TV show you're talking about. Turning your kids loose - regardless of the ratings - just doesn't seem safe....and for now, today, I'm thinking that is at ANY age. I will not make decisions for my child based on what "the other kids" are doing or who let their kids see what. My girls better get used to hangin' with Mom, cause I'm going to be hangin' with them. An'we gonna talk, girlfriend.

  7. I think it's just necessary to omit things on tv, in movies, and on the radio as you see fit. I had a huge issue with radio music when Cadence (to my surprise) knew some of the chorus to Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl" song. She still just assumes it's a boy singing that sounds an awful lot like a girl...
    Anyway. Most of the movies I think she shouldn't be seeing- she's not interested in seeing anyway. I'm not concerned about her mimicking the stuff she watches in her "safe" movies (ie your Brother Bear story) or else I'd ban Beauty and the Beast for making out at the end of the movie. I mean. I don't want her kissing boys yet, so I tell her that kissing boys is for older girls. Just like I tell her that it's mean and just plain rude to tell someone to shut up.
    So. The line is a blur. Especially considering that I walked out into the living room after Cadence had her bath last night and she was watching an old kung-fu movie with Jed. (And thoroughly enjoying it, might I add.)
    What can you say? I steer her clear from sexual content, movies with bad words in them, and stuff that could give her nightmares (she chose not to see Coraline and Monster House herself).
    That being said, I am not going to put a little umbrella over her head to shield her from the downpour of Disney kisses and holding hands and "love songs" on the radio. I guess that's where my line is drawn. If she says or does something that's inappropriate I tell her that it's not okay and I don't have a problem with it after.
    Actually, she usually ends up pointing out to me when there's a word in a song she's "not going to say" or covering her eyes when Miley Stewart starts making googly eyes at her flavor of the month on HM.
    That's good enough for me. Until it's time for the sex talk, of course.
    Also- I know i'm getting long winded here...but you got my gears crankin' on the subject...
    No matter how hard a parent reminds a kid about saying bad words or waiting to share a first kiss (etc), it's up to the kid to follow that lead when they become a young adult.

    I hope that wasn't all over the place. That's how my brain's working today. Sorry.
    Good post!

  8. Stephanie, I'm totally with you. My Big Girl is very aware of inappropriate content -- and is quick to point it out in a scornful way right THIS age. Actually, recently I was listening to Jason Mraz in the car and had my first "oops!" moment with music. He said something about getting naked...and she was all over that! "Mommy! He said NAKED! I'm going to listen to see if he says it again..." Thankfully, we she's not old enough to even question what the OTHER lyrics were referring to...oy. Note to self: consider reserving Mr. Mraz for the earbuds. I don't micromanage the Disney movies usually...we've just never added Brother Bear back into the mix. I'm sure it would be fine now for them to watch. At the time, that was just the simplest solution. In fact, my girls have watched numerous "classical" movies, like Emma or Jane Austen, with me from start to finish. Who knew they would be entertained by it? Funny...I didn't worry about those adult situations/themes...perhaps it's in the presentation?? They kept it classy back then....and we all know I like it classy.

  9. Great post!

    I can only speak from my own personal experience and say that my 7 and 9 year old are not ready to read/watch it. It isn't so much that I don't want to expose my kids to the topics as just that there is no reason for them to be thinking about grown up stuff when they are still so young.

    I do think that it provides a great basis for discussion and I hope that when they get a bit older (I'm thinking around 12) that they will want to read and talk about it with me. I think there are some great messages (and some not so great but that is ok because it can be brought up and debated-which is also great) in the books that would open up terrific conversation between a parent and child.

  10. I thought your middle name was Classy?
    If it is, mine's Sassy.

    Classy and Sassy. I'll stop there.


Care to comment? Be my guest! Just remember, be classy -- not too sassy! (My young fans may be reading!)

Related Posts with Thumbnails