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Watching Movies With Your Children

“Almost all homes (95%) with children ages zero to six have at least one VCR or DVD player....More than half of all children (53%) six and under own at least 20 videos.”  —The Kaiser Family Foundation, Zero to Six: Electronic Media in the Lives of Infants, Toddlers and Preschoolers, 2003


  • Movies can be a great way to jump-start difficult conversations with your children. If you are having a hard time finding a way to talk about a particular issue or event, find a quality, age-appropriate movie in which the characters face a similar issue or situation.
  • After watching the movie with your children, take some time to have a conversation about your reactions to what you just watched.
  • Having a family movie night is a great way to spend time together. Make sure all selections are appropriate for everyone, and make sure each family member gets a chance to pick a movie for the whole group to watch.
  • Movies can offer glimpses into different cultures or historic events. They are a way to expose children to stories that might not otherwise grab their attention.


  • There are many forms of piracy, and some are so common the violators may not be fully aware that their actions are illegal.
  • Copying rented movies and trading movies over the Internet are both forms of piracy. The Copyright Act of 1976 helps the movie industry protect itself and its artists. The act was amended in 1982 to increase penalties for illegal duplications of copyrighted material; the first offense is now classified as a felony. Parents are children’s most important role models, and they need to make sure they are setting a good example for their children by not contributing to movie piracy. Parents also need to monitor their children to make sure they are not committing these illegal acts. Anyone who has information about piracy activities is urged to contact the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) by calling (800) NO-COPYS (662-6797) or by sending a report to their website.
  • Marketing is not restricted to commercials or advertisements; movies are full of product placements. Parents should talk to their children about what product placements are and the intentions behind their use. Children should know that their favorite character may wear a certain brand, drink a certain soda, and eat a certain snack because the producers of the movie are getting paid to show this product on the screen.


The movie rating system is a guide for parents to use in making decisions about their children’s movie viewing. In addition to knowing the ratings of movies, parents should research the plots and themes of movies (reading about them in a few different sources) to determine what is appropriate for their children.

Below are the MPAA movie ratings.

  • G: General Audiences—All Ages Admitted
  • PG: Parental Guidance Suggested—Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children
  • PG-13: Parents Strongly Cautioned—Some Material May Be Inappropriate for Children Under 13
  • R: Restricted—Under 17 Requires Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian
  • NC-17: No One 17 and Under Admitted

What you can do

  • Do your homework. Movie ratings are designed to give parents guidance, not make decisions for them. Each family and each child is different. It is up to parents to research the movies their children want to see, particularly any movie that receives more than a G rating. Parents should use a variety of information to decide what is appropriate.
  • Watch with your child. The best way to know and understand what your children are watching is to sit down next to them and take a look.
  • Talk to your child about piracy. Make sure your child understands that piracy is theft, and that it hurts a lot of people. Your child may not be aware that he or she is stealing movies, so talk with him or her about what constitutes piracy.
  • Establish a Media Use Contract with each child in your family. It is important that you have a conversation with each child to set rules and limits that are appropriate for him or her. In your conversation, be explicit about what types of movies you are comfortable with your child watching and what the consequences will be if the contract is broken. Once the contracts have been signed, post them in a prominent place in your home as a reminder.