A Little Common Sense

What's a parent to do when young kids want to see a PG-13 movie?
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Recently our family received a bit of unprecedented news — our Aunt Aimee has a speaking part in Spider-Man 3. Since our family members don't regularly appear in major motion pictures (okay, never), this was very exciting news for our kids, extended family, friends, neighbors and any person who would listen.

In the weeks after they found out, Julia and Henry became mini-publicists, telling everyone, "My Auntie is in 'Spider-Man 3,' my Auntie is in 'Spider-Man 3'." And after they became bored with the truth, they became spin doctors, "My Auntie is in Spider-Man 3 ... She's Spider-Girl!"

Thankfully, it takes a long time for a Spider-Man movie to finish shooting, as I needed time to deliver the punch line: there was no way we could allow Julia, 9, and Henry, 7, to see a movie rated PG-13.

My friend Leslie is typically my go-to Mom for movie reviews. She has this incredible ability to tally up relevant scenes — "Well, there were two fights, and one scary scene when..." and so on. However, her kids are younger than mine, so it was highly unlikely that she would pre-screen Spider-Man 3 for me.

"Oh, it doesn't have anything too bad in it. Comic-book-type violence and a little kissing," one relative argued with me after I announced to the family that Julia and Henry couldn't see the movie. I was very dubious of this assessment (in my opinion, "comic-book violence" looks just like "real violence" to a kid, anyhow), but I still didn't want to prevent Julia and Henry from seeing it if I was wrong.

That's when I found commonsensemedia.org, a free website that rates movies, television shows, websites, music, games — and gives detailed information about the level of violence, commercialism, and moral messages.

It not only provides an age-appropriateness rating, it also offers specific information about content so that you can assess for yourself whether something is appropriate for your child.

Alas, commonsensemedia.org's review of Spider-Man 3 confirmed that the PG-13 rating was right on, and that our children would need to wait several years to see Aunt Aimee serving Spider-Man lunch. I broke the news gently, and promised that once they are old enough to watch it, I'll even throw them a little Spider-Man party — with popcorn and all.

What are your movie-going guidelines? Click the comments link below to find and share ideas.

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A Little Common Sense

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