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Movie ratings and group care

2010

Hello CYC-Netters,
 
This is something I have been running into a lot lately in my practicum. The home is for 12-17 year old youth but recently we have had an 11 year old intake and here is the dilemma. This has interrupted the dynamics of the house in many ways not the least of which is what movies the other youth can watch in the presence of this newer intake. The youth are used to being able to watch just about whatever they choose including R or 18A movies. The staff seem to be in agreement that our youngest guest should not be watching these movies but my question lies in where the line should be drawn? Are 14A movies acceptable or appropriate? And what about the other youth, should a 14 year old be able to watch 18A and R movies?
 
Thank you very much for any perspective,
 
Sandra Morin
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The movie rating system reflects age limits. Not much more to it than that. In direct response to your specific question: a movie rated for 18+ is just that... 18+ not 14

Ed Langille.
...
 
Hi Sandra

Typically youth under the age of 18 are not permitted to watch 18a rated movies or anything above the 14a rating. In terms of your newest intake I'm curious about why this was allowed if the age range is 12-17.
 
Donicka Budd
...
 
Interesting dilemma. I do have to say though that I am surprised that a group of 12-17 year olds are allowed to watch R rated movies. There isn't a big difference between an 11 year old and a 12 year old so I am not sure why it's acceptable for any 12+ year old to watch movies that are rated R or 18A. 
 
Danielle Jimeno
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To start off the movie ratings are not very consistent. I see you used the Canadian ratings. so I will start with that. In my agency  "14A" rating is the policy. In my program though "14A" rating is not always a free pass.

"14A" movies can contain topless scenes and lots of crude sexual content which is inappropriate, and is doesn't always contribute to the betterment of the movie and sometime can be triggers for negative behaviours for the youth. Really the rating is not the issue ... the content of the film is, and how everything fits into the theme the movie. Films can be a great teaching tool, like it or not every movie is ' preaching something'.  Check out the Webpage "Kids-in-mind.com" they list , and describe the content of most movies based on categories such Nudity/sexuality, Language, and Violence. And also add discussion topic around the theme of the movie.

 In my program we use the webpage to check out movies that the youth are requesting to see that we as staff haven't previewed. This is because the ratings do not tell the whole story. The general rule of thumb is that if a staff has seen the movie that might be rated "R" or "18A" and can support it having some life lesson type of  redeeming value then it can be watched in the program.
 
Another suggestion, provide options for the 11 year old. In recent years scores of movies have been made for the pre-teen group that are rated "G" and "PG" but appeal to all ages. Plan activities for this youth to do while the inappropriate movies are being watched by the older ones..... you might find and older youth wanting to do that activity rather than watch a DVD he's seen multiple times.
 
Hey try a "classic movie night" get some old horror films... like the cheesy ones from the 50s( the Creature from the Black Lagoon), some classic comedies from the 60s and 70s, e.g. Jerry Lewis movies, or early Mel  Brooks flicks( I had our youth ROTL  watching " Young Frankenstiein").

Kent Harmacy
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Our ages are 11-18 and "R" rated movies are absolutely not allowed. Ever. No way, no how.
My 2 cents.
 
Sandy
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Your message seems to say that the 12 yr old is allowed to watch the R and 18A movies but yet you have issues with the 11 yr old watching? R and 18A are meant for adults and if I were to draw a line I certainly would not be drawing it at 12...quite frankly I would follow the recommendation of the movie rating and not allow these movies to be watched at all ... why invite potential problems; most of our youth in care have enough to handle without providing them with movie content that have been deemed inappropriate for their viewing. I do realize that there are movie ratings that seem unreasonable but why pick and choose and second guess, just go with the rating. And why create dissension amongst the youth because this week they can watch a movie but next week they can't because the "new kid" moved in (now it is that kid's fault) ...
 
If your home is for youth up to 17 yrs old adult rated movies should not be available.

Marsha Orien
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Hi Sandra
 
I have been in the same situation on a number of occasions the approach that I often advocate for with the staff group is that if a movie is rate 15 then anyone who is under 15yrs old cannot watch the movie and no 18 certificate movies or game are allowed within the house as the client group is 13yrs to 17yrs old. However if a movie has a parental advisory label, I would be taking the child's development stage into account before making any decisions. Unfortunately this view is not shared with other staff who can take the approach that children should not watch movies or play games that are not age appropriate they can put this back to policies and procedure but these do not exist. You may address this through a young people's meeting as the children may agree with you concerns.  

Paul Burt 
...
 
We have 4 living areas and have a general library of PG 13 and below within reason there are some movies that are PG 13 but have decided that it is inappropriate. The general library of movies is checked out four per living area as time went on there have been adjustments when movies are stolen there is a responsibility of the area to replace the library. Now for the older teens there are therapist approved r rated movies but very few of them. The staff have had a meeting on the movies and the therapist has last say. Most of our youth get to go home for the weekend or every other.
 
Some don't leave our facility until discharge. There are repetitive rentals like Tyler Perry's movies and plays. Also Chris Rock and Jackie Chan are very popular. I have some new youth complain about the PG 13 rating but in the end the choice of over 300 movies satisfies the majority of the group. If there is a movie that has good therapeutic value we do have it in the general library. Also some PG 13 movies are labeled with staff O.K. so the youth know the librarian will be calling the unit staff for approval. I have been working as the librarian for 17 years when I started the library and everyone is very happy with the ability to view what they want for as long as they want.
 
Our view here is that movies are NOT part of the therapy it is a babysitters dream so we don't put much into the movies unless it WILL benefit the youth. Like Pay it Forward, Powder, and even the Green Mile.
 
Good luck.

Donna Wilson
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I have worked with kids in care for 15 years and have watched a lot of movies. I have never seen an 18a movie that would ever be appropriate for youth..never mind youth who have survived all kinds of trauma.
 
I have seen the odd rare R rated movie that could be used as a teaching tool.
 
Most 14a movies are risky as it is...violence, glorifying gangs, nudity, disrespect, drug culture...
 
Personally I think at age 11, kids shouldn't see 14a movies...a mature 13 maybe..depending on the movie...for the older kids watch the movies with them and debrief any disturbing or inappropriate/unhealthy content
 
Carol Watson
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Hello,
 
I firmly believe that there are reasons for ratings on movies.  Children, especially children from unstable home environments, should not be watching 18A and R rated movies.  What about game nights or evening walks instead?
 
Laura.
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I also work in a residential group home for youth aged 12-17. As many of our population has issues with aggression and are developmentally delayed, we only allow G and PG movies in the program (and occasionally a 14A, depending on the content). I think that as a general rule, rated R and 18A movies should not be allowed as there is often a great deal of violence or sexual content in them, but this is my opinion.
 
Shandra Sylvestre
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Hello,
In my experience of a group home the children are not allowed to watch 14A if they are not 14 or older. On the other hand, the group home I was in did not have such a great age range. It is hard to change the rules and tell the older youth that they are not allowed to watch 18A or R rated movies anymore because of the new, younger youth in the program. I would think this might create some tension between the older youth and the new youth. It is also not easy to tell the 11 year old youth to go to his/her room or another room during a movie. The lines in this case are a little fuzzy for me. I personally do not think that the youth should be watching 18A or R rated movies in a group home. These kinds of movies should be saved for other places, like if they are at a friend's, if they are interested in watching these kinds of movies. This way it is not unfair for any youth in the group home and there is a single standard set for everyone. I think 14A should be the limit so that movie time is appropriate for everyone. I'm not sure what other solution there would be to keep things fair and consistent. Any other ideas?   
...
 
The A in those ratings means that youth under 18 or 14 should be accompanied by an adult. So they're not prohibited to certain ages, they just need someone's permission first. Canada has a much looser ratings system than the States, so movies that are rated R there are often 14A in Canada.
 
When it comes down to it though the issue isn't the ratings system (which is just a guideline anyway), but the content of the movies. It's important to mindfully consider what movies and TV shows youth are watching. I think it would be completely naive to believe we can control all (or even most) of the messages someone is exposed to during the day. However, if it's within the context of the group home/program/whatever, then we can think about what we're offering.
 
For instance, are you prepared to deal with the possible reactions to a movie that shows sexual assault? (i.e. Double Jeopardy) Or people being tortured in various creative ways? (Saw... etc.) Age doesn't determine whether or not a movie is "appropriate" for someone to watch. The definition of what's appropriate will differ from person to person so it's helpful to have some guiding principles in place first - Does it fit our mandate? Does it support healthy relationships? Could it cause nightmares? Do you even know what's in the movie?
 
The team I work with has decided that we won't rent movies rated 18A because a high rating in Canada often means lots of sex and violence. We also don't rent or buy horror movies regardless of the rating, because not every youth can deal with them (or youth care worker, for that matter). We're also a short-term placement so we don't often know the youth well enough to know how they'll be affected by certain themes.
 
On the other hand, some people would call that censorship and believe we shouldn't limit what we show in our programs. What I find important is thinking critically about what media is being consumed and the message being presented. The ratings system is kind of arbitrary anyway and depends on who the studio wants to market the movie to...
 
Evelyn Downie
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Does anyone have any suggestions on how to broach this subject with my directors of my program as we currently have 2 clients that have unlimited viewing habits One is 14 and one is 16, and I suggested to the older client that a Rated R (18+) movie was not a good idea because of subject matter and he had a major issue over it with support staff.  At the other House there is a strict rule about R movies but there is no hard and fast rule at the current House in my organization.

Ziggy Stardust
...

Hi Folks,
 
As a CYC professional and an avid movie watcher I wanted to wade in on this one. The movie rating systems are developed for political reasons rather than developmental reasons. They are basically there so that the industry can hide behind them if people get upset at the content of a particular film. They are not intended to serve our purposes.
 
We need to approach every film as a potential trigger for the youth in our care. Not with an eye to avoiding the film but rather an openness to engaging with the youth around whatever emotion may be triggered. A concrete example to make my point. Many years ago my agency took a group of elementary aged kids to see the Star Wars movie The Empire Strikes Back. It was part of an end of the school year celebration. We ended up spending several hours after the movie helping one young girl process the feelings that were provoked by the film. Her father had been abusive and neglectful. She felt a lot of anger and resentment towards him. Imagine her confusion when Darth Vader, the most evil man in the galaxy is revealed to be Luke Skywalker's father and Luke feels he must forgive him. In the end the experience helped her clarify her feelings and demonstrated to her the support that was available for her. Crisis is opportunity.
 
No rating system would take individual issues such as hers into account. That is our job.
 
Doug Estergaard
B.C. Canada
...

Hello Doug,
 
My name is Meghan and I am a child and youth care counselor, I have recently read your CYC-net writings about the movie rating system. I would like to say a few thing to say about it. My first thing is that I  would like to argue about your first point that the movie rating system is not based on development but it is  based on political reasons, so what you're saying here is that a five or 6 year old can watch The Godfather let's say and developmentally can know what is going on even after you or a worker explains it. The chances of that are very unlikely; they may say they understand its about protecting the family, but the violence is not necessary to do that. I know I may be a little off with the example but I am just saying that the ratings that they put on the movies is for a good reason. Rating are actually for the appropriate ages in which a child or youth should be exposed to  aspects of life. The certain aspect of life that a child should not be exposed to at a certain age is things such as sexual content, violence and language - it's not that we are not prepared to do our job, its just some things can wait till the children are a certain age.

There are many reasons in which and should be movie ratings, they are age appropriate and make sense in the development of children or even youth to things in life. The fact that you took elementary children to a Star Wars movie and then had to spend several hours explaining it is probably because they did not understand cognitively what was going on in the movie and it made no sense to them. I must give you props for spending that time explaining it though that shows a lot of dedication to your job and that is great for this field. The ratings on the movie are there for a reason though, on movies and television shows as well due to things such as violence, sexual content and language so in the fact that they have the movie ratings is to protect children from exposure that they do not need to be exposed to at certain ages.
 
So overall I would say to keep the movie ratings on movies and television shows and I am not stating that it is necessary to keep children from all the negative or things they should or don't understand, I am just saying the movie ratings are for good reasons and mainly developmental.
 
So thank you for your time and hope that you may take my thoughts into consideration.
 
Meghan Maubert
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Hi Meghan,
 
You have raised a number of concerns about my earlier post. I will try to respond to them in sequence. Firstly you imply that the movie rating system is developmentally based and that without it I would be taking elementary aged children to the Godfather movies. A little history. The rating system was implemented by Jack Valenti, who was president of Motion Picture Association of America. It largely reflects American, and more precisely conservative American views. In my view it is overly concerned with sexuality and under concerned with violence. It was intended to protect movies from having to conform to wildly divergent local standards throughout the country and the attendant court battles. That being said, as a practitioner I work within that flawed system. In short, I would not take a fourteen year old to an NC-17 film.
 
The central issue I was trying to address in my earlier post is that the ratings system does not mean that a particular movie is suitable for a particular child or youth. The Star Wars movie was rated PG. It got that rating due to "science fiction violence". The issues that triggered the child had nothing to do with sexual content or violence or any other thing that might have concerned the MPAA or a concerned parent. She was triggered by the implication in the movie that no matter how evil your father was, you had to forgive them because they were your father. For a girl who had been abused and neglected by her father this was more than she could come to terms with. It was not that she was developmentally unable to understand the point of the film. Quite the contrary, she understood it all to well. What she couldn't deal with is what that message said about her own anger and resentment towards her father and how it discounted her experience and her feelings.
 
Because we work in the child's life space and movies are part of that life space we need to be ready and able to deal with whatever that experience means for the child.
 
I hope this clarifies my position for you. I appreciated your response.
 
Doug Estergaard
B.C. Canada
...

I can imagine that this must be difficult to address with some clients.

There are two important aspects for me in addressing this.   First, the age rating is there for a reason, and children (because the ARE children) should not be exposed to violence or sex that are inappropriate for their age and developmental level.  Whether or not they agree or disagree makes no difference, the responsibility remains to ensure that appropriate viewing is encouraged, or if needed, enforced (by enforced I mean that having a television is not necessarily a right, but a privilege).  Second, just because the age rating is say e.g. 16 does not mean that we in the child care profession agree that it is appropriate viewing material, considering not just the development level and chronological age of children in our care, but also their prior experiences and unique situation, AS WELL AS THE VALUES OF THE ORGANISATION that we work to uphold.  Apart from the direct care provided to children, we also operate in a political/social/organisational environment where we as organisations have certain values that we project that we identify with.  While some children (and even staff) may see this as irrelevant, it is not something that we can completely ignore.  Similarly, in any family where certain values are important, I am sure parents will still object to their children watching certain movies, even though the children may be technically old enough to do so. So, even if the age restriction is 16, it should not automatically mean that it is appropriate viewing material for 16 years olds in our care. Ultimately we fulfull a protection, guardian (and parental) role, and we must decide what is best for the children we care for (hopefully with their participation in decision making).
 
Anyway, these are just my thoughts on the matter.  Good luck though.
 
Werner van der Westhuizen
...
 
I would suggest approaching at a Staff Meeting. In our program, all rules are discussed, endorsed, and implemented by the program staff.  If program staff have input into the rules and objectives, they are more likely to ensure they are followed through with.
 
Kevin Velthuis-Kroeze
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Just show the directors excerpts of the movies the 14,16 year old is watching and it should stop. If not, start a list of movies the child is watching and write up why a 14,16 year old should NOT be viewing adult movies. Document what the teens do after watching an adult video.  Most movies will be either violent and/or sexual. Most are effected either with negative talk about women or violent actions or aggression to a peer. Some people just need their eyes opened. Documentation does this.

Donna Wilson
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Well truly there is no "HARD and Fast" rule with the movie ratings themselves. As I said before there can be full frontal female nudity, and simulated sexual acts in a 14A-rated (Canadian)movie. That's why in addition to the ratings themselves, it our responsibility to check out the content ourselves. Then as staff team decide if they are appropriate for our clients.

Kent Harmacy
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Hi Doug,
 
I whole heartedly agree with your later comments in your second and third paragraph, although I do think we need to consider the appropriateness of the movie. Moreover, it's not really the G, PG 13, M, or R rating that I think we need to concern ourselves with, it's more the description of the movie i.e. contains violence, sexuality, etc. I think we have an ethical responsibility, regardless of political or developmental discourses to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children and youth we work with, free from our own judgments and biases. There are a number of ways that we can explore openness of children's emotions in a more connected manner, than watching a movie. Not saying there is anything wrong with youth watching movies either, it's pretty much a given in our media driven society, just think sometimes we have to ask ourselves, is this really necessary.
 
Danielle Jimeno
...
 
I very much agree.

Alex Vasiljevic
BC Canada
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