Thursday, February 18, 2010


How many times have you taken your kids to a movie or rented a movie thinking that PG meant what PG was supposed to mean? You know, that there might be a few general concepts which would require some minor additional parental explanation, but that, for the most part, it would be okay for you to drop off your tween with her buddies and pick them up in a couple of hours and not really have to worry that they were filling their heads with inappropriate content?

Or whether or not your 6-year-old is REALLY gonna totally have nightmares for the next 3 days because of the scary-beyond-their-wildest-dreams monsters, or the developmentally advanced topics you haven't had the opportunity or the need to have to discuss with them yet. Thank you very flippin' much.

And this you can't tell from a letter rating. This is the kind of stuff you rely on other friends with children to tell you about. But what if you don't have that? Or you do, but their taste in movies sucks?

Well, then, this website (so far) appears to be pretty helpful for someone like you or me. It's called Common Sense Media, and I'm afraid I don't know too much more about it than that. I'm fairly new to it -- like within the last 8 hours. So, if there's anyone out there with any additional information as to its reliability and accuracy, please let us know what you think.

So, we were debating taking the kids to see Percy Jackson's Lightening Thief. It looks very Potteresque (and I think may have even been directed by the guy who directed Goblet of Fire), but, really, you never can tell these days what producers deem "appropriate enough" just to get their film a certain rating in order to hit just the right demographic and ensure box office gold.

And, seriously, with as much attention as we pay and as much energy as we devote to monitoring what goes into our kids' mouths, how could we not be extra-ultra-mega vigilant about what goes into their brain? So we've limited their TV exposure, restricted their "gaming" to Leapster, and parental-controlled all the computers in the house to only allow and websites.

But I'm a moviewhore. I am. It's in my genes. And my children have inherited it. And I'll be the first one to admit that I've let them see movies that were way out of their age range because of the spectacular effects, or a great message, or a particularly powerful character. And I get all excited about it, and walk them through every scene, and it's all fine and safe, and well and good.

But the last Harry Potter (and the Half-blood Prince), for instance, scared them more than I'd expected. And they both had nightmares. And although we own it now, they don't ever watch it. Still.

And Coraline just about frightened them to death.

And even Monster House took a while to digest and process and overcome and put into regular movie-watching rotation.

So, I'm trying to be a little more diligent about movie content and messages and adult references, and here's what I found out about Percy Jackson:
The website itself actually further breaks it down by category, so you can judge for yourself if, say, the level of sexual innuendo is tolerable, but the drug and alcohol references are more than you're willing to have to explain. Some of the other categories (besides the sex, drug, and rock & roll) include:
  • role models (good or bad)
  • messages (positive and negative)
  • violence (like just sword play versus decapitation with blood gushing from jugular)
  • language (and not just your everyday bad words, but the use of insults and cut-downs and bullying)
  • and even the level of consumerism (re: product placement)
And I'm finding that some movies that I've kept from them because I thought they might be too violent or too advanced, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, were actually rated better by most parents on the site than even Harry Potter in some categories.

But no, of course it's not an exact science. And yes, every child is different, and every parent has to decide for him-/herself what's acceptable and age-appropriate and worth it. But having a guide like this, if it proves to be even remotely accurate, is gonna be an invaluable resource to movie-fanatic families like ours.

Anyway, it's just my new favorite thing, and I'm kinda excited about the possibilities. I'm a pretty big fan of consumer reviews. I frequent YELP!, use Amazon's and EBay's and just about any other online user review opinions I can find as a major factor in the majority of my purchases, and will leave reviews myself when the spirit moves me.

So, IMHO, I think what I like about this one so far (because I know you were holding your breath) is that it's interface is pretty user-friendly, it's a one-stop-shop for parental/teen reviews (movies, games, websites, TV shows, etc), and the reviewers appear to be fair and honest.

But I guess we'll have to see.

Note: This blog is not affiliated with Common Sense Media in any way, shape, or form. I am not being paid or bribed or schmoozed into reviewing this website at all. Just came across it, thought it looked interesting, and wanted to share. You no likey, no looky.


growingupartists said...

Very interesting...definitely will look into this.

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