Do ‘R’ ratings actually protect impressionable minds?

Children have always been products of their environment. As they grow and mature, they learn the idioms of their native language and gain a keen sense of action, reaction, and emotion.

More often than not, parents have far less influence on their child’s growth than they might like to believe. The vast majority of a child’s learning comes from outside of the home, from places like classrooms, playgrounds, video games, television, and movies. Children – now more than ever – are exposed to a constant stream of media influences, both good and bad.

As adulthood is ever looming, one has to wonder: what should we really be protecting our children from – bad language and sexual innuendo, or the very real threat of ignorance and under- education?

Santa Monica mother Fernanda Viramontes said, “we should be concerned with educating our kids, not deciding what movies they can see. My 5-year-old daughter sees and hears all sorts of things she’s not supposed to. I don’t like it, but it’s a part of being a kid.”

In a culture where children learn curse words before the first grade and middle school students are increasingly finding themselves entwined in sex scandals, one has to wonder if the Motion Picture Association of America’s feeble attempt to protect the sanctity of childhood and innocence is becoming outdated.

The MPAA notes that, “an R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements.”

The recently released documentary ‘Bully’ has fallen under fire with the MPAA, as it took 475,000 signatures and many appeals to have its ‘R’ rating dropped.

“The Bully Project,” that gave rise to the film, “is a collaborative effort that brings together partner organizations that share a commitment to ending bullying and ultimately transforming society,” the creators explain on the organization’s website.

How could a film aimed to bring an end to bullying among children be deemed unacceptable for a child’s eyes?

Since the recent release of ‘The Hunger Games,’ a PG-13 rated film about a post-apocalyptic teenage death-match, a fierce debate has arisen about the need to change the outdated MPAA rating system. It was instituted in 1968, and much has changed in the last 44 years. Children will curse, children will fight, and children will sneak into movies. It’s all a part of growing up.

Worried parents should take a more active role in the protection and education of their children, rather than relying on an antiquated film rating system to do the parenting for them.

“Implemented by longtime MPAA chief Jack Valenti, largely to avoid government censorship, the rating process is a well-worn, if murky, system,” the Miami Herald reported.

As for who decides on the ratings, the Herald explains that “the MPAA does not reveal the identities of these individuals, or their qualifications, other than to say they are parents who are not affiliated with the film industry.”

In the same article, House Representative Hansen Clarke of Michigan said, “the hypocrisy is that the very movies that contribute to violence can be seen by teenagers because they get a PG-13, and the one film that actually teaches them to respect others is given an R.”