I recently told a friend that one of the greatest things about my daughters getting older–they are now 15 and 17–is that I can finally watch good movies with them. In the last few months, films like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Good Will Hunting and It’s Complicated came, were enjoyed, and left via Netflix (My Left Foot and Into the Wild await in our queue). Little makes me happier then curling up on the couch with my two girls, enveloped in a powerful film or a completely silly one. They are even willing to do subtitles these days.
When they were younger, I didn’t pay much attention to movie ratings, but was careful about what they saw. One daughter is still scarred from seeing Home Alone (she watched at a friend’s house, and it seemed a safe choice), and I strongly steered them away from movies with violence, particularly on the big screen. Bad language and sex scenes were typically unnecessary, but somehow, they didn’t seem that harmful. By now they’ve seen completely inappropriate films, like Borat and The Hangover, and a few night ago, I sat just rows behind my daughter and her friends at a screening of Bridesmaids. Bad judgement?
It is, perhaps, according to a recent study linking R-rated films to teenage drinking and drug use. Doctors at the Dartmouth School of Medicine interviewed thousands of middle-schoolers about their movie choices over two years, and the study results indicate that parents who steer their sons and daughters away from R-rated films usually prevail against peer pressure on kids to drink alcohol.
“We think this is a very important aspect of parenting, and one that is often overlooked,” says James D. Sargent, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School (DMS) who served as principal investigator in the study. “The research to date suggests that keeping kids from R-rated movies can help keep them from drinking, smoking, and doing a lot of other things that parents don’t want them to do.”
Additional research conducted by Sargent also suggests that children who see R-rated movies become more prone to ‘sensation seeking’ and risk taking. ”We think seeing the adult content actually changes their personality,” Sargent says, adding that PG-13 movies, as well as many TV shows, also frequently portray drinking and other adult situations.
I believe you have to know your child before making a judgement call. I’m pretty sure I know mine, and right now she’s waiting for me to watch Crash.