Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Parenting Series (1/5) - How to find out if a Movie is Appropriate for a Child?

Children undesirable emotions - while watching age inappropriate movie

When the movie Gravity, released (Bangalore, India), I was quite excited, because I had liked the movie trailer & I am fond of space, science-fiction movies.  We planned a family outing to catch up with the movie. Our son, was then FIVE Years old. Through the movie, my wife & me, where taking turns to explain our son some parts of the story so that he could follow the story. During the course of the movie, he seemed to be quite engrossed into the movie & seemed to be enjoying it.

In the days to come, it dawned upon us that the movie had left behind a deep imprint on his mind. During our casual conversations, he would frequently talk about certain scenes like dead astronaut floating in the space, blasts, the protagonist drifting & floating away into the space to be lost forever. At night, when he was about to sleep, he would suddenly become alert & tell us "the images of the dead astronaut is coming in his mind". He will express he is feeling scared & we had to counsel him by reassuring him about our presence. 

The intensity & frequency of his fright, gradually faded away....but it quite a long drawn process. It took about 3-4 months, for him to completely come out of this issue.

This episode was an eye opener for me as a parent & I realised the importance of doing my homework on the media content before subjecting it to our children. After all children are vulnerable to explicit & age-inappropriate media content.

My approach towards parenting has always been cautious & I am quite conscious about parenting best practices. This is what made me to introspect, how I overlooked the movie's appropriateness from a child's perspective.

I realised in our country, the film certification is quite vague & broad. We have only three categories: U, A & UA.
U certificate means, it is appropriate for all age group.
UA certificate means, 14 years onwards can watch it (under parental guidance).
A certificate means, restricted only for adults.

In fact, I wasn't aware of UA being applicable 14 years & above. Only when I did my search online, I came across this definition. 

Also, till date I haven't experienced myself nor I have seen someone being stopped at our multiplexes, theaters, if they have a child under 14 years of age, for a movie with UA certification. 

When this lacuna of our exhibitors & our certification board dawned into me, I realised we as parents have to be pro-active, well-informed & thoughtful, after all parenting is our duty.

Next time around, when Amazing Spiderman 2 & Jurassic World were releasing in India, I watched the trailers on Youtube. It did appear to me these movies were leaning towards violence, especially for my son 6 years of age. But the certificate given to the movies, didn't restrict it only for adults (if I recollect it was possibly U or UA rating). As far as I remember, ironically these movies were being advertised on Children's channel (like Cartoon Network etc).  

I then did a Google search, to find out the certification given to these movies in UK, USA & Australia. To my surprise, the certification on these countries where lot more specific & they did indicate Parental Guidance, mentioned specifically it is not suitable for children below 12 years of age & provided narratives of the inappropriate contents.

Upon further search, I came across few very useful movie review sites, which were running by posts contributed by parents. It was nice to come across these review sites, which were unbiased & written from a parent's perspective. 

I am listing down these reference sites, which will be helpful for other parents, when they want to do their homework on the movie's appropriateness for their children:

  • British Board of Film Classification - www.bbfc.co.uk 
  • Motion Pictures Association of America - www.filmratings.com
  • Australian Classification for Media - www.classification.gov.au
  • Reviews by parents community - www.commonsense.org
  • Reviews by parents community - www.parentalguide.org
  • Reviews by parents community - www.raisingchildren.net.au
  • Reviews by parents community - www.boxofficemom.com
  • Reviews by parents community - www.kids-in-mind.com
The question which remains unaddressed is - What about Indian movies? (all the above websites cater to English movies).

From my search, I haven't come across such review sites catering to Indian movies. So till a Samaritan puts up such a website catering to Indian movies, we as parents need to use our own judgement & do our homework, to decide on what's appropriate for our children. 

I have noticed many Action movies (for e.g. Singham) is being advertised on Cartoon Network & these are being promoted to children through these channels. It's unfortunate that there is no strict regulation in place from the broadcaster's side nor parents are stopped by the exhibitors, if they bring along their children to UA certified movies. 

However , with little bit of thoughtfulness, it should be easy for a parent to make an informed decision for evaluating the movie's appropriateness for their children.

The checklist for evaluation are as follows:
  • Theme of the movie
  • Type of message (Positive/Negative)
  • Protagonist/Role model (Positive/Negative)
  • Sex & Nudity content
  • Violent/Gore/Disturbing content
  • Crude or Profane language
  • Drug & Alcohol content
  • Consumerism/Products (movies do tactfully promote products, lifestyle which can mislead the children)
In today's world, with internet connectivity, smart phones & media explosion, our children are being exposed to all kind of contents. Sometimes, I feel our children are being robbed off from their innocence. It may not be practical (& not necessary too), for us to insulate them completely. All we need to do is to be little mindful & do our little bit as parents for keeping their childhood & innocence alive.

Happy Parenting!


  1. Thank you Abhishek. This was very informative. I will surely share it with my friends so all take a cautious step moving forward.

  2. Thanks very much, Abhishek for sharing such useful information. What you have written is thought provoking and you should take this forward with justification you have. You can write to Central Board of Film Certification (www.cbfcindia.gov.in) and for channel content complain, you can write to Indian Broadcasting Foundation @ www.ibfindia.com. I am sure these are not easy battles to win but possible to create positive outcome for the society.

  3. Abhishek this is a very well written and thoughtful article. I completely agree with your point of view and suggestions on this. Will share this article further with my group of friends.

  4. Abhishek this is a very well written and thoughtful article. I completely agree with your point of view and suggestions on this. Will share this article further with my group of friends.

  5. Well written, Informative and helpful.

  6. Well written, Informative and helpful.

  7. Thanks, Abhishek - this is a really good topic to bring up. Though I'm very thoughtful about what movies we take my son to, I didn't know there were specific websites that I could check. I totally agree with your concern about Indian movies not being certified appropriately. And even sadder is the fact that movies made especially for kids, sometimes have very inappropriate content. But it's good that this is at least being discussed now. This may really get a lot more ppl to really think about the movies they take their kids to :)

  8. Thanks for bringing up this important topic. This is one area which we all parents don't give much attention to. I will implement this and will also share with my friends and family. A well articulated and thoughtful message. Keep writing. :)

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  11. Very well written and informative article Abhishek. Its true movies leave a great impact on children at young age, so as parents we have to be selective. Normally we are so ignorant about the certification of a movie.