Seen & Heard at the Movies 

Dear Parentworks, 

I hope you can help me with something that has worried me for quite some time. I am a parent and with two children of my own, ages 4 and 8 years old. I have always tried to be conscientious about the movies I take them to see in the theatre. Quite a few times in recent years I have gone to a movie by myself because it is too violent or too mature for my children. I've noticed that invariably there are parents who have brought very young children (2 years to 6years old, I'd guess) to the same movie. These movies have sometimes included loud and gory shooting scenes and prolonged screaming and death. The reason why I am writing to you is to ask if you can offer any suggestion on how I could handle these situations. What could or should I do when I think the children are in an inappropriate movie? What about when these families sit near me and the children are clearly distressed by what they are seeing or hearing but the parents continue to stay watching the movie and simply try to hush their child? I am far from an interfering person but I worry about whether or not I have some responsibility to speak up in a situation like this?

- Seeing More Than Just The Movie

Dear Seeing,

This is a tough one indeed. It is clear that you want to mind your own business and enjoy the film yourself but are also quite distracted by a sense of societal duty to care for children. Technically, it is a movie theater's responsibility as to whom they allow into their shows. Any movie with a PG or PG-13 leaves the ultimate responsibility to Parental Guidance. They trust that with this rating, parents will make an informed decision and determine what is best for their family and what they allow their children to watch. If a child is upset and noisy by a movie's content and the parents don't remove them from the theater, you could change seats and/or notify the manager of the problem. But again, technically that is about all one can do. I know you are not alone in your dilemma. I often think that it can only be parental ignorance of a child's developmental stages which allows a very young child to be exposed to disturbing sights and sounds. It is a fallacy to think there is no effect on a child who witnesses overwhelming aggression. I know of an incident where a professional child therapist was watching Titanic for a second time and was sitting near a husband, wife and four children under the age of six. Feeling deeply torn by what this professional knew to be graphic scenes to come in the movie and the tender ages of these children, this person chose to respectfully approach the parents. The professional quietly addressed one of the parents and advised that they had seen this movie before, knew there to be scenes which could be upsetting to small children, were concerned that perhaps the parents didn't know this and just wanted to share their concern for these children. The parent thanked them but instead of leaving the movie, they simply held the youngest ones in their laps while these children did in fact cry at the carnage they heard in full Dolby™ sound. We cannot control the actions of others but this professional caregiver felt they were responsibly doing what they could to help.