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Movie and Film Rating


Playing electronic games, watching movies, and viewing cartoons and shows on TV and other devices such as the I-pad are popular and pretty much standard activities for the majority of young children today.

Is this something that early childhood professionals need to discuss and develop a professional position/s on?  If we value open communication with parents and want to foster a shared understanding of children’s experiences and learning in the home and ECE setting then perhaps we should.

Going to the cinema to watch a movie on the big screen is regarded as a treat in most families.  When it's school holiday time kids movies are rolled out and we often see these directly marketed to children under school age e.g. such as the movie ‘Frozen’.

Parents eager to share their enjoyment and nostalgia of childhood memories can’t wait to have their children watch movies that may not be recommended for such a young audience. They may believe their child is capable of separating fantasy from reality and will rebuke advice to the contrary with “I saw Star Wars when I was five and I turned out ok”. But also some parents are lured into thinking a movie is age appropriate by child cartoons on TV and associated toys for purchase. More cautious parents may still succumb so their child doesn’t miss out, and can relate to their peers who have watched the movie or doesn’t become the unwitting villain that gets chased about the early childhood centre without a clue why.

Movies such as Batman, Spiderman, Star Wars, Transformers have ratings of PG or M but all being ‘yellow’ stickered means any age can go watch as long as with an adult. How do these classifications stack up against what parents and early childhood teachers may be observing in resulting child behaviours?

Research has shown children grow capable of accurately separating fantasy only from about the age of seven. And the stated goal of New Zealand’s classification office is to protect young people from potentially harmful effects on their thoughts, attitudes and psychological development… “a system of graded age-restrictions allows young people to access a wider variety of entertainment as they develop and mature, while protecting younger people than them”. But how well are the younger people being protected?

According to Censorship.govt.nz the effects of non-age appropriate film and video can:

  • Encourage or imply undesirable activity is ok
  • Normalise an activity making it seem acceptable
  • Be distressing/ not good to see (particularly with modern visual effects)
  • Affect emotional state or way of thinking
  • Desensitise people

Early childhood teachers and carers are well placed to observe how electronic games and movie watching (generally defined) influence children’s behaviour, emotions, moral and intellectual development.

Parents pick up on whether screen time is an acceptable activity in the eyes of educational professionals by the comments and vibes their child’s teachers gives.

Perhaps in reality all this is a non-issue… any child with older siblings would be exposed to these type of movies anyway and young children with I-pads and other devices may watch videos and games that parents may not even be aware of. Young children filter out things and understand what is fact and fiction with a little adult guidance… as long as they get that guidance. And it could be claimed there are learning and developmental opportunities from such movies.

What do you think about this?

And, have you noticed the behaviour of children being influenced by activities such as watching PG, M, or restricted rated movies and games to a point where their healthy development is affected and it causes problems in the early childhood programme and environment?