“Can I watch an NC16 movie?”
Movies are classified by ratings, according to how suitable the content is for various ages. According to the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA): G (General) movies are suitable for all ages; PG (Parental Guidance) movies are suitable for all, but parents should guide their children; PG13 (Parental Guidance 13) movies are suitable for persons aged 13 and above but parental guidance is advised for children below 13; NC16 (No Children Under 16) movies are suitable for persons aged 16 and above; M18 (Mature 18) movies are suitable for persons aged 18 and above; and R21 (Restricted 21) movies are restricted to persons aged 21 and above.
How can we help guide our children to practise media discernment in the movies they watch?
Relevant Movie Rating: G
Movies rated G are friendly for the whole family, and can serve up wonderful opportunities to enjoy time together as a family and also provides rich teaching moments.
One way to do this is for you to discuss behaviours you see in the movies, with your child. What are the types of positive on-screen behaviours that you observe and can affirm in your child? What would you like your child to learn? What are the kinds of negative behaviour that you want to educate your children about?
At this stage, it is a good idea to avoid movies in which characters use violence to resolve conflict. However, if you come across such scenes, use these as an opportunity to talk about healthier ways to resolve disagreements. Explain to your child the consequences of violent behaviour in the real world—for both the victim and the perpetrator. Along with violence and gore, nudity and simulated sex are not age-appropriate viewing material as well.
If you and your child encounter the use of humour in movies that is disrespectful, or sexualised, share why you think this is inappropriate. We want our children to understand that risky or unhealthy behaviour is not funny or glamorous, but has negative effects on themselves and people around them.
What are the kinds of characters your child likes? Asking them why they are enthralled by certain characters, such as superheroes, and why they are upset by other characters, such as villains, can open up discussions about positive behaviour to cultivate and negative behaviour to avoid.
Remember that anything that has your children’s attention can act as a role model that can have an impact them, whether positively or negatively.
Relevant Movie Ratings: PG and PG13
As your children approach, or are undergoing, puberty, they experience multiple changes in their body, including in the ways they feel and deal with their emotions. You could use movies to talk to them about how they can understand and express their emotions healthily. Movies that depict hidden feelings or deceptions could provide good conversation topics about the complexity of their own and others’ feelings and actions.
Tap on your child’s growing critical thinking abilities by asking—instead of telling—them what they find problematic about certain characters or scenes, e.g. stereotypes or demeaning representations. Discuss the consequences of harmful or toxic behaviour. What impact does it have on the victim? What kind of justice is appropriate for the aggressor’s actions?
As you encourage them to think about what is realistic and why particular negative portrayals may be unhealthy, guide them on how to discern if what they see is realistic. For instance: “Do you observe that most women look like that in real life?”, “Is what that man doing something you believe men should do?”, “What do you think about the romance between these characters?”, “Is that how love usually happens?”, “Do you think you have to be physically attractive in order to be liked?”
Seize opportunities to identify healthy opposite-gender friendships and relationships, and positive character traits, and engage your child in thinking about how they can cultivate such relationships and traits for themselves.
Relevant Movie Ratings: NC16 and M18
At this stage, your child may be ready to practise greater media discernment. Continue to talk to them about media representations of identity, relationships, and sexuality. Ask them reflective questions, so that as they process their thoughts, they are more likely to take ownership over the insights they arrive at themselves.
If you have not already done so, this would also be a good age to share with them and discuss your family’s values on relationships and sexuality. It is important for parents to role model healthy self-worth and respectful ways of relating to others as well.
As your adolescent children may encounter movies with increased sexualised content, discuss with them the consequences of sexual choices. Some examples of how you can bring this up are: How does the movie depict abstinence before marriage? Do you think abstinence is empowering and freeing, or does it cause someone to miss out in life? How is pre-marital sex portrayed? What do you think are the possible effects of that?
As you discuss these questions with them, research and share with them what science has revealed about these sexual choices, and connect that to why your family has arrived at certain values about relationships and sexuality.
Ask your children to share what they liked about the movie and invite them to assess various elements in it: What does the movie say about right and wrong? What can we tell about it from the way it portrays sexual or sexualised content? Does the movie promote or frown upon violence? Does it encourage or discourage the use of vulgarities? How is the use of drugs and alcohol depicted?
As they share their views with you, affirm areas in which they have exercised good discernment and guide them to clarify their thinking in places where they could use more practice.
© 2019 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Check out the Talk about Sex series for more essential conversations with your children.