Movies - Special Issues for Tweens and Teens

Though young adolescents may seem "all grown up", there are still many issues that need to be addressed relating to movie content. Many movies aimed at the "tween" age group (11–13) contain material that isn't appropriate for young teens. The rating systems don't necessarily help either: films that were rated Restricted (17 and over) at the cinema may become 14A when released on home video in Canada.

A new trend with Hollywood studios is to take teen-oriented films, add raunchier scenes and then remove the voluntary ratings. These unrated versions are released on video and DVD with "Director's Cut" or "Uncensored" labels. Parents should be aware that the content of many of these unrated movies is not appropriate for young people.

According to Joanne Cantor, author of Mommy, I'm Scared, children 10 and up are most disturbed by movies that show realistic physical violence, molestation or sexual assault, and threats from alien or occult forces. For children in this age group the best response to frightening scenes and images is to talk openly about it: point out the unrealistic aspects of what the child saw and, in the case of more realistic dangers, help children develop strategies for preventing them.

Teen movies often portray risky activities—such as reckless driving, dangerous stunts, casual sex, and drug and alcohol use—as exciting and cool. Talk to kids about the ways in which risky behaviours and the characters who do them are made to look cool in movies, and compare that to the more likely consequences of these behaviours in real life.

Young girls are particularly susceptible to the unrealistic standards of female beauty in movies. Deconstruct these representations with kids and teens: How have images of beauty changed from older movies to current films? What characteristics are usually attributed to beautiful characters and to plain characters? See the Body Image for more information.

Pay attention if a teen spends a lot of time with violent media, shows violent tendencies, or is withdrawn and alienated from peers. If necessary, seek appropriate counselling (from school, a doctor, or social services) to address his/her mental health needs.