Should a 9 year old see The Hunger Games movie? This question came up on Facebook recently. A friend had read the book and described it to her daughter. The parent was concerned about nightmares and posted the question.

Have we become so desensitized to violence that it is nothing to show our children murder for entertainment? There is a reason The Hunger Games was published as a young adult novel (literature written for ages 10-20 or 12-18 depending on who’s definition you look at.) and not a children’s book. It is a story about children being forced to murder other children for sport, for the pleasure of others. It is reality TV gone wrong. The movie was rated pg-13 for this reason, something parents should take note of. If the movie got its rating from sexual content and situations would we even be having this discussion?

How we present media to our children does make a difference. Visual images can have a lasting effect on an individual. (I’m still not sure what my parents were thinking when they sent me at age 8 to see The Poseidon Adventure with my older brother and sister.) As parents it is our duty and responsibility to think about what we want our children exposed to. It is imperative to understand each individual and what they are ready for. If you have questions about the appropriateness of something, then there is probably a good reason. Listen to your instincts. Don’t just go with the hype. If it’s a good movie today, it will be a good movie a year or two from now when your child is older.

Reading a book that a movie is based on before seeing the movie is not just about instilling a love of literature, it allows time for the child to process the content in a more controlled environment. An overwhelming or frightening book can be put down and discussed with an adult. Not so in a movie theatre. There you are bombarded by striking images and sound amidst crowds of strangers. My children grew up during the Harry Potter craze, but they were not permitted to see the movies until they had read the books. Not only did it make the movies less frightening, but it helped cement their love of reading.

Even the most innocuous of classics like The Wizard of OZ can frighten someone not prepared. I have fond memories of the movie, but the tornado gave me nightmares for years and my brother and sister unanimously poked out the witch image on our view finder. My husband didn’t like the flying monkeys. When it came time to share this classic with our children we talked about the story with the kids and took them to see an ice show performance first. No nightmares. No problems.

With today’s world of unrestricted media, it is even more important to know what your children are watching and reading. This means the internet as well! Don’t forget those computers. Talk to your kids and don’t stop just because they enter High School.

Just as a note, HBO entered my childhood home in the late 70’s bringing with it R rated movies like Death Wish. I was definitely too young to watch that kind of movie.