Parents Guide for Movies

Movies have become an essential element of modern life, delivering entertainment and storytelling that appeals to people of all ages.

Unfortunately, not every film is appropriate for younger viewers, emphasizing its importance as a vital resource for parents and carers when making informed decisions about content consumption for children.

Most of us are familiar with the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) symbols when determining the acceptability of a film for our children.

Lucy Brett, the BBFC’s Head of Education, sheds light on film classification in the United Kingdom and explains how to utilize the ratings to make informed decisions about your family’s entertainment.

In this blog article, we will look at what the Parents Guide for Movies contains, its significance, and how parents and careers may use it as a beneficial tool when choosing appropriate movies for their children.

What is the Movie Parents Guide?

The Movie Parents Guide is like a helpful handbook designed especially for parents and caregivers. It’s all about giving them the important details about movies so they can decide if it’s okay for younger viewers. This guide looks at things like how much violence, strong language, and mature themes are in a movie.

With this guide, parents can get a deep look into what’s in each movie. This way, they can make smarter choices about what their kids can watch, making sure it’s suitable and safe for them.

What are the age ratings for films?

Age ratings for films are recommendations provided to assist parents and caregivers in determining the appropriateness of a movie based on their child’s developmental stage. These recommendations serve as a guide for making informed decisions about what content is suitable for different age groups.

Legally, cinemas are required to enforce these age ratings, meaning that individuals under the age specified in the rating (such as 12, 15, or 18) cannot purchase a ticket to watch a film with that rating. However, when it comes to choosing what to watch at home with your children, the decision is ultimately in your hands.

Lucy emphasizes, “We don’t tell people what they can and can’t watch, but instead offer clear guidance to parents and children. Our goal is to provide a helpful tool for families to make informed choices about what content is appropriate. We understand that every family is unique, and people may react differently to content, so our role is to offer parents, caregivers, and children a valuable reference for what’s suitable. We aim to assist them in deciding, and even negotiating, what to watch and what to avoid.

The BBFC age ratings and what they mean:

Age 4+ – U symbol BBFC:

The “U” symbol means “universal,” and it’s for movies suitable for most ages, including kids. These movies are positive and teach right from wrong. There’s nothing dangerous that kids can copy, and any bad language is very mild if it’s even there.

Age 8+ – PG symbol BBFC:

“PG” stands for “parental guidance.” These movies might be a bit more complex than U-rated films. They might talk about serious topics like racism or bullying, but not in a way that says it’s okay. If there’s any bad language, it’s not too strong, and sometimes there are jokes about things like love, but they’re not too serious.

Age 12+ – 12A symbol BBFC:

The 12A rating is for movies in cinemas, and it means kids under 12 should go with a grown-up. For DVDs and online movies, it’s just called “12,” and you have to be at least 12 to watch. These movies might have weapons and bad behavior, but they shouldn’t make it look cool. There might be some strong words, and sometimes there are quick scenes about love, but not too much.

Age 15+ – 15 symbol BBFC:

This rating is because even though teens know a lot, some stuff is still too grown-up. Movies might talk about things like suicide or show people using drugs, but they won’t make it seem good. There can be strong words, and sometimes there are scenes about love, but not too much detail. Violence is okay, but it can’t focus too much on hurting people.

Age 18+ – 18 symbol BBFC:

This rating means the movie can be very intense, and it’s only for adults, not kids. It can have very strong words, really clear scenes about love, and a lot of violence. The BBFC only says no if it’s super risky or illegal.

The Significance of a Movie Parents Guide for Teens

1. Shielding Against Inappropriate Content

It’s crucial to protect teenagers from content that might not be suitable for their age or maturity level.

Teenagers are at a stage in life where what they see and experience can profoundly impact their emotional growth and development.

The Movie Guide for Parents helps moms and dads make smarter choices when it comes to movies, ensuring they align with their family’s values and beliefs.

2. Choosing Content for Different Ages

Teenagers mature at different rates, so it’s essential to pick movies that match their individual developmental stages.

The Movie Guide for Parents simplifies the task of selecting films suitable for your teen’s emotional and cognitive growth. This ensures they’re exposed to content that is neither too intense nor confusing for their current phase.

3. Facilitating Open Conversations

The Movie Guide for Parents is a great conversation starter for parents and their teenagers.

It allows parents to address sensitive topics like violence, substance abuse, or relationships in a way that’s appropriate and comfortable for both parties.

These discussions help teenagers grasp complex issues, improve their critical thinking, and distinguish between fiction and real-life situations.

4. Promoting Media Literacy

This guide also plays a significant role in teaching teenagers about media literacy and responsible media consumption.

It helps them develop the ability to critically evaluate what they see in movies, understand the line between fiction and reality, and recognize how media can influence emotions and behavior.

Parents can use this guide as a tool to kickstart discussions about media literacy with their teenagers, encouraging them to become more thoughtful viewers who actively engage with media content.

5. Cultural Awareness and Diversity

Movies often showcase diverse cultures and perspectives.

The Movie Guide for Parents offers guidance on movies that may contain offensive or inaccurate portrayals.

By being aware of these aspects in advance, parents can select movies that promote cultural sensitivity, appreciation for diverse viewpoints, and a deeper understanding of various cultures.

How do they decide on movie ratings?

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) determines movie ratings by using guidelines based on people’s opinions and UK law. These guidelines are updated every four to five years after a big survey that’s conducted by independent researchers and involves lots of people from different communities and age groups across the UK.

The guidelines, which were last updated in February 2019, consider what matters to families and how people’s views are changing. They look at what concerns parents and children when they see things in movies, the pressures that young kids, teenagers, and parents can face, and how families decide what movies to watch.

When it comes to movies for the cinema, at least two of the BBFC’s Compliance Officers watch the movie and talk about what rating it should get. They use the official BBFC Classification Guidelines to make their decision. Most of the time, their recommendation is approved by the Compliance Manager or the Head of Compliance, which finalizes the movie’s age rating.

Content considered for age classifications

  1. Dangerous Behavior:
    • Addressing bad behavior like bullying and its consequences.
    • Avoiding the portrayal of dangerous behaviors that young children might imitate.
    • Not glamorizing weapons or promoting illegal activities.
  2. Discrimination:
    • Handling scenes involving discrimination (racism, sexism, homophobia) by either challenging or promoting it, depending on the context.
  3. Drugs:
    • Avoiding the glamourization or misuse of drugs.
    • Being cautious with detailed scenes of drug use.
  4. Language:
    • Monitoring the use of offensive language and considering its context.
  5. Nudity and Sex:
    • Handling sexual content appropriately, considering nudity, sexual behavior, and innuendos.
    • Avoiding normalization of sexualized behavior.
  6. Sexual Violence and Threats:
    • Handling scenes of sexual violence or threats with sensitivity and considering their impact on viewers.
  7. Threat and Horror:
    • Evaluating scary images and scenes and their duration.
    • Considering the use of music, realism, or supernatural elements that could be distressing to viewers.
  8. Violence:
    • Avoiding the glamorization or normalization of violence.
    • Assessing the use of realistic violence in the content.
  9. Context:
    • Examining whether the context of the content lessens or deepens its impact, including historical or fantasy elements.
  10. Theme:
    • Handling themes with sensitivity, considering whether they reassure or reinforce fear and anxiety.
  11. Tone and Impact:
    • Taking into account the tone of the content, it can change the rating if it is dark or unsettling.

These considerations are crucial in providing guidance and warnings to audiences, especially parents and guardians, about the content they or their children are consuming.

Utilizing Studies and Research

Numerous studies have highlighted the impact of media on children and emphasized the need for parental guidance when making media-related decisions, for instance:

  1. Studies published by pubmed have demonstrated that exposure to violent media can contribute to an increase in aggressive behaviors among children.
  2. Another study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation demonstrated that children ages 8-18 spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes daily viewing media, emphasizing the need for choosing appropriate content.
  3. The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) has a special website just for kids called CBBFC. This site is for kids who are 8 to 11 years old. It gives information about new movies and has a version of the BBFC Guidelines that’s easy for kids to understand. These guidelines explain what’s allowed in each movie category.


The Movie Parents Guide is a vital tool for parents and caregivers seeking to navigate the wide range of available films while making sure that children are exposed to content suitable for their age.

This guide offers parents in-depth information about potential violence, language, sexual content, and other mature themes that may be present in movies or books their child wants to watch. It empowers parents to make informed decisions that align with their family values and their child’s stage of development.

It also encourages conversations, promotes media literacy, fosters cultural sensitivity, and contributes to the overall growth of children in today’s media-driven world.

Next time you plan a family movie night, take a moment to review and consult the Movie Parents Guide to ensure an enjoyable and enriching experience for everyone.

By using this invaluable resource, parents can strike a balance between entertainment and responsible media consumption when choosing movies for their children. This ensures that the selected films align with their values and have a positive impact on their child’s development.

FAQS on parents guide for movies

What does “parents guide movies” mean?

Parents guide movies” typically refers to resources or information designed to help parents make informed decisions about what movies suit their children. These guides often provide details about a movie’s content, such as its rating, themes, and potential for violence, language, or mature content, to assist parents in determining whether a movie is appropriate for their child’s age and maturity level.

What does PG-13 mean in movies?

“PG-13” is a movie rating assigned by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) in the United States. It stands for “Parental Guidance 13,” indicating that some material in the movie may be inappropriate for children under 13 years old. Parents are encouraged to provide guidance and make decisions about their child’s movie viewing based on the movie’s content.

Is PG-13 the same as 12?

No, PG-13 and 12 are different movie ratings used in different regions. PG-13 is a rating used in the United States, while “12” is a rating used in some other countries, such as the United Kingdom. These ratings may have similar objectives in providing guidance to parents but can vary in specific content standards and criteria.

Can 12-year-olds watch PG-13 movies?

Whether a 12-year-old can watch a PG-13 movie depends on the movie’s content and the parent’s judgment. PG-13 movies may contain material that some parents find appropriate for their 12-year-olds, while others may prefer to wait until their child is older. It’s important for parents to review the specific content and use their discretion to determine what is suitable for their child. Additionally, the guidelines and recommendations may vary by country and rating system.

What does an R-rated movie mean, and should I allow my teenager to watch it?

An “R” rating signifies that the movie may contain strong language, violence, sexual content, or other mature themes, making it unsuitable for children under 17 without parental guidance. Parents often wonder whether it’s appropriate for their teenagers to watch R-rated films.

What is the appropriate age for my child to start watching movies in theaters?

Parents may seek guidance on when it’s a suitable age to take their child to the movie theater for the first time.