At what age would you let your child watch a 12-rated movie?

Does a child need to be 12 to watch a 12 movie? Would you let a younger child watch a 12-rated film? We asked 1,427 parents what they thought - plus, we get the expert opinion of an educational psychologist...

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Film ratings are a great way to help you decide whether or not a movie might or might not be appropriate for your child.

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When they’re really little, you’ll probably stick to anything with a U (Universal) rating – and your child will be more than happy with that.

Though, as they get older, you might just find they get bored with the U films and even PGs (Parental Guidance), as they want to make sure what they watch isn’t too ‘babyish’. 

Plus if they’ve got friends at school who tell them about movies they’ve seen that carry a 12 or higher rating, you might just find them pestering you to let them watch those, too.

But is it OK to let a child younger than 12 watch a 12 movie? And isn’t there a reason a film’s been rated 12 in the first place?

What a 12 film rating really means

We checked what the British Board Of Film Classification means by a 12 movie. Typically, it means they can contain (among other things):

  • nudity, but in a sexual context ‘it must be brief and discreet’
  • ‘moderate physical and psychological threat and horror sequences’
  • moderate violence.

There are also 12A’s, which means a child under 12 can watch the movie in the cinema but only with an adult (over 18) present. 

(For the full rundown, check out the British Board Of Film Classification‘s website.)

What our mums said

We asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d let their child watch a 12 movie. The most popular answers were:

  • 12 years (35%)
  • 10 years (22%)
  • Older than 12 – no age specified (14%).
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According to our survey results, most parents would follow the classification guidance to the letter.

Though, when we probed further, lots also said it would depend on the maturity of their child and the individual film, because (let’s face it) they vary a lot.

One respondent, who has 3 children, the oldest being 10, told us: “It really depends on the type of film. I would have to watch it beforehand also to make sure it’s not too unsuitable.”

A lot agreed they’d want to watch it first, and if they thought it was OK they would let a younger child watch it.

Others though, were adamant that the age guidance should be stuck to regardless, with one saying: “They have to be old enough to watch it – there are age limits for a reason.”

What does the expert say?

When we asked educational psychologist and mum Naomi Burgess about this one, she told us: “It’s a toughie. Obviously the ratings are there for very good reasons.”

She suggests visiting the IMDB website for more info – go to the film, then ‘more; then ‘storyline’ and finally ‘parents’ guide’.

Naomi adds: “When choosing what your child watches, the most important thing is to know them well because you want to protect them in the best way you can and no 2 children have the same sensitivities, even if they are in the same family.  

“So, whether the film they watch is for their age range or a bit older, do try to watch the film with them or carefully brief a more mature sibling how to watch together, and how to respond to questions and shows of emotion.

“Lastly, if you want to know a really good way to find out what your child thinks about the film, just ask them if they have any questions they want to ask you about the story  – it’s a much more engaging question than asking what the film was about.”

This tag cloud shows some of the key words that came up from comments on this topic…

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What do you think?

Would you let your child watch a 12-rated movie at a younger age? Tell us in the comments below, on Instagram or over on Facebook

Image: Getty Images

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