How to decide if a TV show or Movie is suitable for your kids

The ratings for films in particular has changed dramatically in the last 10-20 years, what passes for a PG13 (US) / 12A (UK) these days would have no doubt in the past been classified as a R (US) / 15 (UK). However there is a key difference in those regional classifications, in the US if a film is given a R rating then a youngster can still see it in the company of an adult. A 15 rating in the UK however does mean that you would have to be over 15 to see the film.

The other key difference is that in the UK ratings are legally binding, although the power actually sits with the local authority and not the BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) whereas in the US there is no legally binding requirement for cinemas but most to tend to follow the MPAA’s (Motion Picture Association of America) guidelines.

What passes for a film suitable for tweens can often be surprising, take for example The Scorch Trials (The sequel to The Maze Runner). The film received a PG13/12A certificate, however featured some very scary scenes with zombie like creatures (called “Cranks”). Although it actually received a 15 & R rating initially during post production, later just making it into the 12A/PG13 ratings.

For me The Scorch Trials was the last time I felt as a parent I had let my child watch something a little too scary, thankfully there weren’t too many nightmares that night.

Many parents recently may have fallen fowl of the hype surrounding the super-hero movie Deadpool. Assuming it was a R/15 primarily due to violence, of course those of us who have seen the film know it’s far more than simply violence that earned it those ratings. 

Then we consider some of the older films such as Tim Burtons Batman which in the UK was classified 15 (PG-13 in the US) or that the original Poltergeist film in 1982 was rated PG in the US (After Steven Spielberg talked the MPAA down from an original R rating). 

So how do we decide as parents what is safe for our children to watch and what isn’t? Thankfully there is a wealth of information available to us, giving us the ultimate power to make that decision as opposed to the lobbying of film-makers.


With most films you will find the option for “Parental Guidance” on the IMDB movie page, this gives highly detailed information although no quick overview. It is also worth bearing in mind that in many cases this information is crowd-sourced, there good and bad parts to this. The bad is an obvious influx of opinion and bias based on a particular view point as opposed to strictly factually based information.

With guidance on

  • Sex & Nudity,
  • Violence & Gore
  • Profanity
  • Alcohol/Drugs/Smoking
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes


For more recent films the BBFC started to add extra details to their website. One area I find interesting is the “Precuts information” which in the case of this film states “During post-production, the distributor sought and was given advice on how to secure the desired classification. Following this advice, certain changes were made prior to submission”. In other words, they were trying to see exactly how far they could go and still get that 12A certificate.

Their Insights section gives you guidance on the certification including:

  • Threat & Violence
  • Language
  • Sex & Ndutiy
  • Drugs

Kids In Mind

The site has an easy to read rating system of 3 key categories:

  • Sex &Nudity
  • Violence & Gore
  • Profanity

This is backed up with an in-depth review of those areas and other areas for specific films. I have used Kids In Mind for many years and found to be a reliable site for reviewing media. However it is beginning to show its age and much of the content can be lengthy (The Scorch Trials review is over 1,900 words).

Common Sense Media

The site is very professional and has become my go-to place after IMDB for deciding what to let my kid watch, I like the bite sized information it provides alongside a clear but concise rating system over categories including:

  • Positive messages
  • Positive role models
  • Violence
  • Sex
  • Language
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Common Sense Media have also built a social aspect around the site with other parents (and kids) able to give their feedback on the film and contents. The site also includes a section on what possible topics for learning the movie might raise which is an interesting addition.


The role of these sites is to inform, not to preach. We excluded several other parental guide sites which we felt preached a little too much about what we should and should not be letting our kids watch. 

Rather the sites we have included are about empowering parents through digital so we are better able to take that decision ourselves. In an age where violence and other areas are far more prolific in certifications that would have previously been limited to adults it is essential that as parents we have the information at hand to make that informed decision.