Parents need to go beyond MPAA movie ratings

Parents worried about the content in movies their children see should just assume they can't trust the traditional rating system.

It was recently announced that extra expletives are now showing up in PG-13 rated movies as industry officials are figuring out ways to sneak them in.

It's too bad the movie industry thinks swear words sell. It's one thing if the movie is clearly for adults and the scene truly warrants an expletive.

However, that isn't usually the case. Most people don't see the necessity of adding profanity to a movie. But for some reason, Hollywood does.

The Motion Picture Association of America has the most widely recognized movie rating system in the country. Its G, PG, PG-13, and R ratings are pretty standard.

But they shouldn't be the most trusted.

Officially, PG-13 movies are allowed one nonsexual F-word per script (which actually is one too many), but filmmakers are finding a way around that rule.

The MPAA's guidelines state that if two-thirds of the rating board members believe that multiple F-words are used in a legitimate context or are inconspicuous, then the movie can still be rated PG-13.

The PG-13 rating means parents should be strongly cautioned, a few clicks above a PG rating, which means parental guidance is probably a good idea.

But any parent who has taken a 13- or even 16-year-old teen to a movie and been upset by a scene or two of sex or violence knows that the rating system is pretty lenient.

The best thing a parent can do is search the internet for family movie rating guides. There are several.

One of our favorites is called Kids-In-Mind at www.kids-in-mind.com, which describes in detail parts of the movie that parents might not want their children to see.

The website's reviewers rank movies on a 10-point scale in three categories -- sex and nudity, violence and gore and profanity.

Each overview also includes a link to a detailed analysis. Rise of Planet of the Apes, for example, rates 5 points on the profanity scale. The analysis explains why: "One implied F-word, nine mild obscenities, name-calling (stupid monkey, dirty chimp, lazy baboon, morons, stupid), exclamations (shut up, for goodness sake), two religious profanities and five religious exclamations."

The site includes a glossary to explain how terms like "religious exclamations" are defined.

There are several other sites as well, many of them affiliated with religious organizations. All parents have to do is take the time to search and they likely will find a family rating system they like and trust.

Everyone has different standards, and parents must decide for themselves and their children what movies are appropriate.

But it's difficult, if not impossible, to make this personal decision without adequate information.

It's one reason we think parents shouldn't rely on the MPAA system. Its standards aren't good enough and its ratings are virtually meaningless.