What About R?
Most Christians would agree that none of us, least of all children, should look at hardcore
pornography. But what about R-rated movies? Are they harmful to kids? At what age should
children be allowed to watch them?
Our sons occasionally endured ribbing while they were growing up because we didn't let them
see PG-13 movies even when they were older teens. I was often shocked by how many of our
Christian friends allowed their children, some younger than ten, to watch not only PG-13
but R-rated movies. And much of today's television programming is just as explicit as the
R movies of a few years ago.
Parents often deny that what their children watch impacts their behavior. However, research
reveals that sexualized programming, both verbal and visual, kindles passions that
frequently result in kids acting on what they see. A 2004 study by the US National
Institute of Child Health shows that teens who watch programs with a high level of sexual
content are twice as likely to initiate intercourse over the next year.
Sadder still is the effect sexualized programming has on prepubescent children, who have no
foundation for understanding sex. The story below makes the most powerful case that I've
ever read against allowing children to watch R-rated movies:
My son, who is 10 years old now, goes to see his dad (my ex) every weekend. I have pleaded
with his father to monitor what he is watching because I knew his father was much too
lenient about such things. He told me not to worry, that he knew what he was doing.
However, by the time my son was six years old he started coming home and telling me the
names of the movies he had been watching. Most of them were R-rated.
His father and I fought many times over this, until finally my son was acting out what he
had been exposed to over the years so my ex decided I was right.
Unfortunately it was too late; the damage was done. My poor son woke up screaming and
crying in the middle of the night, and when I asked him what was wrong, he said, "Mommy,
I can't get sex out of my head . . . the movies I wasn't supposed to watch keep coming
back in my head."
My heart sank, tears welled in my eyes and I thought, "My God, what has he been exposed
For the next three weeks he couldn't sleep. He was afraid to close his eyes. He couldn't
go to school for a couple of days because he just couldn't shake the thoughts. With all
the misinformation and distortion the TV gives about sex, my poor son was in a totally
confused state. Even though we had been slowly preparing him for the day and time with
biblically based foundations on sex and how God feels, and how our purity before God is
essential, he couldn't understand why we had been telling him one thing and the whole
world had been showing him something else.
My son approached me one day with the saddest statement I think I have ever heard uttered
from a child's mouth. He said, "Mom I just want to be a little boy again and play with my
cars, and now I can't." The innocence of my child has been stolen. The little boy who
loves to romp and play has already been scarred, by none other than adults.
So when is it okay to let your child watch R-rated movies and their counterparts on
television? Is your 14-year-old mature enough, or should you wait until he is 16 or 18?
Should we parents watch what is essentially softcore pornography?
Many porn addicts cite sexually explicit R-rated movies as a gateway to pornography
addiction, for adults as well as children. These films desensitize viewers until even the
most blatant sexual display loses shock value. In his book, I Surrender All, contemporary
Christian singer Clay Crosse said moving from R-rated films to hardcore pornography was
easy to rationalize because he and his wife had already seen so much sex and nudity in
In An Affair of the Mind, Laurie Hall described her husband's gradual slide into sexual
addiction. This Christian family man wouldn't have dreamed of frequenting strip shows or
prostitutes in the beginning, but looking at softcore pornography in magazines and R-rated
movies blurred the lines until he could no longer judge what was appropriate and what was
not.4 After reading this wife's account, I found it hard
to justify watching R-rated movies myself, much less exposing our children to them.
Children are vulnerable to sexually explicit material that breaks down their inhibitions
and leads to the desire for harder material or to act out what they see. Why take the
chance that R-rated films could lead them down that road?
What are your children watching?