A reader of this blog wrote to ask about her 14-year-old, who tells her that all of his friends watch R-rated horror films and he wants to see them, too. Here is my response:
I am honored that you would ask for my thoughts on this very difficult decision.
There’s no good answer. At this age, you are going to be walking a tightrope for the next few years trying to keep a balance between protecting your child from social humiliation (very tender at this age of course) and protecting him from media you consider inappropriate. I can recommend lower-intensity horror films, of course, but I fear that your approving of them (or my approving of them) would probably make them unacceptable from his point of view by definition. Some of the scariest movies are not at all graphic. But at this age, I believe that these movies are not watched for enjoyment as much as they are for proof of endurance and the pleasure of crossing a line that parents have drawn.
What I would say is this: “Now is a good time to make it clear to you that ‘everyone else is doing it’ never, ever works in our house. We do what is right for us. I want you to think about why you should see these movies — why they are worthwhile, what they will add to your understanding, why they merit 90 minutes out of your life, what possible adverse effect they might have. Take some time and think about it. Write down a few thoughts if that helps. And then we will reconvene on this subject. But remember that one of the gifts I give you as a parent is ‘plausible deniability.’ If in your heart you do not want to see these films (or do anything else your friends are pressuring you to do), you can always blame me.”
Good luck and keep me posted!