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Parents Worry More About Sex Than Violence in Movies

A new study shows parents are more worried about kids being exposed to sex scenes than graphic violence in movies.

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Just last night, my 13-year-old wandered into my bedroom to ask me a question right as Alison and Noah started getting busy in the most recent episode of The Affair.

As I awkwardly scrambled for the remote and then maniacally started hitting the mute and pause and fast-forward buttons all at the same time, my daughter glanced at the screen and then back at me with an exasperated eye roll. "Really, Mom?"

So why the mini freak out? I'm not entirely sure. After all, my daughter has seen far more questionably suitable fare—films like Twilight, Divergent, and The Hunger Games, which feature death and violence on the regular—courtesy of her recent PG-13 status.

But get this: A new survey has found that parents are more concerned with their children seeing graphic sexual content than graphic violent content in movies.

Say what?

The study—commissioned by the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) to see if their decisions align with those of today's parents—found that 80 percent of respondents were most worried about films that contain graphic sex scenes compared with only 64 percent who were worried about graphic violence.

Among the other top concerns: full male nudity (72%), the use of hard drugs (70%), full female nudity (70%), marijuana use (59%), horror violence (59%), non-graphic sex scenes (57%), suggestive sexual innuendo (57%), and partial nudity (47%).

Is it surprising that more parents are concerned about their kids seeing male nudity than they are about them witnessing graphic violence? Kind of. Then again, our kids see real horrifically violent events play out on the news every day...

But full male frontal? Not so much.

Then there's the study out of the University of Missouri that found exposure to sexual content in movies was linked with the "tendency to seek more novel and intense sexual stimulation" IRL. Research on whether violence in the media translates to violence at home, however, is not all that conclusive.

A recent piece in Time magazine attributes the findings to the fact that it's becoming harder and harder for parents to shield their kids from sex. "Kids' interest in sex really ramps up at adolescence, just when parents feel, rightly or wrongly, their influence is waning," the piece postulated. "Moreover, on a very primal level, since parents are hardwired to avoid sexual feelings towards their offspring, it can feel awkward to consume any sexual content around them. They don't want to have those conversations."

How to Talk to Kids About Sex

Or as filmmaker Michael Moore—who tried and failed to get the R rating on his new documentary Where to Invade Next overturned—so succinctly put it in a tweet he sent out last week: "What are they afraid of? Sex, Drugs, Truth."

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.