When an 'R' Rating Becomes 'PG'

Movie ratings have become a sliding scale - downward. The Motion Picture Association of America, which administers the G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC ratings, apparently has been loosening them based on changing societal norms.

A Harvard School of Public Health study of 1,906 feature films between 1992 and 2003 found an increasing amount of sex and violence in PG-rated movies and more sex and profanity in PG-13 and R-rated movies. And 95 percent of all movies depicted use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.

This is hardly news to parents or child advocates who've said the ratings clearly are more relaxed. But it does provide evidence that the rating system needs tweaking. "Age-based ratings alone do not provide good information about the depiction of violence, sex, profanity and other content," according to one of the study's co-authors, Kimberly Thompson, who calls for a rating system that would be used across all media.

That idea could be useful, but won't be easy. Many complex feature films these days defy one-size-fits-all approaches. Still, Hollywood should act on this report. In the meantime, parents must monitor all the various forms of entertainment their children watch, including a check of independent reviews of these products.

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