DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a 13-year-old son. I admit that my husband and I are very strict with him about lots of things, including what he watches on TV and what movies he views. I learned that some of his friends routinely get to watch R-rated movies -- either because their parents are lenient or because their parents have given them no restrictions on what they watch on TV. When I learned that, I decided not to let my son go over their houses anymore. I want to limit what he sees, at least for now. Routinely, when he asks me if he can see a movie that is rated R, I automatically say no. I'm wondering if I should amend that. I don't want him to start ignoring me, even though I do think these other parents are making it harder for me to keep up my standards. -- Drawing the Line, Jackson, Missippi
DEAR DRAWING THE LINE: Movies have ratings for a reason. You are not wrong with your rule that your teenage son should be limited to age-appropriate viewing material. That said, it may be true -- in some instances -- that the reason that a movie receives that rating is due to factors that may not be too offensive or inappropriate for some children his age. You have to view the movies first to see if you think your son would be comfortable watching them.
I recommend you do this even if your intention is not to have him watch the popular movies of the season. Why? Because there's a very good chance that he will see some of them or at least hear about them among his peers.
Your job as a parent is to help your son interpret the information that is coming at him through your family's values. Whatever you allow him to watch, make sure that you have an open dialogue about the events and cultural content that cross his life. It will be in those talks that you can assure that he is on the right track.