Whether your kids are watching movies at home or in a theater with friends, you will want to establish some guidelines about what they should be watching, and what they should avoid. The guidelines will vary with the ages of your children, so here are some ideas for different ages and stages. Above all, you always want your children to be safe, so make sure they always check with you about their plans, just to confirm that you are aware of all the details.
Children younger than 7 should only be watching movies with your supervision. For children of this age, store movies for older kids away from reach and establish a second location for age-appropriate movies. Many younger children will select what they want to watch by looking at the picture on the front of the DVD cover, so storing movies geared toward older children and adults is a safer option than allowing the little ones access to a movie cabinet.
Once your child is old enough to go on play dates at a friend's house, she will most likely be watching movies without your supervision. It is always a good idea to set guidelines early. Review them with your child often, as circumstances will change with age and situation. Set a guideline based on the MPAA ratings -- G, PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 -- but also be aware that the rating system is not always foolproof. Give your kids some ideas of what to do when something in a movie makes them uncomfortable or when something comes on the screen that they know you would not want them to see. For example, give your child a phrase to use such as, "I don't like this movie, can we do something else now?"
As your kids get older, they will have more access to movies online and on personal devices than your younger children. Reinforcing the guidelines you set with them when they were younger will go a long way in keeping them safe from inappropriate content. Keep in mind that the rating system has changed over the years. For example, older movies may have a lower rating but still contain racier and more vulgar content. Make a rule that they should check with you before seeing a movie, then watch the trailer together so that if something questionable comes up, they can agree that it's not for them.
Movie Theater Safety
Before allowing your older kids to go to a movie theater unattended, keep in mind their age and ability to remain safe in that environment. Many times a better option is to go to the movie together, but sit separately yet still in view if they want to be with their friends instead of you. As they reach the teenage years, opt to see a separate movie in the same theater building so that you can be available if a need arises without smothering their independence.