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Site of the Week – Kids in Mind

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You won’t find clever wordplay like “Eagle Eye soars” or “Eagle Eye lacks vision” at Kids-In-Mind.com. What you will find is information like “a young man gives another young man advice on how to convince his girlfriend to have sex with him,” to help you decide if the thriller is appropriate for, say, your Shia Lebouf-loving, 11-year-old daughter. The site doesn’t discuss whether or not a film’s worth seeing; it simply details its ingredients. “Our model was the food labeling system, which tells you what a food item contains, without telling you what to eat,” explains Aris Christofides, creator and editor of the site. “Moviegoers can decide, based on their own value system, whether they should watch a movie with or without their kids.”

Christofides and his wife came up with the Kids-In-Mind movie rating
system while writing for AOL’s Entertainment channel in 1992 — and
before they had children of their own. “We were in a video store and
watched as another customer was trying to get one of the clerks to
explain why a film was rated PG-13,” he says. When the clerk couldn’t,
they had an epiphany: “We realized that the MPAA ratings could imply
anything, from violence to sex to profanity, and not all people are
offended or bothered by the same things.” So, they created a new format
that gives a film three ratings: One for Sex and Nudity, one for
Violence and Gore and one for Profanity. For each category, the review
also explains in detail why a film earned it’s zero to ten rating.
After they had children of their own, Christofides came to appreciate
their system even more. “The whole idea of providing ratings based on
age is ludicrous,” he explains, “My son, who’s younger than my
daughter, has a far greater tolerance for violence than she does.”

Recently, AMC asked, “Should Movie Ratings Be Overhauled?
Christofides actually tried talking to lawmakers years ago but says,
“Nobody was interested and we gave up.” In any case, he adds, “I don’t
think having any official system is a good idea. No organization should
be involved in arbitrating who should or shouldn’t see a film.” What he
would like to see is independent organizations like his distributing
ratings to media outlets and theater chains. That way, he says,
“Consumers will choose the ratings that serve them best in making a
decision, according to their own values and priorities.”

So
far, plenty of consumers have turned to what he calls their “neutral
and dispassionate approach.” In 1998, they started writing the reviews
at Kids-In-Mind.com, raising their standards and adding a Substance Use
category. They have the largest database of parents’ reviews available
anywhere, and if a film has a theatrical release, regardless of it’s
MPAA rating, his staff tries to review it. “Documenting every scene
that may be potentially objectionable to someone somewhere, is indeed a
rare talent,” Christofides admits. In 2006, the site was one of Time
magazine’s “50 Coolest Websites” but he says, “The greatest compliments
come from readers for whom Kids-In-Mind.com has made movie going
possible, not only for their kids but for themselves… adults use the
service because they’ve had traumatic experiences in their own lives,
which they don’t want to relive on screen.”

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