Stopping Shocks at the Movies

A great article and a great website that was created by 2 members of our dental family. 

By  Jeffrey Sheban

Erin Weist thought she was a good judge of films that were appropriate for her children.

Then a friend referred the Utah mother of three to the website, operated from the home of a husband-and-wife team in Dublin — which takes movie ratings to a whole new level.

The results proved eye-opening for Weist, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom who became more aware of the violence, profanity and even sexual undertones in films being marketed to her children, ages 1 to 5.

“I never realized how much innuendo I was missing,” she said. “Things that would go right over my head, my kids were acting out or repeating.”

Since she started using Kids-in-Mind several months ago, Weist said, she feels empowered.

“It’s the best website for this purpose that I’ve found,” she said. “There are no more gasping moments when I say: ‘Oh! I didn’t want my kids to see that.’  ”

Kids-in-Mind is the brainchild of Aris Christofides and Lori Pearson, who make a living from the business. The parents of two teenage children devised their rating system 20 years ago while living in Cincinnati. They were in a library and saw a patron grow frustrated trying to understand why a particular film was rated PG-13: Was it related to violence, profanity, sex or a combination?

The librarian had no idea and seemed unsure where to turn.

“It was like an epiphany,” said Christofides, a former telecommunication administrator who oversees website operations. His wife, previously a buyer for Federated Department Stores, reviews movies and edits the work of contributors. (The couple and the business moved to Dublin in 2005.)

“We thought there must be a way for somebody to tell why a movie had a particular rating.”

Commercial movies are assigned a rating by the Motion Picture Association of America — G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 — that carry age guidelines for parents and theater owners. Critics say MPAA ratings are inconsistent and lack enough details for consumers to make judgments.

A case in point is The King’s Speech, a critically acclaimed film that received an R rating because of one scene in which the stuttering King George VI of England is instructed by his speech therapist to swear. Besides the burst of profanity, the movie contained none of the sex and violence typically found in an R or even PG-13 film.

Given the educational nature of the film, the R rating — no one younger than 17 admitted without a parent or guardian — was probably too harsh, Pearson said.

“Every kind of age-based rating system is bound to fail you because every child is different and matures at a different rate,” she said. “We go out of our way to not make recommendations but to provide more information, because information is power.”

Kids-in-Mind rates movies with three numbers on a scale of zero to 10 that measure incidents of sex/nudity, violence/gore and profanity. The ratings are supported with detailed descriptions of various scenes.

The site has been around since 1992, offered originally as content on Internet service provider America Online. In 1998, the couple left AOL and created their website, which is free for users and supported through advertising. A small number of subscribers get the same content without the ads.

Other popular family-oriented ratings services have a religious or ideological bent; Kids-in-Mind is strictly secular and not affiliated with any political party, the founders said.

Competing services include the Catholic News Service, which has movie reviews geared toward Roman Catholic parents (, and Focus on the Family, which caters to conservative Christians (

In addition to Christofides, 56, and Pearson, 50, Kids-in-Mind employs two full-time reviewers, supplemented by free-lancers as needed. Pearson trains new reviewers and edits their work for consistency.

Reviewers generally attend screenings several days before movies open to the public.

Pearson reviews about 50 to 60 movies a year, taking copious notes with black felt-tip pens on white legal pads (easier to read in the dark, she said). The process can be taxing.

“I have to read and write and watch at the same time,” she said. “Sometimes I’m writing from the opening credits to the closing credits.”

The hard work is appreciated by thousands of regular users — including Layla Manganaro of Upper Arlington, who said the service is indispensable.

“I rely on this because I’ve definitely been burned by the MPAA ratings,” said the 39-year-old, whose children are 10 and 7. “Every family has different values and feels differently about what to expose their kids to and at what age.

“I always check to see just what we’re in store for.”