Full of interesting topics to discuss with older kids, The Hunger Games is much too emotional and violent for younger viewers.
In the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, a raffle is held each year to determine which 24 young people must fight to the death until one victor is left standing. Think Survivor, but with child contestants between 12 and 18 years old who, instead of eliminating one another by voting them out, must kill each other off as the chief goal of The Hunger Games.
Generations of high school students have read bleak, gray, futuristic classics like George Orwell's 1984 for the past 50+ years. There are many topics to discuss in them and for teachers and parents a lot of learning opportunities for kids. I could see The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins as a text that could also be thought about and discussed in high schools for years to come. It deals with issues teenagers may be experiencing for the first time surrounding love, commitment and family loyalty. There are also larger social issues in the story too, like What could losing freedom as a society actually look like? And, How close is technology to consuming our lives?
Human nature is also explored in The Hunger Games, like with the question of What could make a decent person kill? Or, Must we experience evil to understand goodness? The bulk of The Hunger Games, though, is about injustice, rebellion and fighting the system - in this case the kids are not only pitted against one another, but against the government, adults and the status quo.
Since kids younger than puberty don't relate to these strong feelings of angst just yet, I'd hold off exposing them to it.
As for the violence in the film (which is much more graphic than the book), I borderline felt the film earned not its PG-13 rating, but an R rating. It's dark, morose and the brutality of many of the teens is reminiscent of the kid killers in Children of the Corn, numb to pain and suffering, thrilled to kill. I see no need to expose little kids to this either.
Many children have read The Hunger Games - my 4th grader has been trying to convince me he is the only one in his class who hasn't! Now with the movie's release I am sure even more kids are begging their parents to read it. Although I do love the idea of kids begging to read, the book shouldn't be read by anyone younger than 12 and I'd hold off on the movie version even longer.
Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mom of 4 young kids and the founder of Kid Focused, a site devoted to children and family issues. Subscribe to the free Kid Focused newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox and connect with us on Facebook too. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com