11/26/2013 06:30 pm ET Updated Jan 26, 2014

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Kids: What Is Age Appropriate?

There has been mucho talk online via social media channels as to what age kids can begin to read The Hunger Games book series and watch the movies. The most recent release is rated PG-13 and the books fall under the "Young Readers" genre that tends to focus on 9-15 year olds (depending on the publisher).

On Los Tweens & Teens our team raffled tickets across the country for the premiere of the latest Hunger Games movie, Catching Fire, and attended the Miami showing. The theater was buzzing with excitement. There were more teens than tweens (children ranging between the ages of 7-12) which is a natural given the movie's PG-13 rating. The movie really is suited for older tweens as there is plenty of drama and intensity. Prior to and following the premiere, I asked some parents and kids in attendance for their views and reactions to the movie.

The responses were an interesting gender differentiation. The two dads I asked felt the movies are fine for kids around 11 and older while two moms were firm that kids should be at least 13 and up as the right age for this movie. The kids, mainly ranging between 10-14 and both girls and boys simply said, THAT WAS AWESOME! As always, it all depends on your child's maturity level and your parenting style so I'll speak only to mine. I will point out that I have often sheltered my kids from many movies. One of the dads I interviewed specifically pointed out that The Hunger Games producers/director go out of their way to not feature anything very gory, there is no cursing and there is no overt sexual tones. There is an interesting love story that can naturally develop when a person loves someone but is tossed continuously in the ring with someone else. In my opinion, there is no more violence in Catching Fire than in the recent Marvel and other superhero films, or the beloved Star Wars films that seem welcomed by parents of tweens and younger kids everywhere.

What I do appreciate about this book series and its accompanying movies is the very strong female lead character. She's not shying away from family responsibility or serving her community. "Katniss Everdeen" played again by Jennifer Lawrence, is an unwillingly strong character who matured very quickly to save her sister and family. The scenes are that of an oppressed society, almost wartime period, where some citizens have more than others and many are suffering tremendously. Perhaps young readers are exposed to too many messages of frivolous issues like the latest love interest at school or what girl wore what outfit last week. At least The Hunger Games presents an opportunity for young readers to be exposed to a more in-depth storyline. They're forced to think!

In sum, my husband and I are involved with our children as we read the books and watch the movie series develop. My colleague Katherine read the Harry Potter series with her daughter so they understood and shared the stories together. What I love about this process is that the kids/tweens/teens are reading! Instead of focusing on silly tween drama, they are engrossed in a book that is creating dialog in our home. That's the key for me.