'Hunger Games' phenomenon opens dialogue between families

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - The smash hit "The Hunger Games" is rated PG-13, but many fans of the book series are much younger than that. That has some are questioning whether the franchise's underlying themes are suitable for young children.

From the lines before opening day to the eclipsing of box office holy grail "Harry Potter," "The Hunger Games" firmly established itself as the new "it" series.

Even the premise for the movie is questionable: Teens are recruited for a fight to the death all for the entertainment of spectators.

Fandango.com spokeswoman Tara McNamara told NBC, "I have an 11-year-old and she would be freaked out for years if she were to see this film. But, 13 and above I think can handle the violence."

Child and family therapist Amy Birchill Lavergn, executive director of the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center in Houston, said that when movies and books like these spring up in pop culture, parents need to do their homework and rely less on movie ratings.

Lavergn explained, "You're going to know whether or not your child can see the image on the screen and handle that. No rating system is going to know that."

She encourages parents to not only see the movies beforehand, but then talk to their kids afterward.

Lavergn added, "These movies provide a fabulous conduit for you to be having these conversations because most of the times parents don't know how to start those conversations."

Another thing to keep in mind as a parent is that sometimes in order to appeal to a broader audience, the books can be more graphic and violent than what actually makes it onto the big screen.

Copyright 2012 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.