Should books be given age restrictions?

A recent article on the BBC website made me consider something I’d never really thought about before: should books have age certificates? The Fifty-Shades phenomenon means that shops are now filled to the brim with adult-content books – in fact, they’re all being made as visible as possible: in pride of place on display tables, marked with special offers, and everything short of being surrounded with flashing neon arrows. So is it a problem that any child could conceivably walk into a shop, grab hold of some of this erotic fiction, and will legally be free to buy as much of it as they want?

It’s a difficult question, and not one I have a definite opinion on yet. On one hand, it doesn’t make sense to let kids read about sex, violence and horror to their heart’s content – we certainly object to them watching inappropriate films, so why should books be any different? And yet there’s something about placing age restrictions on literature which sounds like a bad idea to me – it seems to creep closer to the censorship of books. And once you start placing age limits on books, you could be restricting those children who love reading and may be further ahead than others in their age group. I’m sure that, as a child who enjoyed reading anything I could get my hands on, I probably came across some books that might be deemed ‘age inappropriate’ – although obviously it wasn’t anything akin to Christian-Grey-style S&M adventures.

It’s an issue that perhaps needs a lot more thought, and I’d be interested to hear other people’s opinions. Should literature be age restricted? Is there a difference between adult content in film and adult content in books? And could Fifty Shades of Grey be dangerous in the wrong hands?

Sara Magness, Editorial Administrator

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