Violence in Movies Doesn’t Make Kids Violent

Violence in Movies Doesn't Make Kids Violent
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Parents often worry that violent movies can trigger violence in their kids, but a new study suggests PG-13-rated movies won’t turn your kids into criminals.

Researchers found that as PG-13 movies became more violent between 1985 and 2015, overall rates of murder and violence actually fell.

“It doesn’t appear that PG-13-rated movies are having any impact on viewers,” said lead researcher Christopher Ferguson. He’s a professor of psychology at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

Kids may re-enact things they see in films during play, Ferguson said, but their playful re-enactments don’t turn into real-life violence, like bullying or assaults.

But the report came under fire from Dan Romer, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Adolescent Communication Institute. He said the data studied can’t be used to draw conclusions about movies’ effects on violence.

“The authors have a very simplistic model of how the mass media work, and they have an agenda that attempts to show that violent media are salutary rather than harmful,” Romer said. “What is needed is dispassionate analysis rather than cherry-picking of convenient data.”

Previous studies have suggested parents may become desensitized to violence in PG-13 movies, making it more likely they will let children see them — especially when gun violence is portrayed as justified.

But researcher Ferguson said media are simply an easy target for people who want to claim the moral high ground. Blaming media gives people a false sense of control.

“It’s nice to say, ‘Let’s get rid of this thing and then that would make all these problems go away,'” he said. “It’s kind of a simplistic answer.”

Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Boston Children’s Hospital, reviewed the findings. He said the new study attempts to simplify a complex issue.

“While violence has declined, it doesn’t warrant the conclusion that we are not affected by violence in our media,” Rich said. “As a pediatrician, I am more concerned about the violence that children experience every day, which is not reflected in crime stats.”

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