Watch Dr. Sylvia Gearing describe some of the effects of movie violence on children and teens and how parents can limit violent movies and maintain their relationship with their child - click here.
Many parents are concerned about the findings just published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, linking violence in movies to higher levels of aggression and violent behavior. Recognizing that many children love violent movies, parents are wondering how to gauge which movies their kids should be watching or if their kids should be seeing violence at all!
State of Development
Be aware that adolescent brains, when compared to adult brains, are especially vulnerable to what they see, hear, and experience. They are still building their beliefs about the world, about other people, and about themselves. Always remember that your teenager’s brain will continue to unfold and develop until their mid-twenties.
Neuroscientists warn us that by the time the brain reaches adolescence, brain development is heavily governed by external influences. What the adolescent brain sees, it encodes and internalizes. As parents, you want their movies to include appropriate themes and stories of empowerment, virtuous beliefs, courage & persistence, and age appropriate romances.
So, how can you keep your relationship with your child intact while also keeping your child away from violent movies?
Violence from children and teens is often correlated with predictors including neglect or abuse at home, bullying at school, and serious mental illness. However, showing your child a violent movie does not mean that they will automatically become violent. There are hundreds of factors that keep children from turning to violence including a loving and supportive family, the demonstration of the appropriate use of firearms, and mental health counseling. Make sure that your child has all of the facts and fully understands the responsibilities and consequences of violence and gun use.
Just Say No
While it is always difficult to tell a child that they cannot see a movie that all their peers are seeing, you will thank yourself in the long run for holding the line if you believe that the movie has too much violence. “No” is a complete sentence and telling your child “no” is not an invitation for negotiation. Children and teens need compassionate, thoughtfully explained limits from their parents who are emotionally responsible. The best thing you can do is to draw those boundaries long before the trip to the movie theater, and make sure your child knows that violent movies will be fewer and far between.
"Gun Violence In PG-13 Films Tops Levels In R-Rated Movies" in USA Today, 11/11/13
Pediatrics, The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatricians
"The Primal Teen" by Barbara Strauch