Movie violence doesn’t make kids violent, study finds

Does watching violent movies cause kids to become violent?


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There is evidence that some children imitate Ninja kicks, and that occasionally someone will “copycat” a crime they’ve seen or read about in the media. Most of the parents often worry that violent movies trigger violence in their kids, but according to new research, PG-13-rated movies won’t turn your kids into criminals.

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

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

Dan Romer, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Adolescent Communication Institute 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.”

“What is needed is dispassionate analysis rather than cherry-picking of convenient data.”

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,’. 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. As a pediatrician, I am more concerned about the violence that children experience every day, which is not reflected in crime stats.”

“What people experience most is micro-aggressions, like bullying, Rich said. While he considers movies a reflection of society, he added that the causes of violence and aggression are numerous. It’s a complex issue.”

“But it’s clear that violence in media has a numbing effect, making viewers less bothered by it. That is, in part, why violent media always needs to up the ante.”

“Media violence teaches kids that the world is more violent than it really is, and most react by becoming more fearful, not more violent or aggressive. Violence is much rarer than fear and anxiety. We find that most kids who carry a weapon into school do it for protection.”

For the study, scientists reviewed other researchers’ data on PG-13 movies along with U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation data on violent crime and the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Romer said, “Data can’t be used to draw conclusions about movies’ effects on violence. Despite a sharp drop in youth violence since the mid-1990s, the homicide rate has been far more stable.”

“And the homicide data do not even focus on youth gun homicides, which is what one would want to look at if one were really interested in the effects of gun violence in popular movies.”

The report was published Jan. 17 in the journal Psychiatric Quarterly.


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