Impact of Media Violence Tips
Find out how media violence impacts kids, and get tips on choosing quality, age-appropriate media.
Violence in Media Really Matters
Advice & Answers
Media violence does affect kids
It's in video games, movies, books, music videos, cartoons, the nightly news, on the web and even in commercials. Violence is literally everywhere in media. And it's becoming harder to avoid. Today, with the explosion of technology and the 24/7 media access that comes along with it, the question more than ever is what's the impact, especially on our kids?
The short answer is: We don't know. Research on the amount of violence in media consumed by kids and teens is out of date and incomplete. Past research estimates that about 90% of movies, 68% of video games, 60% of TV shows, and 15% of music videos include some depictions of violence.
What we do know, however, is that media violence is pervasive. And kids are exposed to it a lot of it. In fact, a recent study found that kids as young as 8 are spending nearly 7.5 hours with media every day. That's more time than they spend with their families or in school.
While experts agree that no one single factor can cause a nonviolent person to act aggressively, heavy exposure to violent media can be a risk factor for violent behavior. Children who are exposed to multiple risk factors -- including aggression and conflict at home -- are the most likely to behave aggressively.
The good news is that, as parents, we can make a choice to consistently expose our kids to media that reflects our own personal values and say "no" to the stuff that doesn't. There are so many great benefits to media and technology, including the potential to teach valuable skills. Doing research about TV shows, movies, or games before your kids watch, play, and interact with them will go a long way in helping kids avoid the bad stuff.
So how can you as a parent manage media violence in your kids' life?
Tips for parents of all kids
- Explain consequences. What parent hasn't heard "but there's no blood" as an excuse for watching a movie or playing a video game? Explain the true consequences of violence. Point out how unrealistic it is for people to get away with violent behavior.
- Keep an eye on the clock. Don't let kids spend too long with virtual violence. The more time spent immersed in violent content, the greater its impact and influence.
- Teach conflict resolution. Most kids know that hitting someone on the head isn't the way to solve a disagreement, but verbal cruelty is also violent. Teach kids how to use their words responsibly to stand up for themselves without throwing a punch.
- Know your kids' media. Check out ratings and, when there are none, find out about content. Content in a 1992 R-rated movie is now acceptable for a PG-13. Streaming online videos aren't rated and can showcase very brutal stuff.
Advice by age
- 2- to 4-year-old kids often see cartoon violence. But keep them away from anything that shows physical aggression as a means of conflict resolution, because they'll imitate what they see.
- For 5- to 7-year-olds, cartoon rough-and-tumble, slapstick, and fantasy violence are OK, but violence that could result in death or serious injury is too scary.
- 8- to 10-year-olds can handle action-hero sword fighting or gunplay as long as there's no gore.
- For 11- to 12-year-olds, historical action is OK, including battles, fantasy clashes, and duels. But close-ups of gore or graphic violence (alone or combined with sexual situations) aren't recommended.
- Kids ages 13-17 can and will see shoot-'em-ups, blow-'em-ups, high-tech violence, accidents with disfigurement or death, anger, and gang fighting. Point out that the violence portrayed hurts and causes suffering. And limit time exposure to violence, especially in video games.
- Most M-rated games aren't right for kids under 17. The kid down the street may have the latest cop-killer game, but that doesn't mean it's good for him. The ultra-violent behavior, often combined with sexual images, isn't good for developing brains. Just because your child's friend is allowed to play violent games or watch violent movies doesn't mean they're OK for your child.