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Violence in Media

What's the impact of media violence on kids?

The short answer is, no one really knows. But research shows that viewing (or playing) violent content could increase the chance that a child will act aggressively -- especially if other risk factors are present, such as growing up in a violent home.

Heavy exposure to violent media can lead to desensitization too. And parents' choices about their own media intake can affect kids. A study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that parents who watched a lot of movies were more likely to say it was OK for younger kids to watch movies that had R-rated violence and sexual content.

You won't be able to avoid all exposure to violent media. The entertainment industry is always going to try to capture audiences with extreme imagery that tops whatever came before. But in your own home, you have a lot of control over what your kids watch, see, and play -- and research shows that kids whose parents actively manage their media consume less and make quality choices on their own. 

It's really easy to find media that's free of violence and that your kids will enjoy. There may be a time when your kid is ready to handle more violent media -- and you can introduce it age-appropriately and discuss it as a family. In the meantime, choose movies that aren't too scary, find alternatives to violent video games, and seek out media that helps kids develop empathy.

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Teen, 16 years old written by SiriV1634

Violent movies and video games should not be sheltered from teens and children, depending on their maturity. I myself have watched and played violent video games and movies, but it had no effect on me. Although you shouldn't exactly allow your child to view movies such as Killers (2014) and I Saw The Devil [most gore thriller movies even saw don't make me blink an eye but these almost got it]. If your child doesn't know the difference between fiction and reality, then instead of sheltering them, teach them.
Adult written by GracieLeafBeard

I think that having the images in your head of those things can be unpleasant for your child. Extreme violence may be enjoyable to some people, but for most children it can be hard and scary. I don't think that most children would act violent because of violent things, but it depends. Like they said , we don't really know, but I'd keep your child away from anything that might scare or cause them to feel uncomfortable.
Teen, 13 years old written by Dat 1 kid

I don’t really know why you guys are commonsnesemedia. You really have no common sense. The evidence between violent video games and real world aggression that suggests that video games make you aggressive is not substantial. Most of those studies were very flimsy and not really accurate . Two years later and people STILL think video games cause violence. Some kids might be disturbed by the violence or maybe scared but in the end those are the only things that matter just because video games don’t cause violence. I mean, CSM probably wants to do good, but actually get some people that can handle a little violence and understand technology better. I’m probably going to get hate from some people for this but again, VIDEO GAMES DONT CAUSE VIOLENCE. Thanks for reading. :) If you want to check out any of my reviews you can
Kid, 12 years old

I'd also like to add that I don't know why you are mentioning horror films. Apart from maybe making you a bit scared at night for maybe a day, they can't disturb you at all. I understand how violent images can disturb you, but horror movies that aren't violent at all, I don't think they can.
Adult written by GracieLeafBeard

It depends on the child some kids may not like seeing those things. They may be grossed out by blood or just find it unpleasant to hear screams of pain when someone is attacked by a monster. I love horror stuff and hear what you are saying, but please try to think about others.
Kid, 12 years old

I believe that this is incorrect. I love slasher movies, especially the A Nightmare On Elm Street series. I've been watching violent horror films since I was nine (well, not with permission, but still.) Of course violence in movies still makes me kind of shocked i suppose, but not too much. I can handle a lot. This is because the violence isn't real, it's all special effects, and I know that. However, in real life, I am really sensitive to violence. My mum once cut her finger chopping some food and I felt so sick and disgusted and shocked. Media doesnt equal real life. If I saw someone be stabbed in a horror film, I know it isn't real. If I saw that in real life I would probably faint in fear or shock and immediately call police. There hasn't been any scientific studies that confirm what you're claiming.
Teen, 16 years old written by Blinkybill

Here is my Essay that I did on media and games with violence. Do teenagers need to be protected from violent images in Television, films, and games? Yes! Teenagers need to be protected from violent images. Why? Because there would be less teenagers in prison and less teenager terrorism. I myself had been really addicted to violent images, and always wanted to keep gaming. My mind just got used to all the violence on the games and films. I didn’t mind seeing all of the bad contents, but it has left a terrible memory in my mind. I wonder, what is it like in a teenager’s mind that is filled with violent images? The mind of a teenager is very unique, but when it comes to violent images, films, or games it changes a lot. There are a lot of different ways that teens can get this emotion, one particular thing is gaming with violence. Gaming can impact on the teens health because, they spend more time playing rather than having some physical exercise. Some teens miss out meals because they are so addicted to gaming. Being addicted to violent images on games or films is a really big thing now days. Parents need to be more strict, on how many hours their teenagers are aloud on their games, and types of violent films they are aloud to watch. They will gradually start behaving rudely and get more enticed with their games or films. Teenagers must have limits on how many hours they are aloud to play on violent games. Also it is important that the teens must read whatever the violent contents and age restrictions are on films or televisions programs. All of these violent images in a teens mind has two sides of the matter. The first side is, there will be a big incident due to the parents’ reckless rules. You may hear that your teenager is in jail because, your teenager didn’t know how different it is on gaming than in the real world. The second side is, that your teenager obeys your rules and helps out instead of playing violent games or watching films with violence. Its comes down to one thing, let your teenager play on their games but at least an hour or half an hour. Also make sure your teenager shows you what they are going to watch before putting it on. Make sure to get your teenager helping with housework or any jobs before they are allowed to play any games or watch any films. I strongly agree that there should be protection for teenagers from violent images on television, films, and gaming to prevent from harm.
Teen, 13 years old written by Dat 1 kid

Bro... do you even play video games at all? When I play a decently violent game do I start to want to strangle my dog? No. It common sense. The most violent I feel is excited. I would like to know the cites that you found this crap on. And I doubt you are a teen or kid. Kids wouldn’t say that type of stuff about games. And about the terrorist stuff you talked about: most shooters are mentally unstable and don’t just snap after they execute some kid in CoD or anything.
Teen, 15 years old written by Coolpool785

There are other studies showing it has no affect at all. I've played GTA 5, DOOM (2016), and God of War 3, and have watched Green Room, the entire Friday the 13th series, and The Godfather, I don't see myself as aggressive unless provoked, and blood/gore in real life grosses me out.
Parent of a 12-year-old written by LMarieMP

I am not sure about violence in the media causing violence in children and adults. We all know, however, that the sexual revolution in the 60's changed us forever, breaking up families, and divorce became rampant. Hopefully, we are somewhat leveling off from that. I would like to see how children raised without much media exposure do if there are any studies on this.
Teen, 14 years old written by DoneWithThis

I'm not sure about the desensitization thing, but I do know that there are plenty (and more) of studies that have proven that being exposed to violence doesn't make you more violent. You probably haven't read that data though as you are more concerned with finding facts that support you then finding ones that show things in a different light. Maybe you should read some of the thousands of studies that prove the opposite of what you said in this article and see if maybe you are the one in the wrong. I understand if parents don't want their kids exposed to violence, but saying that violent games/movies cause violence is wrong.
Teen, 16 years old written by username1010

Hello, writing a research paper on this topic and I've found that violent media can actually be very good for kids. It allows a safe outlet for letting out frustrations, "playing" with something that scares them so they can understand it and come to terms with it in their own time and allows them to feel powerful. In a world full of uncontrollable things and people, it feels good to crush a bad guy and feel in control. Crime rates have shown to go down whenever there is a spike of violent media being bought and consumed. Violent teens aren't the result of violent media, but actually a lack of it, and usually have rough home lives full of real violence. However, adults don't like to see their little babies shooting everything in sight with a toy gun or screaming "MURDER" before tackling their friends. Which makes sense in our mostly non-violent world. But trying to suppress those aggressions (which aren't even true aggressions, more like play fighting) actually harms the kids, because they now have no safe outlet for their feelings. Almost every child in every culture is drawn to some type of violence. Even if they feel safe from a physical war, there is war in their minds as they try to find their place in the world, or war with their parents or friends. Violence is unavoidable, so the best way to handle it is to encourage it, as long as long as no one gets hurt. And it might also help to explain to your children that you /do/ feel uncomfortable with their violence, but also say that those thoughts are your own. Otherwise, the line between reality and their fantasy world starts to blur, and they can come to believe you are afraid of /them/. As for talking to them, if you notice they continually play with the same themes (say killing their brother, I don't know), maybe ask them what they're afraid of, or what sticks out so much about that to them. Yeah, it's a confusing topic, but to sum it up, violent media and play fighting is natural and healthy for kids. And for adults, it's natural to feel some anxiety about how your kid will grow up, but if you're scared they will become violent, be a good example of a nonviolent human being and they will likely leave their aggressive obsessions behind as they grow up.
Teen, 16 years old written by schoolkid

Yo, I'm doing the same thing right now but the research I've been trying to do has been rough for me because all I seem to find is evidence going against my essay. Would you care to share your sources or what you looked up to come across this information? That would be very much appreciated!
Teen, 13 years old written by Speckledhyena

Not all media with violence is necessarily going to result in your kid being a violent person. I've seen lots of movies with violence, and when I was younger I saw PG-13 movies. But I'm not violent at all, and haven't really been traumatized. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should show a baby a movie from the "Saw" franchise (or related franchises). Know what's best for your kid, and if they start imitating violence they see in media, tell them that not everything shown in the media is necessarily something to imitate and that violence shouldn't be used to solve problems. And if they seem upset about something, talk to them.
Parent of a 6, 8, and 10-year-old written by Jill R.

It’s incredibly sad that you wrote this. You’re only 13, yet you’ve been subjected to things that you shouldn’t have seen (you mention ‘Saw’ movies as though you’ve seen at least one, and I’m quite sure you have), and as a mom of 3 boys, I am horrified that your parents allowed you to view that type of traumatic content! It doesn’t matter that you ‘don’t run around killing people in a psychopathic manner’...what matters is that an adult *thought* it would be ‘acceptable’ for you to view that horror! I’m so sorry, but that’s not okay. Even as an adult, I wish I could ‘unsee’ the 1 Saw movie I saw. If course it didn’t ‘make me a serial-killer’, but it absolutely did more ‘harm than good’ in my life - as a 35+ adult. I’m sorry you’ve been subjected to this. :(
Kid, 10 years old

Some violent video games, movies, and TV shows, can be a scary for younger viewers, But, some younger kids might not get so scared, some movies, TV shows, and video games depend on the viewer. Just because a kid is young doesn't mean they get scared so easily, and just because a teen is older, doesn't mean they don't get scared, though, I wouldn't recommend really scary content to little kids. Try some experiments with your kid, start out with small scary stuff, like animated violence with no blood and boo's, then try some more scary stuff, like animated aliens and monsters with no blood. Then go to realistic looking aliens with no blood, then go to realistic monsters with no blood, then go to more-scary aliens and monster, with at the max a tiny bit of blood, then scarier aliens and monsters, with maybe a little more blood, then go to scarier monsters, with more and more blood, Then keep adding more and if your kid can handle it, thats a good sign. Make sure your kids don't desensitize and remind them to have empathy for characters in violent media and that they balance violent media with nonviolent media, and for younger kids, choose violent movies that have humor and happy endings.
Teen, 15 years old written by Common sense LST

Well, if you teach kids that you should not use violence to solve anything, and they are not impulsive, then it will not. If they are impulsive, then try to steer them away from any electronic device usage at all. Because that could be a risk factor for impulsive children to act more violent.
Teen, 13 years old written by Dead_Batteries

Alright, So let me get this straight. If a kid plays a game that involves a weapon or an object that is used as a weapon, they'll grow up to be a serial killer. No.. not really, I'm under the age of 18 and I've played a few Mature rated games here and there. I understand they have rating limits for younger children that need that restriction, but I believe I'm mature enough and I've had enough life experince to know the difference from pixelated people with guns from living, breathing, humans that have lives and people that care about them. The only true people you should worry about when you expose them to this kind of reckless behavior is the ones with mental issues. There are channels on YouTube that go over gore and blood in video games(I will admit I do watch them.) but they go over the realism factor of the gameplay. I've dreamed of being a surgeon when I get older and I understand what it can do to a kid when they expose themselves to this kind of media so I've taken it seriously(Apart from the fact I'm developing a reckless First Person Shooter.) and you should talk this kind of subject over with your child and tell them what it can do. Gore, blood, and violence are really not the most applicable for children under the age of at least 16, but as long as your child understands what it really is and what such things are not acceptable in our society then I think that they're okay.
Teen, 15 years old written by FilmFan E

The way I see it is that although using too much violent movies, video games, etc may have an effect on young audiences. It is by no means the main reason for real world violence. I believe that instead of blaming only media we all as a whole should start helping people with mental illnesses first, as the people who react like this to violent content usually have a serious mental condition.
Kid, 9 years old

Well video games shouldn't always be the blame there as bad as watching a violent movie
Teen, 17 years old written by KeemStar

No, you are clearly wrong, at the age of 15 I saw Akame Ga Kill, a show where one of the main characters heads is put on a pole, along with that things on the news are probably worse, including the "Dana is off tonight" meme
Teen, 17 years old written by pixelishere

No, you are wrong. Pretty much every person who plays violent video games and has aggresive behaviors while they grow up, probably have mental or anger problems. You can't just blame video games for EVERYTHING. What about movies? What about books? What about music? No it has to be videogames Every SINGLE TIME. Pretty much kids that play violent games and are scared are not mature. People who are not mature do not know the difference between what is real or not real. Scientists are ignorant. Grow up. Videogames are like movies. Everyone judges only videogames. So where is the proof?
Teen, 14 years old written by CassidySG

I read the article on, "What's the impact of media violence on kids?" I think this is true and what you watch can affect how you will act around other people.
Teen, 15 years old written by Dan-yell-ee

I think that watching violent movies can definitely affect the amount of teen violence there is. Also, playing violent video games can make teens more violent because this is how they think they can cope with pain or stress.
Teen, 15 years old written by El-bell

I think that this is really true, that when people watch violent shows, or even on media. When kids watch violent movies, it makes them want to be violent also, in this article it says "It's really easy to find media that's free of violence and that your kids will enjoy." It is really easy for kids to be watching violent shows.
Teen, 13 years old written by leilaf

I think it is true that media can make kids and teens violent. It can impact them to do things they would never do. I completely agree with this article.
Teen, 13 years old written by Meredithpjg

Media violence can affect a child, but not everything they see will cause them to change (whether its attitude or behavior.) Most of the things you see advertised can influence your decisions, good or bad. A lot of the games such as Halo, COD, or Grand Theft Auto, can be influencing you. You can't ever unsee something. Some violence puts bad images in your mind. Not everything you see will affect you, but you should always be careful and aware of what you could see. The games and movies aren't real, but they can have an affect.
Teen, 13 years old written by olivestevens

In my opinion kids are impacted by what they see on media. When they see a violent vidio game or show that is in there minds and when they see that so much they might start to think that violence is normal when it is not.
Kid, 12 years old

My parents talk to me about any violence in the movies that we watch. They help me understand the difference between real and not real.
Kid, 11 years old

My parents let me play most M rated games. except for gta. At first they were very concerned with what I was playing. After a year, my parents hadn't really became as concerned. They told me there had been no change in the attitude and that I was mature enough. I don't think violent video games affect behavior. A kid in my class who plays gta has the best behavior probably and never gets in trouble. If your child can tell fantasy from real violence, it is ok. A kid in my class who likes mario and can only play e or e10 got in trouble for hitting someone.
Kid, 11 years old

Video games don't make you violent! I have about a dozen friends who play COD and are fine.
Teen, 16 years old written by Maya16

I do believe that violent video games might make kids more violent. Dr.Phill thinks that children should not play violent games and that they make children more violent.
Adult written by Monera

A big thing I believe is an issue in general is the dumbing down of media in general for all ages. Stories are very shallow with little plot or character development and they use sex and violence as pure shock value. However, with an actual insightful plot line, violence can be a part of the story. Using violence when it isn't needed to enhance the story is just filler material and should be omitted, however, many real-life events have violence, whether it be war, or a rescue mission or the like. It's a sad fact that violence is ingrained in human nature, and stories wanting to capture human nature will often touch on that aspect. Children need to learn all sides of human nature in order to navigate this world. Innocence is no more bliss than ignorance.
Teen, 17 years old written by love.the.daydreamers

I believe violence in media is healthy depending on the amount and the context. For many stories, violence is a metaphor, a way for a storyteller to get a theme across that is difficult to comprehend. It also leads to the acceptance of real stakes and consequences.
Teen, 13 years old written by tionnalovesbooks

Let's face it violence is in the world people you trust can hurt you. Trust me sheltering your child isn't what you want to do. I was sheltered or so to speak I thought THAT couldn't happen to me.....I was wrong. I'm not saying let them play violent games and watch rated r movies. Let them know the everyday dangers a child faces . Be clear.....TRANSLUCENT about guidelines. Let them know it's ok to let someone know there making you uncomfortable. Thank You for reading I hope this helps.
Adult written by foreveryoung

It isn't just movies or TV anymore. You can be watching a wonderful life affirming movie or TV program and suddenly find yourself assaulted by a bloody, horrifying scene by way of commercial or preview. And don't count on the media moguls to keep their lewd, sexually explicit content away from unsuspecting eyes/ears. Commercial or preview cuts in and there it is. Just try to find the control before the damage is done. The positive thing is we watch a whole lot less movies and TV.
Kid, 12 years old

I agree completely foreveryoung. I have never crossed bad TV or games, but I almost constantly see horrifying commercials that can even make it difficult for me to sleep at night! I don't think CSM should blame it on video games. I've played the entire GTA series as a 10-year-old and it didn't mess up my ethics at all or make me aggressive in any way! I don't think violence has anything to do with video games, actually. Some researchers have shown it can actually be language and competitiveness in games, not the violence.
Teen, 13 years old written by Erik137

I am 13 years old and I asked my mum if I could buy GTA 5 (grand theft auto) at first she didn't like it and then we looked into It a bit more. At the end she told me I couldn't get it because there was too much violence. She said she thought she would be a bad parent if she bought me an 18 rated game. The point is If you raise your kids well and show them that violence is not good you can make exceptions. So it depends on one how well they understand violence and two how violent the games, moves and media content they are. I don't think that violence would have such an impact on your kids.
Adult written by RicaS

Reading the comment by Dtownmom, I wanted to point out that in many cases, you can read a review of a book on the webpage of the library. (Ask your local librarian to show you where to look for it.) The reviews do not give "parental warnings" like Common Sense Media reviews of movies, but they may provide a suggested age range or a mention of contents in the story that would be considered triggers.
Parent of a 13 and 13-year-old written by Dtownmom

There is one important piece of media that is missing from your discussion -- books. I find it much easier to guide my children and talk to them about movies and tv. However, I have raised voracious readers (twins) who are just entering their teen years. It would be impossible for me to preread or even have a knowledge of every book they read. They don't even know what they are getting into when they pick up a book. Sometimes they are quite upset by what they read - crying, depressed - and not in the way that you cry at the end of Charlotte's web. They've learned to check commonsensemedia, but you don't have a review for everything. Would love to see a rating on books targeted to teens and younger children (like they do for other media) so that they have the power of choice before they pick up a book when it comes to the level of sex and violence. How could we make this happen? I know when it comes to books, the rally cry is "censorship". I believe writers should write what they want to write and publishers should publish what they want to publish, but if they are going to market it to children and make lots of money off of it, I think there should be some rules.
Parent of a 12-year-old written by LMarieMP

Dtownmom - If kids read much anymore I don't know. I am guessing yours do which is great. I used to cry and be upset over reading sad stories about dogs and cats. I would cry at night in my room so no one would see me.
Kid, 11 years old

I don't think you should generalize all Kids and say that we won't read. fortunately, you are wrong