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Violence in Media

Why is it OK to let my kid see some types of movie violence but not others?

Both The Lego Movie and Scarface have torture, explosions, and guns. But while one mixes in humor, animation, and empathy, the other glamorizes weapons and revenge and includes sexual violence. This difference is important. Research shows that a steady diet of movies portraying relatable, rewarded, realistic violence may have a long-term impact on viewers' ideas about the necessity of violence and aggression.

But The Lego Movie isn't off the hook. When your kid clonks another kid over the head in imitation of a cartoon character, you're witnessing mimicry, or short-term impact -- another effect of viewing violence.

Neither short-term nor long-term impact has been shown to cause a person to become violent. In other words, a violent movie all by itself will not make your kid violent. It's the cumulative effect of high exposure to all media violence, combined with other serious risk factors, that may cause a person to be aggressive or violent. Also, the way violence is perceived depends on the kid and his or her age, unique sensitivities, individual temperament, interest in what he or she's watching, and even home and social environment.

As a parent, it's best to pay attention to your kids' behavior after watching violent movies and ask questions to determine how they interpret what they've seen. Start with open-ended questions such as, "How do you feel after watching that?" and "Could the characters have handled that situation differently?"

Here are some different types of media violence to watch out for:

Cartoon violence. Though you may think anything animated is no big deal, cartoon violence can affect kids. Boys and girls younger than about 7 can have a hard time distinguishing between fantasy and reality and may interpret a violent act as "real." And little kids are highly likely to imitate what they see.

Psychological and emotional violence. Kids' emotional maturity develops in the tween years. Before that, they may not understand emotional violence. Scenes with torture, bullying, explosive anger, coercion, and so on are likely to confuse and scare them.

Sexual violence. Viewing a lot of sexual violence -- which is usually depicted as men overpowering women -- may lead to increased acceptance of violence toward women and the idea that women enjoy sexual abuse. Women who view a lot of sexual violence may develop low self-esteem and have poor relationships. It's a particularly poor choice for kids, who may be more affected since their sexual patterns are not yet set.

Consequence-free or well-rewarded violence. When viewers believe that violence is justified, or when it's rewarded (or at least not punished), they may have aggressive thoughts -- especially in the long run.

Violence perceived as realistic. Viewers who believe a movie's violence "tells it like it really is" and who identify with the perpetrator may be stimulated toward violent behavior over time. Until they hit the teen years, kids will simply be frightened by realistic-looking violence.

Parody violence. Movies that deliberately spoof violence, such as Ghostbusters, can be a bit tricky. Kids' ability to detect sarcasm and irony develops early in the tween years, but many kids are quite literal. Key into how your kid is interpreting the action, and point out the sometimes subtle hallmarks of parody violence (for example, characters' violent acts tend to backfire, the smug hero gets taken down a notch, and guns shoot a flag that says "Bang").

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Kid, 12 years old

According to me, I believe that every kid has different capacities, like me, I have been watching extremely violent scenes that are strictly 18+ since I was 3 years old. However, my mom, who is an adult, doesn't like to watch any sort of violence, even if it is cartoonic. I know I am only 12 years old, but I am researching psychology, and some kids surprisingly have a lot of capacity for watching violence, and some even like it. Me and my father are both fans of extreme violence, so I think that this trait can be passed genetically. I have watched a lot of movies where girls are discriminated, and instead of developing a mindset to stand against girls, I am an active feminist, and so is my father. I have always raised my voice on topics like feminism, and lots of people discriminate me, because I am a girl. I believe in peace, even though I like violence when it is not in real life. I feel like its best if parents get to know their children's capacities first, and then let them watch things accordingly. P.S: This comment is not meant to offend anyone, it is just my opinion. If you feel like this is inappropriate, feel free to tell me. This is just my opinion.
Kid, 12 years old

I don't think you should be worried about a child becoming agressive as the result of watching a violent movie, as I don't think this would happen. The worst consequence is if your kid is disturbed. As a parent you should know what your kid can handle, and for some children they can handle a lot, and others can't. Also, different kids are disturbed of different things. For example I will never watch a slasher containing a clown because I'm terrified of clowns. So, I know, and my mum knows, that I can't see that. But for another child they may not be scared of that at all. Everyone's different.
Kid, 11 years old

I loved tom and jerry and I watch the Simpsons every day and I see itchy and scratchy. Funny and violent like in one itchy and scratchy scene it shows scratchy grabbing a chandelier and then pulling so hard that he rips in half showing gore and organs. I am 11 so I know that cartoon violence is not real ive known that since i was like eight.
Kid, 9 years old

Anytime, I would love a little Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes, But some shorts might become too violent, So TV people edit the shorts to make sure it is kid safe, and that's a good thing.
Teen, 16 years old written by NewAgePerspective

don't let you child see zootopia, or frozen, especially if they are little girls since they both have some serious messed up undertones. (Disney in the corner with a evil grin). go on Netflix, and watch some top class comedy. or maybe actually watch doctor who. your kids sometimes needs to nerd out under parent supervision. Maybe some open-minded parents will watch anime with their child. Just don't overdo it with anime, they get hooked and they become weirdos obsessed with "blue demon fox turtle spirits of the 49th world of ziron".