Is “Action Violence” Okay for Kids?

Posted on July 11, 2016 at 3:55 pm

What is the difference between a PG-13 movie and an R movie? Usually it has to do with language but very often it has to do with violence — not the amount of violence but the amount of gore. A battle scene can be just as long and have as many fatalities, but if we don’t see much blood or any graphic wounds, it will get a PG-13 rating.

Some people believe that what is called “action violence” (little blood) is worse for kids than R-rate violence because it perpetuates an unrealistic notion of the real-life effect of shootouts and car crashes.

A recent New York Times piece collected four essays on the subject under the title: PG-13 Blockbusters and the Sugarcoating of Violence. Betsy Bozdech of Common Sense Media writes:

dventures that are light on blood and guts may seem more palatable. But showing violence with minimized consequences might be damaging in a different way. If you don’t bat an eye when, in a movie, thousands of innocent civilians are caught in an alien-fighting crossfire, or a national landmark explodes, you may be becoming desensitized.

More important, when movie characters are walking away from firefights with barely a scratch or slaughtering hordes of bad guys, it sends an iffy message when their actions don’t have repercussions. Research shows that if kids don’t see negative behavior punished, they’re more likely to imitate it — especially when it is performed by an appealing character or if it seems to be justified by the outcome (both of which are fairly typical of superhero movies).

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