Hi Barbara -
I find your column very useful and interesting. I come to you with a question of my own.
My husband and I got into a disagreement last night because my husband was showing my 3-year-old son "Pirates of the Caribbean." My husband acknowledged that certain parts were scary and he said he was going to skip those parts, but I was concerned in general about exposing my son to the concept of sword-fighting and violence in general. My husband fences as a hobby so I understand his desire to expose my son to his interests, but I felt that 3 was too young.
In the end, we agreed not to show him any more movies with violence until my son was older, but it was more my husband not wanting to argue with me. He still thinks I'm being overly concerned about things for nothing.
Am I off base? At what age is it OK to start exposing him to concepts like fighting and violence in movies?
From: Troubled Parent, North of Boston
Hi Troubled Parent,
Here's why I'm on your side:
1. "Pirates of the Caribbean" is rated PG-13. That means that the rating board thinks it's inappropriate for children 13 or younger. Violence and gore are among the reasons.
2. Research shows that the younger children are when they are exposed to violence on the screen, and the more often that exposure occurs, the more likely they are to be aggressive, to think that violence is the way to solve problems, and to become desensitized to aggression they see around them. It's also been correlated to problems in school.
3. Watching scary content on the screen can lead to nightmares in young children. In fact, research even shows these fears can last into adulthood.
I'm glad you and your husband reached an agreement for your son not to watch violent content. You ask at what age it's appropriate: The longer you can hold off, the better. When my son was 3, he had nightmares from his first movie, Disney's "Fantasia." I learned my lesson, and you know what? So did he. At 6, he had strict rules for himself about what he would and wouldn't watch (the music had a lot to do with it) and what was particularly wonderful was that his friends were never disrespectful.
By the way, It's wonderful that your husband wants to share his passion with his son and I hope he can find healthier and more appropriate ways to it -- including learning to delay his own gratification.
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