Weekly challenge: keep young kids away from violence in PG-13 movies

In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros., Joseph Gordon Levitt, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio are shown in a scene from "Inception." Gun violence in PG-13 rated movies has increased considerably in recent decades, to the point that it sometimes exceeds gun violence in even R-rated films, according to a study released Monday. Ohio State University and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed gun violence in top-grossing movies, finding that it had more than tripled in PG-13 films since 1985. (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Stephen Vaughan)
In this film publicity image released by Warner Bros., Joseph Gordon Levitt, left, and Leonardo DiCaprio are shown in a scene from "Inception." Gun violence in PG-13 rated movies has increased considerably in recent decades, to the point that it sometimes exceeds gun violence in even R-rated films, according to a study released Monday. Ohio State University and the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed gun violence in top-grossing movies, finding that it had more than tripled in PG-13 films since 1985. (AP Photo/Warner Bros., Stephen Vaughan)
AP

Parents who think the gun violence in PG-13 movies is tamer than what kids may see in R-rated movies should think again.

A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that the amount of shoot-outs and murders by semi-automatic weapons in PG-13 films has more than tripled since 1985. That figure now equals or surpasses gun violence in R-rated movies, which kids under age 17 can’t see without parental consent.

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The researchers from Ohio State University and elsewhere culled through a database of 945 films—the 30 top-grossing films from 1950 to 2012—that were coded for violence. Researchers were looking specifically at gun violence trends since 1985, when the PG-13 rating was first introduced.

“These findings are concerning,” write the study researchers, “because many scientific studies have shown that violent films can increase aggression” in children. Young people may also be provided with “scripts on how to use guns” when they see such violent attacks in movies.

Other researchers point out that the science linking the viewing of violent movies to violent behaviors has been shaky at best with conflicting results that offer no firm conclusions. Until more is known, parents may want to err on the side of caution and minimize their pre-teens’ exposure to violent movies, which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Fortunately, there are several great websites that offer movie reviews aimed at parents with young kids such as kids-in-mind.com and commonsensemedia.org. Both gave the new PG-13 movie “Thor: The Dark World” moderate violence ratings, and reviewers said it was okay for children ages 13 and up (a relief to me since my 13-year-old son went to see it with his friends over the weekend). For other movies, though, I may need to step in and explain why he can’t see them until he’s older.