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Children's Movies May Be More Violent Than G Rating Implies

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While violence in kids' movies has been discussed at length, it has been given little scientific scrutiny, Yokota says.

"We found that there's at least one act of violence in all of these films, which was surprising," Yokota tells WebMD. "There was also a huge range in amount. The film with the least amount of violence had six seconds, whereas the film with the most had 24 minutes. But overall, the average was 9.5 minutes per film."

Least violent was My Neighbor Toroto, a 1993 release that was very popular in Japan, Yokota says. It was translated into English and released only in video format in America.

Yokota hopes the study's findings will prompt parents to talk to children about how they perceive on-screen violence.

"We're not trying to make a value judgment on what violence means and how kids might interpret it, but ? there's a message there that when good guys are doing these things, it's kind of funny and not as serious, but when bad guys do it, it's bad and sinister," Yokota tells WebMD. "That's not always the case, but seems to be the general trend.

"Parents should consider co-viewing so that when violent scenes come up, they can talk to children about those scenes ? understand what's going on in the child's head, see how they're interpreting it."

Several web sites provide parents with reviews of recent releases. For example, the web site called "Screen It" provides detailed lists of every kind of objectionable material in movies, from language to sexual content to alcohol and drug use, in addition to violence, Yokota says.

But is aggression always bad? When Simba in The Lion King does nothing to prevent hyenas from killing his uncle, is there a lesson for us all?

 

These movies are full of valuable life lessons, including how to fend off bullies, Jon A. Shaw, MD, chief of adolescent and child psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, tells WebMD. Most humans and animals, he says, use aggression to defend themselves, their family, or their territory from harm.

"Clearly, bullies use violence in inappropriate ways. I think that's what the author is concerned about," Shaw tells WebMD. "But children have to learn to protect themselves against violent attacks by others. ? We know from studies of bullies that children most likely to be bullied are very shy, anxious, and timid and usually wear a sign that says 'If you hit me, I will not retaliate.' These films, in a culturally sensitive way, are trying to teach children how to handle situations.

"I would be less concerned with G-rated films than some of the R-rated films, where there clearly is excessive exposure to coercive violence, sexual violence, in a context where people are really given free license to express aggression, and violence independent of cultural values."

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