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Health & Parenting

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Superheroes: Bad Role Models for Boys?

Researchers Say Superheroes Are Too Violent, but Close Ties to Mothers, Friends Can Help Boys Shun Negative Stereotypes

Managing Superheroes: Second Opinion

Watching superheroes who don't portray a good role model does affect boys as well as girls, says Karen Dill, PhD, director of the media psychology doctoral program at the Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Fielding is the author of How Fantasy Becomes Reality and has researched the evolution of female superheroes in the media and how some of them are now sending less than ideal messages to girls.

"I agree with the authors [of the new studies] that the way a social group is portrayed in media affects both public perception of the group itself and affects the members of the group and their self-images," Dill tells WebMD.

Resisting the media choices of superheroes, Dill tells WebMD, is difficult."We can't underestimate that media, which take up the great majority of kids' and teens' free time, are our storytellers," she says. "The stories they tell make up much of our shared cultural ideals and therefore shape how boys and girls feel about themselves and their peers."

Input From the American Academy of Pediatrics

Violence in the media has ''a clear effect on the behavior of children and contributes to the frequency with which violence is used to resolve conflict," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

On its web site, the group reminds parents that ''the primary goal of commercial children's television is to sell products -- from toys to food -- to children."

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