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According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, today’s PG-13 movies contain more violence than R-rated movies did in the 1980’s. Overall violence has doubled since 1950, and gun violence has tripled since 1985 in movies. Many movies that were given an R-rating in the 80’s would probably now only receive a PG-13 rating.
In fact, since 2009 PG-13 movies contain the same amount or more violence as R-rated movies. It seems movies today are more likely to score an R rating for sexual content than violence.
For the study, trained coders watched 945 movies from 1950 to 2012, randomly picking 15 from the top 30 movies from each year. They identified whether or not there was violence in each 5-minute film segment in each of the movies. For films released after 1985, when the PG-13 rating was first used, they also looked for the presence of guns.
Because of increasing violence in movies, the study suggests that youth are being exposed to more and more violence, and especially gun violence.
Why should parents be concerned? Because studies have shown that violence in films can increase aggression. This effect is amplified when a weapon is involved or even just present. This is called the “weapons effect,” and over the years over 50 different studies have found evidence of this increase in aggression.
Although many people have watched lots of violent movies and have never killed anyone, increased aggression can effect how we treat other people. This trend towards more and more violence can lead to an increase in aggression in our day-today lives. Authors of the report are also worried that the films are providing youth with a context and script for using guns.
The study was particularly interested in the PG-13 rating because it so popular with youth. Hollywood likes PG-13 ratings because it doesn’t keep as many people from being able to see the movie in the theater and PG-13 movies are some of the top moneymakers. Because it is the Motion Picture Association of America that assigns the ratings, many are concerned that they may have a real incentive to pick a PG-13 rating for a movie over an R rating.
Parents are encouraged to do their homework on a movie or video game before their kids see it no matter what the rating is. A quick web search should bring up some reviews and video clips. The website http://www.commonsensemedia.org is also a great resource for learning more about the content of a movie, song, TV show, or video game.
When making a choice about whether or not something is appropriate, talk to your children and explain your reasons. You can also provide them with more appropriate alternatives. Having an open dialogue will not only help them understand your decisions but will help them learn how to make better decisions for themselves.
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