Parents Desensitized to Sex and Violence in Movies, Study Finds

Parents Desensitized Sex and Violence Movies,

When it comes to sex and violence, the more parents see, the less they care.

That’s the takeaway form a new study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center on the attitudes that parents of children aged 6 to 18 have towards film content that may be objectionable or disturbing.

Researchers showed bloody or erotic scenes from PG-13 and R-rated movies such as “8 Mile,” “Collateral,” “Die Hard” and “Casino Royale” to 1,000 parents and found that they grew desensitized as the body count mounted and sexual activity heated up. The research was conducted online last January.

The findings will be published in Pediatrics and the report serves as a companion to a 2013 study by Annenberg that found that gun violence in PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985 and movies with that rating contain more gun violence than R-rated movies.

“The rise of violence and gun violence in PG-13 movies means that lots of kids are able to go into movie theaters and see explicit violence,” said Dan Romer, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the study’s lead author. “We wanted to find out why parents didn’t show more concern. Why was this happening without pushback?”

To get their results, researchers showed parents three pairs of movie scenes featuring either violent or sexual content. Sex appeared to be more taboo for parents than violence, but not by much.

After viewing the first movie clip, respondents thought the minimum age to see a movie with that kind of violent content should be 16.9 years old on average and 17.2 years old for sexual content. After watching the sixth and final scene, parents grew more lenient, deeming 13.9 years acceptable for violent films and 14 years old for sexual ones.

The study’s authors argue that there may be social costs to greater permissiveness.

“We’re undergoing a massive amount of exposure for kids to gun violence and in a society in which there are lot of guns that could influence attitudes people have,” said Romer.

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  1. Rick says:

    Many parents live in a fantasy world, getting enraged at the idea that children could be adversely affected by depictions of sex and violence. They fail to realize that what creates an even worse influence on their kids is their own permissive attitude and enjoyment of these movies. Most kids now instinctively know their is something not right with these scenes, but their parent’s reactions will often shape them.

  2. PlacingBlame says:

    Sexual activity or violence and gun violence is obviously the media’s fault. Parent’s shouldn’t have to explain things like this to their kids, that would involve actual parenting which is a ridiculous notion.

  3. Sal says:

    Personally I see more violence in movies for kids. I watched Xmen: Days of future past last night and I loved it but then I realized it’s a movie for a younger audience yet it was really violent and had a man’s naked butt for no apparent reason. I can’t imagine why or how this movie got to be PG13. The same goes for Man of Steel and the Dark Knight. I still have nightmares from Jocker.

  4. John Shea says:

    Yet another moral panic in the making! That’s my takeaway.

    My pushback? Mr. Romer and his ‘Annenberg Public Policy Center’ should not generalize about Americans (most Americans are parents) from a study 99.99% (recurring) of them never heard of, much less participated in.

    • QTip says:

      Reader – you are proving the point. Making outrageous comparisons as you just did is also part of the agenda. Wow.

    • Reader says:

      So…you seem to be equating shootings, stabbings, beatings, murders and dismemberments with occasional benign, affectionate, grounded depictions of same-sex unions? Wow.

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