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Tweens Love Blood and Gore

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It's a fact: More than one in three moms allow their kid to watch fright flicks. Read on for the effect it has on children.

More than 2.5 million children ages 10 to 14 watch violent, gory, R-rated movies.

Shocked? We sure are! But those are the results of a new study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers say movies like Blade, Hollow Man and Bride of Chucky are attracting huge child audiences--as many as 7.8 million--and that's including an estimated 1 million 10-year-olds.

When researchers asked 6,522 children if they had seen movies from a list of 534 films made in the past few years, focusing on 40 R-rated movies with "the most extreme examples of graphic violence," they found that, on average, 12.5% of kids had seen each movie.

How can this be? Well, more than one in three parents say they let their kid watch R-rated movies "sometimes" or "all the time." And even among kids who said their parents never let them watch, 22.6% had seen at least one scary movie (although it was unclear whether they were watched on the Internet, in a theater, or at a friend's home).

It's possible moms underestimate how scary these movies are, or they may overestimate how mature their child is. Either way, shouldn't parents be monitoring what kids are watching? After all, previous research shows kids with TVs in their bedroom see more violent movies, and other studies find violent entertainment increases aggression among kids, even jading them when it comes to violence in real life--could this explain all the recent reports of teen hazing? And shockingly, many violent films are marketed during kids' TV shows.

Why do kids like this stuff anyway? Is it fun to be scared, or do they watch because it's plain taboo?

•"The most common reason kids love horror movies is because it's a way for them to process their fear," says child psychologist Frances Walfish, Psy.D. "In reality, they're scared of the images, but by forcing themselves to look, they're subconsciously trying to conquer their fear."

•"Another reason many boys watch horror is because of peer pressure to 'brave it'," adds Walfish. "There are also children who get a thrill out of watching horror as a way to channel their aggressive impulses--but not to worry, we all have them. We usually channel them through playing sports or having a heated debate."

•But should we not allow our kids to see violent content at all? We can hardly get around the exposure, after all, it seems to be everywhere from advertising to music, to movies like The Dark Knight.

•"When evaluating whether a film is suitable for your kid, don't think in terms of age," advises Walfish. "Consider who your child is: Can he handle the content? Will he be influenced by the violence? Does she have sleep problems?"

•Also, ask yourself what type of personality your kid has. Does he act out in class? Obey rules and boundaries? If the answer is no, he's probably not mature enough to view these types of films.

•"The bottom line is, most kids under the age of 12 are not ready to see violence and gore in movies because it's confusing and fearful," Walfish says. "However, you know your kid best, so it's your judgment call."

Do you think movies affect kids' behavior? At what age should they be allowed to watch violent, graphic content?

next: Kids' Birthday Party on a Budget
4 comments so far | Post a comment now
birdsfly August 9, 2008, 9:59 AM

Starting at the age of about 10 every other weekend Dad and I would go up to the local movie rental and I’d pick out a scary movie, usually PG-13 but sometimes R is we could sneak it past Mom. Things like “the Leprechaun” or “Species”. If there was a sex scene the all encompassing hands of Dad descended to cover ears and eyes, aside from that we were fine. I wasn’t traumatized and turned out relatively normal. I did scare the bejezus out of some friends with some sleep over movie picks though. Ahh fond memories of “Pet Sematary”! Then again I can’t remember when I started watching “Friday the 13th” marathons with my older brother!

Amber August 9, 2008, 2:28 PM

I watched horror movies when I was younger. Luckily though my mother wasn’t as into horror as she was low budget sci fi. Hahahaha. So I watched a lot of sci fi growing up. Now, at 24, when I’m in the mood for gore it’s still sci fi because I would rather watch monsters than bloody serial killers.

I think you just need to know your child. Don’t just spring it on them.

Gilly August 9, 2008, 5:19 PM

Well, this is my big pet peeve. Last year at a birthday party for an 8 year old the parents (who also had a 2 year old) were laughing about how freaked out their kids were over a movie they had all seen the night before. In particular, they found the 2 years olds lisping screams of “monster!” especially cute. I packed my kid up and left right then, ignorance IS catchy! I’m sorry, but I think parents need to be more vigilant about what their kids watch and what kind of video games they play. There are plenty of alternatives out there. And there are plenty of movies that offer the thrill of a good scare without offering up gore, rape, torture and multiple body parts. When I was a kid I loved a scary movie, sure, and more than once I watched something I shouldn’t have at a friends house. And it may be no big deal now but I watched Salem’s Lot WAY too young and it scared the heck out of me! My son and I have sat through a few scary movies together - together - and screamed our way through them only to laugh at ourselves later. But I made sure they were age appropriate and NOT gory. Maybe there is a connection between all the problems we are having with kids these days, they are anesthetized to violence and think it is okay.

Katie August 9, 2008, 10:19 PM

Sometimes I wonder if I had watched MORE scary horror movies as a child, if I would be more able to handle them now! I always argue with my hubby when he wants to watch a “scary” movie… I don’t like them, I have to close my eyes, I get freaked out, and I have a HUGE overactive imagination. Maybe if I had watched more of these movies when I was younger I would be more able to watch them now. I was a heck of a lot LESS creeeped out by them when I was young than I am now.

My niece watched Bride of Chucky with me when I was babysitting her, I was about 13 years old and she was 3. She loved it and still loves watching a horror movie with her mom (she’s 14 now). I don’t see what the big deal is, if your kid can handle it, let them watch it.

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