Editor: In the press release below, it is suggested that parents can mitigate the harm done to children from viewing superhero films by watching the movies together, and then talking about the consequences of violence. But let’s get real. Once children view their hero engaged in violence, the damage is done. Parents chatting about it will not remove the visual images absorbed by children.
There are two solutions: 1) The movie industry reduces violence in superhero films; 2) Kids are not allowed to view these movies. And of course, #1 will not occur until there is a financial impact from #2.
Press release: New research suggests superhero characters, often idolized by young viewers, may send a strongly negative message when it comes to violence.
In fact, according to a study presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2018 National Conference & Exhibition, the “good guys” in superhero films engage in more violent acts, on average, than the villains.
The researchers studied 10 films and tallied an average of 23 acts of violence per hour associated with the films’ heroes, compared with 18 violent acts per hour for the villains. The researchers also found the films showed male characters in nearly five times as many violent acts (34 per hour, on average), than female characters (7 violent acts per hour).
“Children and adolescents see the superheroes as ‘good guys,’ and may be influenced by their portrayal of risk-taking behaviors and acts of violence,” said the abstract’s lead author, Robert Olympia, MD. “Pediatric health care providers should educate families about the violence depicted in this genre of film and the potential dangers that may occur when children attempt to emulate these perceived heroes,” he said.
The most common act of violence associated with protagonists (heroes) in the films was fighting (1,021 total acts), followed by the use of a lethal weapon (659), destruction of property (199), murder (168), and bullying/intimidation/torture (144). For antagonists (villains), the most common violent act was the use of a lethal weapon (604 total acts), fighting (599), bullying/intimidation/torture (237), destruction of property (191), and murder (93) were also portrayed.
To help counteract the negative influence superhero films may have on children, the study’s principal investigator, John N. Muller, MS, suggests families watch them together and talk about what they see.But the key, he said, is discussing the consequences of violence actively with their children.
“In passively co-viewing violent media, there is an implicit message that parents approve of what their children are seeing, and previous studies show a corresponding increase in aggressive behavior,” Muller said.
“By taking an active role in their children’s media consumption by co-viewing and actively mediating, he said, parents help their children develop critical thinking and internally regulated values.”