Parents who think the gun violence in PG-13 movies is tamer than what kids may see in R-rated movies should think again. A study published last Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that the number of shootouts and murders with semiautomatic weapons in PG-13 films has more than tripled since 1985. That figure now equals or surpasses gun violence in R-rated movies, which kids under age 17 can’t see without parental consent.
The researchers from Ohio State University and elsewhere culled through a database of 945 films — the 30 top-grossing films from 1950 to 2012 — that were coded for violence. Researchers were looking specifically at gun violence trends since 1985, when the PG-13 rating was first introduced.
“These ﬁndings are concerning,” write the researchers, “because many scientiﬁc studies have shown that violent ﬁlms can increase aggression” in children. Young people may also be provided with “scripts on how to use guns” when they see such violent attacks in movies. Other researchers point out that the science linking the viewing of violent movies to violent behaviors has been shaky at best. Until more is known, parents may want to err on the side of caution and minimize their pre-teens’ exposure to violent movies.
Movie review websites aimed at parents such as kids-in-mind.com and commonsensemedia.org often have violence ratings to help parents determine how much is too much.