Is Sex and Violence in Movies Harmful to Kids?
Parents, do you need research to realize the sex and violence your adolescents see affects their behavior? Probably not but the research is fascinating just the same. Our parenting expert and author, Dr. Donahue, is here today to share the research and some questions for us to consider.
Do movies reflect our culture, or do they lead and change culture? Social scientists have debated this issue probably since the first movie hit the screen. It seems to me that the available research show that teen exposure to risky behaviors like smoking, using drugs, and drinking in movies are more likely to use tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Most sociologists accept this finding.
Catholic Church officials have long held that that movies help define teens behavior. Our pastor felt so strongly that I remember not being able to see "Gone with the Wind", because Rhett Butler told Scarlett "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"
Now the question remains; does teen exposure to sexual content in movies influence their sexual behavior?
Last week Dartmouth researchers think they may have answered the question.
They reviewed 684 high grossing movies from 1998 to 2004 that contained sexual content - defined as heavy kissing or sexual intercourse. Then they surveyed 1,228 kids aged 12-14 and asked them which of these movies they had seen. Six years later they surveyed the kids again, asking them about their sexual behavior.
Their conclusion: "Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use condoms with sexual partners." And their recommendation to parents: "This study and its confluence with other work, strongly suggests that parents need to restrict their children from seeing sexual content in movies at young ages."
I think that makes a lot of sense. Earlier studies found that more that 84% of movies from 1950 - 2006 contained sexual content. Furthermore, 68% of G rated films, 82% of PG movies, and 85% of PG-13 movies contained sexual content. This goes way back to the fifties! I wonder how, or if, the content changed between then and 2006? (I am, of course, being silly, we all know it changed and not for the better.)
But, my thoughts today are on the Aurora movie shootings. I have not seen, and will not see the Batman movie. And I don't know if it is violent, but I wonder if we are showing kids and ourselves too much violence!
We know what happens to kids who watch sex, smoking, drinking, and drugs in movies, why would we think watching violent movies and playing violent video games would not make them more violent? Why do we watch violence? And as important, why do we let kids watch violence? This blows my mind!
Haven't we seen enough violence in our own lives that we don't need to spend money to see more?
Sorry if I sound like and old sorry sport, but tell me, what is it about violence that draws people to watch it? Maybe I'm just a chicken at heart!
This post came from Dr. Donahue's blog on July 21st http://www.messengersindenim.org/
Let's APPLAUD Dr. Donahue for sharing this research and asking us the important questions. Dr. Donahue, a pediatrician, is the author of:
Pick up Messengers in Denim
Available at Amazon.com
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Jean Tracy, MSS
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