Justified Vs Unjustified Gun Violence in the Movies: Does It Make a Difference in
Terms of What Parents Find Acceptable for Children to View?
LewisFirst, MD, MS, Editor in Chief, Pediatrics
Given the national focus on gun violence and firearm safety, one cannot ignore the
amount of gun violence in movies, which seems to be increasing. Does the degree of
violence on the big screen mean parents will be more restrictive of their children
seeing such films? Romer et al. (10.1542/peds.2017-3491) decided to investigate the answer to that question by looking at a national sample
of just over 600 parents with a school-age child or adolescent under 17 years of age.
These parents were randomly assigned to watch four 90 second videos from popular
films that contain gun violence with violent scenes “justified” (e.g. violence used
by the “good guys” in defense) or “unjustified” conditions. Parents then were asked
to weigh in on whether the violence they watched was justified or not, their emotional
reaction to the clip, the minimum age a child might view the clip, and whether they
would let their own child see that film. The results are disturbing but perhaps not
surprising: parents were more accepting of a child viewing justified versus unjustified
violence and more restrictive if they thought the violence was unjustified. What was
more surprising is that most parents surveyed felt the films should not be watched
until age 15 and not at 13, which the film’s PG-13 rating allows. So how do these
results resonate with the families in your own practice or even your own family? Is
this a study worth sharing with families especially when a popular movie arrives in
which there is significant gun violence, justified or not. Take aim at the information
in this study and share your thoughts about it with us via responding to this blog
or by posting your comments on our Facebook or Twitter pages or in the comment section
on our website where the article is posted.