Many tweens watching 'R' films despite restriction
By Greg Toppo, USA TODAY
Researchers know what your tween saw last summer: savage beatings, severed heads, murder, rape and torture.
In a study released Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers from Dartmouth Medical School estimate more than 2.5 million children ages 10 to 14 watch the typical violent, R-rated movie.
A few movies, such as Blade, Hollow Man and Bride of Chucky, claim what researchers say are huge child audiences — as many as 7.8 million, including an estimated 1 million 10-year-olds.
"Ten isn't far away from believing in Santa Claus," says researcher Keilah Worth.
Previous studies have found violent media can increase aggression and desensitize to real violence, and many violent films are marketed during kids' TV shows.
Worth and colleagues asked 6,522 children if they had seen movies from a list of 534 released in the past few years. Researchers plucked 40 R-rated movies with "the most extreme examples of graphic violence" and found that, on average, 12.5% of kids had seen each movie.
The study didn't ask whether children saw them in theaters, on video, on cable TV or on the Internet, but more than one in three said parents let them watch R-rated movies "sometimes" or "all the time." Even among kids who said their parents never let them watch such movies, 22.6% had seen at least one.
Children with TVs in their bedroom saw more violent movies, and African-American boys were much more likely to have seen them. More than 80% said they had seen Blade, Training Day and the horror spoof Scary Movie.
Theaters admit children under 17 to R-rated movies with an adult. Researchers say ratings must warn explicitly that violent movies "should not be seen by young adolescents." And they say pediatricians should teach parents about the risks.
Gerard Jones, author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Superheroes and Make-Believe Violence, says it's not surprising kids see such movies. "As nasty as the movies are, they are a classic, vital part of teen culture," he says, by allowing kids to bond as they scream in terror.
But he sees the wisdom in modifying ratings to add "something between an R and an NC-17 rating" and says intensely violent movies "are not for someone under 14."
To learn more, purchase, "Congratulations, You've Got Tweens!" By: Dr. Paul Pettit (Kregel Publications)