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In Theory: Taking a stab at PG-13 violence

December 13, 2013

Researchers have discovered that the amount of gun violence in some PG-13 movies is now greater than in R-rated films.

PG-13 movies are “the ones that target children, and the violence that is shown contains guns,” according to Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. He says, “There have been hundreds of studies showing that exposure to media violence ... increases aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, and aggressive behavior.”

Critics of the way movies are rated point to the fact that the R-rating is regularly applied to movies that contain fleeting nudity or vulgarities, whereas action movies involving death and destruction are given the PG-13 rating.

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Scott Poland, professor of psychology at Nova Southeastern University, says that parents assume a PG-13 rating means little to no sexual innuendoes or bad language, but “I don't think they're going to be tuned in to the amount of violence ... we're upping everything in terms of the violence, the body count, the goriness.”

Q: What advice would you give to parents whose young teens want to see a PG-13 film?

I worry about exposure to violence in media, but my worries come more from video games than video movies. My youngest is just recently old enough for PG-13 films, and it seems that she can handle some of what they shovel. The boy is now old enough to make up his own mind, and still he isn’t convinced by watching shoot-em-ups that he should procure a firearm to go unload on innocent civilians.

This question raises eyebrows among gun owners, though, because rather than the issue being about violence in general, it’s about “gun” violence. Forget about hobbits chopping the heads off orcs, or Rick hacking through a line of walking dead via machete; no, it’s gun violence that’s turning our offspring into Children of the Corn!

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