1. In a study evaluating parental desensitization to movies containing violent and sexual content, parents were found to consistently lower their acceptable age minimum for children to watch these movies after watching the scenes themselves.
2. Parents who watched the most movies in the past week were less restrictive in allowing younger children to watch films with sex and violence.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Study Rundown: Violent and sexual content have been increasing in PG-13 movies (designated for those ages 13 and older), and parents are less concerned than in the past about their children watching these types of films. This study evaluated the potential desensitization of parents to violence and sex in movies. Results indicated that parents were more likely to decrease their appropriate minimum age limit for children to watch violent/sexual movies after watching scenes containing violent and sexual behavior themselves. The parents who were most lenient toward these films were most likely to have seen the films before and to have watched more movies in the past week. Limitations of this study include failure to record parents’ emotional responses to successive clips, as well as more violent content shown than sexual content. Nonetheless, physicians could inform parents about these trends and the effects such films may have on children.
In-Depth [prospective cohort study]: Study participants included 1000 parents from an online research panel, Research Now, who currently had a child in 1 of 3 age categories: 6-9 years, 10-12 years, and 13-17 years. The movie clips included 6 violent and 2 sexual movie scenes from top-25 grossing movies (rated PG-13 or R, or unrated films) in the year of their release. Parents were shown 3 pairs of the chosen scenes in random order and asked to identify an appropriate minimum age for children to view each movie. For violent content, parents rated the appropriate age for viewing at 16.9 years in the first clip, which dropped to 13.9 years in the last clip (95% CI, 13.7-14.1 and 16.8-17.0, respectively). For sexual content, parents rated the first clip at 17.2 years, which decreased to 14 years in the last clip (95% CI, 17.0-17.4 and 13.7-14.3, respectively). Compared to parents who had not recently seen any movies, those who had watched the most movies in the past week rated the appropriate age for violent scenes at 14.1 (vs. 15.7) years and for sexual scenes at 14.2 (vs. 15.8) years.
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