kids watching violent media

By the time you turn 18, you’ll hopefully have hit some important milestones: Had your first crush, got your first job and witnessed over 40,000 murders.

… Ok. Not actually witnessed.

But with the amount of violence in movies, video games, and in the media, it’s likely you’ve seen a murder/violent act. And there is (almost) no escaping it. For some context, a person will watch upwards of 7.5 years of television and spend 5+ years on social media — and that number is only growing!  In the US, by the time a kid reaches their 18th birthday, they will have witnessed 40,000 fatalities on TV alone. And with 60% of TV show featuring violent scenes, it’s practically unavoidable.

Violence being portrayed everywhere. The reality is, if you’re a gun manufacturer, you don’t need to do any advertising. Why? Because the entertainment industry is doing it for you. This amount of violence in media and the increase of social consumption begs the question: What is the impact on our kids? And the short answer? We don’t know.

While there is no direct and concrete link between violence in media and aggression in youth, experts do agree that children who are exposed to multiple risk factors (violent TV, video games, and aggression in the home, etc.) are more likely to act out in aggressive ways. Additionally, constant exposure to violence can lead to desensitization.

Managing Our Kid’s Consumption of Media Violence:

If you’re concerned about the amount of violence your kids are witnessing on a daily basis, here are some ways you can monitor, limit, and manage their media violence.

1: Explain the consequences.

“But there is no blood!” Many parents have heard this cry as an excuse to play a violent video game or watch a violent movie. However, the absence of gore does not negate the presence of violence. Explain to your kids the actual consequences of violence, and make sure to point out how unrealistic it is for people to get away with violent behaviour.

2: Watch the clock.

Make sure your kids aren’t spending too much time in a violent fictional world. The more time they spend immersed in this world, the greater reach it’ll have into their actual world.

3: Teach them productive conflict resolution.

Most kids know that punching someone out won’t actually solve the problem. But, do they know how to properly resolve an argument? Verbal cruelty is also a form of violence, so teach them how to use their words with kindness and respect.

4: Watch what they’re watching.

You don’t actually have to sit and watch with them, but you should know what shows and games they’re engaging with. Find out what the ratings are and, if there are none, research the content. Unrated online content streaming (like youtube) can show some pretty brutal stuff.

Age-Related Media Advice:

Ages 2-4

It’s pretty common for kids this age to start seeing cartoon violence. Make sure to steer clear of shows that show violence as a method of conflict resolution, kids this age will imitate what they see.

Ages 5-7

Slapstick comedy is OK, but incidents that result in death or serious injury are too scary.

Ages 8-10

At this age, most kids can handle swordplay, gunplay or action scenes — as long as there’s no gore.

Ages 11-12

Kids aged 11-12 are usually OK with historical action — like battles, duel, or fantasy type action. However, close-ups of graphic violence and gore — combined with sexual scenes OR racial stigmas OR alone are not recommended.

Ages 13-17

At this point, kids will see a wide range of violence. Make sure you point out that violence causes pain and suffering, and try to limit the amount of time they spend engaging with violent media.

M Rated Games

An ‘M’ rating is for ‘Mature’ These games are most often not suitable for kids under the age of 17. The overt violence and often sexual images are harmful to developing brains. Even if your child’s friend has and is allowed to play a game with this rating, it doesn’t mean it’s right for your child.

Whenever possible, watch the things your kids are watching, and play their games. The best way to know what kind of media violence your kids is consuming is to consume the same kind of media. Keep an open dialogue with your kids. And know, that media violence is not the biggest or the smallest factor in aggressive behaviour — but it is the easiest to monitor and control.


7 Ways to Limit Your Child’s Exposure to Violence in the Media

Tips on How to Deal with Media Violence

Media violence, the effects on youth and guide to media ratings

The Influence of Media Violence on Youth

Violence in the Media: What Effects on Behavior?

Do Video Games Inspire Violent Behavior?

Violent Media and Aggressive Behavior in Children