Parents Note: Movies are Getting More Violent (Article)



The amount of violence a child witnesses in movies has dramatically increased in the past 60 years. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics (1) demonstrates the alarming increase in violence that children are likely to witness in today’s movies compared to movies made 63 years ago. Researchers analyzed clips of films from 1950 to the present day, counting the number and intensity of scenes that included gun violence.  They found that from 1950 to 1985, the year that the PG-13 movie rating came into existence, the amount of violence in films has doubled.  This trend in escalating violence has continued to increase since 1985 by another staggering 300%.


Additionally, Dr. Bushman and his coauthors  discovered that the trend toward more violence in today’s movies crosses all the rating categories. When the rating scales were introduced in the 1985, parents and their children were given a tool to judge the amount of sexual content and violence they could expect to encounter at the movie theater; G, PG-13, R, and X all had defined amounts of adult content.  In terms of the amount of “gun violence”, what was called “R” in 1985 is now called “PG-13.”  In other words, images of guns and violence have dramatically increased in movies in the past 63 years, and the rating system designed to help parents predict which films are appropriate for their children has become more difficult to use.


Recent research has confirmed the fact that children who are exposed to violence in film tend to be more aggressive. (2) Common sense tells us that. Children are great imitators, and what they see has a big impact on their behavior. We need to accept that fact and be responsible about how much and under what circumstances our children are allowed to view scenes involving violence, especially violence against women. Here are some general DocSmo tips that might help:

  • Assume that a movie rated “PG-13” has a lot of violence. Factor that into your viewing decisions.
  • Violence that is viewed without the benefit of adult presence and interpretation is probably more negative than those violent scenes a child sees with an adult to help interpret what the child sees.
  • Assume your older children have access to all sorts of screens to view very “adult” content.  Be very clear about what types of films you do not approve of them viewing.
  • In general, screens like iPads, smartphones, TV’s, and computer screens should be in only used by children in public parts of your home.
  • Make sure you take the time to review movies your children want to see and let them know which ones you consider too violent for viewing.
  • Make sure that when your children are visiting friend’s homes that there are some adults supervising media exposure.
  • Take the time to learn how the parental controls work on your devices and set them to reasonable levels.

I welcome your comments, stories, and suggestions at my blog,  Until next time.


Smo Notes:


  1. Gun Violence Trends in Movies:

2.   Short-term and long-term effects of violent media on aggression in children and adults;             



Written collaboratively by Keri Register and Paul Smolen M.D.