A new study by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center reveals how parents determine what makes intense gun violence in PG-13 movies acceptable for teens.
The study, “Parental Desensitization to Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies,” published in Pediatrics, measured responses of 610 U.S. parents to scenes of gun violence in popular PG-13 movies to determine how upsetting they were to watch and at what age parents would consider it appropriate for teens to view those scenes.
Previous research suggested that parents were growing emotionally desensitized to violence on film in response to the increase in gun violence, especially in PG-13 films.
The study found that parents were not emotionally desensitized to gun violence but were far more willing to expose their teens to such scenes if they found the violence to be “justified.” Violence that is perpetrated in self-defense or to protect loved ones was considered less upsetting and more appropriate for teens than unjustified violence. Nevertheless, most parents thought that even justified gun violence was more appropriate for children starting at age 15 rather than 13, as the PG-13 rating category suggests.
Since 1984, when the PG-13 rating was introduced, scenes of gun violence have doubled in movies. The rating was introduced as a way to warn parents about emotionally upsetting content for younger viewers. The result of this most recent study suggests that parents would favor a new rating, PG-15, that would more accurately warn of the violent content in some movies.
Read more about the study at the Annenberg Public Policy Center.