Researchers have found that PG-13 rated films are not safe for kids for they depict violence, which has a negative effect on them. The PG-13 rating strongly cautions parents that some material in the film might be inappropriate for children, but the rating still allows children under 13 to be admitted without a parent or guardian.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Theresa Webb at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
As part of the study, researchers sampled all the PG-13 rated films from among the 100 top-grossing movies of 1999 and 2000, as established by the Hollywood Reporter, and coded each act of violence and the context in which it was presented based on features known to put violence in a good or bad light.
The features included the motivation for violence, the presence of weapons, the consequences of violence and the degree of realism. The researchers found that a sample of 77 PG-13 rated had a total of 2,251 violent actions in the films with almost half resulting in death.
Although a small subset of this content contained violence that was associated with negative effects such as pain and suffering, only one film, 'Pay It Forward', in which the young hero is stabbed to death contained violence that would demonstrate to youthful viewers how horrific violence can be.
"Violence permeated nearly 90 percent of the films in this study. And while the explanations and causes of youth violence are very complex, the evidence is clear that media depictions of violence contribute to the teaching of violence," Webb said.
"This is especially true in our society, where the average young person's engagement with visual media in all its forms can run to as many as eight hours a day," Webb added.
And media depictions of violence teach such acts to children, leading to increased aggression, fear for their own safety, and a desensitisation to the pain and suffering of others.
"The science is clear that viewers do, in fact, learn from entertainment media. Indeed, popular films can act as powerful teachers engaging children and youths emotionally, even physiologically, in ways that teachers in classrooms could only hope," Webb added.
The findings of the study were published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.