The tragic shootings in Newtown have shined a spotlight on video game violence, but violent media is marketed to children long before they encounter Call of Duty. Since 2008, thousands of parents and the staff of the Federal Trade Commission have joined CCFC in calling for the Motion Picture Association of America to stop companies from marketing violent PG-13 movies to preschoolers. To date the MPAA has refused to act. We're pleased that MPAA chairman (and former senator) Chris Dodd is now saying Hollywood is ready to take part in the national dialogue about violence (1). But we need more than words. It is long past time for the movie industry to stop marketing violence to young children.
Here are the facts:
- Research repeatedly demonstrates that, for children, exposure to violent media is a risk factor for becoming desensitized to violence, lack of sympathy for victims, and aggressive behavior, including bullying. Children exposed to violent media at a young age have a higher tendency for violence and aggressive behavior later in life. (2)
- Movies that are extremely violent and would have been rated R in years past are now routinely rated PG-13. (3)
- These same movies are extensively marketed to children as young as preschoolers through TV advertising and brand licensing. (4)
It’s true that addressing our culture of violence requires complex and multifaceted solutions, and that some would like to point their fingers at media violence because it’s easier than looking in the mirror. But as CCFC’s Susan Linn argues in today’s New York Times, regardless of the role violent media played or didn’t play in the Newtown shootings, media violence is a very real public health issue. The correlation between media violence and aggression is almost as strong as the link between smoking cigarettes and lung cancer—and stronger than other acknowledged public health threats such as the links between not using a condom and sexually transmitted HIV, and early exposure to lead and lower IQ scores. (5)
For several years, CCFC has urged the film industry to stop marketing violent PG-13 movies to preschoolers. And thanks to all our efforts, the industry has made some improvements. PG-13 movies are now rarely released with fast food kids’ meals promotions. But young children are still targeted with thousands of ads each year for violent movies like Avengers and Battleship. Marketing PG-13 movies to preschoolers undermines the film industry’s rating system, sends a confusing message to parents, and increases the chance that young children will be exposed to media violence.
(1) MPAA Chief Chris Dodd on Newtown Shootings: Hollywood's Ready to Participate in National Conversation. http://www.thewrap.com/movies/article/mpaa-chief-chris-dodd-newtown-shoo...
(2) American Academy of Pediatrics, Policy Statement: Media Violence. Available at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/5/1495.short
(3) Leone, R. & Barowski, L. MPAA Ratings Creep: A Longitudinal Analysis of the PG-13 Rating Category in US Movies. Available (preview only) at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17482798.2011.533488#preview
(4) Federal Trade Commission: Marketing Violent Entertainment to Children. Available at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2000/09/youthviol.shtm
(5) Huesmann, L. R. The Impact of Electronic Media Violence: Scientific Theory and Research. Available at http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X%2807%2900391-6/fulltext