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January 12, 2017

Study: PG-13 movies have more gun violence scenes than R-rated films

Past research suggests repeated viewing of violent media can make kids more aggressive, desensitize violence

Parents interested in taking their children to see a movie without scenes including gun violence may want to reconsider a PG-13-rated film.

According to an analysis by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, top-grossing movies rated PG-13 (open to children of all ages at parents’ discretion) have more segments with gun violence than their R-rated counterparts.

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This new analysis, published in the online journal Pediatrics Perspectives on Jan. 11, extends earlier data on top-grossing PG-13 movies from 1985 to 2012 to include films released through 2015.

The researchers' inclusion of the more recent movies found the trend of portraying gun violence in PG-13 movies continues to surpass that in R-rated films, particularly with highly popular PG-13 action-oriented films.

Lead researcher and study author Dan Romer notes that one of the most alarming aspects of the gun violence seen in many PG-13 films is that it is often shown without visible consequences, including without blood and suffering, which does not reflect real life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has found evidence that repeatedly viewing violent media content can influence some youth to become more aggressive.  

The APPC researchers noted that more research is needed into the potential effects of films that glorify the use of guns and whether bloodless gun violence perpetrated by comic book characters is less harmful than gory gun violence on more realistic characters.

“Until we know more about the effects of repeated exposure to gun violence, pediatricians should consider advising parents to be cautious about exposing their children to the gun violence in PG-13 movies,” the APPC researchers said.

Read more on the study here.