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Desensitized Parents Accept Movie Violence, Sex

Study says the more parents watch sexually explicit and graphically violent films, the more permissive they are with their children’s viewing habits. AG children’s leader urges parents to recognize their influential role

A recent study by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania has concluded that the more parents watch sexually explicit and graphically violent motion pictures, the more likely they are to allow their children to watch similar fare.

Daniel Romer, leading a team of seven researchers, also determined that parents who frequently view movies with sex and violence are likelier to believe that such films pose no risk for their children younger than recommended ages determined by the Motion Picture Association of America ratings board.

The report, published in Pediatrics, concluded that the reason for “ratings creep” in which content once deemed appropriate only for R-rated movies restricted to those 17 and older now has infiltrated PG-13 films, is because parents as well as MPAA board representatives have seen so much sex and violence they are desensitized to it.

“As parents become inured to violence and sex in films, they will be less likely to shield their children from such content,” the researchers wrote. “Children may then also become desensitized to violence, which could reduce their empathy for the suffering of others and encourage aggressive responses to conflict.”

Likewise, the study says children who watch sexually explicit films are more likely to engage in premarital sex at an earlier age.

Mark Entzminger, senior director of Children’s Ministries for the Assemblies of God, says parents need to fully understand how much they can influence the lives of their children.  

“It may be impossible to shield children from everything offensive in the media, however there are common sense choices that parents should be making that will have a dramatic impact on their children,” Entzminger says. “The enemy is waging a full attack on the family. If Christian parents want to help their children understand how to honor marriage (Hebrews 13:4), making wise decisions about movies and television is a great place to start.”

Article image used in accordance with Creative Commons license. Photo credit: flashpro, Flickr

John W. Kennedy

John W. Kennedy served as news editor of AG News from its inception in 2014 until retiring in 2023. He previously spent 15 years as news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel and seven years as news editor at Christianity Today.