Sex scenes, full frontal nudity and violence are all staple viewing for today’s children, with a rising trend in parents letting their kids watch adult content.
With the increase in ‘adults only’ animation and the new Marvel movies geared for an older audience, many parents are lifting viewing restrictions, letting children as young as six watch MA15+ films such as Deadpool, Sausage Party, Ted, Batman and X-Men. Children are also being exposed to adult TV programs such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
These films and TV shows, along with many others, are filled with adult content such as sex, violence, nudity and swearing. They are in no way made to be viewed by children.
So why are parents turning a blind eye? Is it because they see an animation, a teddy bear, dragons, zombies or a superhero and just assume it’s for kids without researching? A study by Pediatrics suggests that part of the problem is that adults have become desensitised to sex and violence which may lead to them having a higher level of acceptance to their children being exposed.
Are parents letting their children watch this content due to ‘pester power’ and schoolyard peer pressure?
Sydney mum Kate spoke to News.com.au about how she was shocked when her nine-year-old was shown Seth Rogan’s gross out adult animation, Sausage Party.
“My husband had shown me the preview so I knew the kinds of things that were in it, and that they really weren’t appropriate for children. I told her about it, thinking she just thought it was a kids’ cartoon or something, but she just kind of shrugged it off. Her excuse was that he has older brothers anyway.”
Australian parenting expert Dr Justin Coulson, says, “According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, prolonged exposure to violence increases agreement with the idea that violence is an acceptable way of solving problems. It also promotes acceptance — in children — of the “mean world” syndrome: a belief that the world is a dark and sinister place.
Ongoing (or even periodic and accidental) exposure to sexual and violent content is empirically proven to have a desensitising impact on both children and adults. The more we watch it, the less concerned we are about it — and the greater the potential impact on us, on our children, and on our society.”
Clinical psychologist, Sally-Anne McCormack, spoke to News.com.au about the impact these films could have on young minds.
“They see all these people in movies, they see their parents — these are the people that they want to emulate. If we’re showing them crass, inappropriate, disrespectful behaviours, then why would we be surprised when they’re adolescents and making crass jokes and disrespecting each other, or abusing alcohol and drugs if we’ve let them grow up watching that and seeing that as normal behaviour?
If we’re laughing and showing that to be something that we accept as behaviour, children struggle to discern reality from what we’re watching in movies and if they’re being shown this stuff as normal then that’s how they’re going to grow up — believing that these behaviours are normal and acceptable, and they’re just not.”
Dr McCormack warned parents that it’s not always the immediate impact of the film, but more to do with how children for their view of the world and appropriate behaviour.
“They’re little sponges which is so awesome …. but we want to make sure that what they take in is information, behaviours, concepts and morals that we really hold true ourselves, and we’re giving them that ability if we’re exposing them to totally inappropriate content that can impact the way they see the world in later years,” she warned News.com.au
Parental awareness will only need to grow as Hollywood produces more and more of these ‘kidult’ types of films. This year the new Wolverine origins story, Logan, is set to be released with an MA rating, as well as Spiderman: Homecoming and 2018 will see the arrival of Deadpool 2, Aquaman and Black Panther. All of these movies will have children begging to see them.
What Should Parents Look For When Choosing a Movie?
Dr McCormack wants parents to know that there are these ratings for a reason. While parents may not see the effects of frequent viewing of adult films straight up, they will manifest in the teenage years. “Children may not understand these concepts in all situations of what they’re watching, but at some point, they will understand what they’ve seen and that will have an impact on them in later years,” she explains.
“Children may not understand these concepts in all situations of what they’re watching, but at some point, they will understand what they’ve seen and that will have an impact on them in later years,” she explains to News.com.au.
To find out if a film is appropriate for your child, visit www.childrenandmedia.org.au
Visit our parenting page for more tips on raising kids.