How Should You Talk to Your Kid About Violence on TV and in Movies?

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Common Sense Media parenting expert Caroline Knorr answers questions about parenting, media, and everything in between.

Violence is everywhere: in video games, movies, books, music videos, and cartoons, on the nightly news and the Web, and even in commercials. And kids are being exposed at younger and younger ages. Talking about media violence helps to manage its impact on your kid. Here are some ideas for those conversations.

  • Help your kids express their feelings. Urge them to identify the feelings that are triggered by seeing violent media: anger, sadness, or even excitement. Creating a safe and nonjudgmental space for exploring those feelings helps their emotional maturity.

  • Help your kids tap into feelings of empathy. The more media violence kids are exposed to, the more “normal” it appears. Repeated viewings can desensitize your kids to others’ pain and suffering. Ask them how they’d feel in real life if someone they knew was badly hurt.

  • Remind them that real violence isn’t a joke. A lot of violence is played for laughs. But when people get hurt, that’s not entertainment. With older kids, you can talk about how certain situations (in slapstick comedy, for example) inspire conflicting emotional reactions.

  • Teach positive conflict resolution. Explain your values regarding violent behavior and the importance of handling clashes nonviolently. Tell kids what the consequences in society – and in your own house – will be for any aggressive behavior.

  • Explain consequences. Discuss the true consequences of violence, and point out how unrealistic it is for people to get away with violent behavior.

For more information about violence in the media, check out Common Sense Media’s Parent Concerns.

(Photo: Corbis Images)

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