Emily E. Mazurak
Updated September 2010
Today, children are constantly being exposed to television shows and movies that contain explicit material such as increased violence, as well as inappropriate language and sexual content. With increased availability of these materials, many parents find it hard to monitor what their children are exposed to on a daily basis. As a result many have begun to rely on recommendations made by the Motion Picture Association of America and the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board.
In November 1968, the Motion Picture Association of America created the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA) which is responsible for rating movies. While the system is voluntary, most major films are rated before being released in theaters. Since the rating system was put in place, parents have used the rating system to deem what is and is not appropriate for their children to watch. Currently CARA gives a G-rating to movies that are appropriate for all audiences and have “no content that would be objectionable to most parents.”
Over the years some researchers have become increasingly concerned with the amount of violence in movies, especially in movies that are given a G-rating by CARA. To determine how much and what kind of violence existed in these movies, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health looked at all G-rated animated feature films that were released in theaters between 1937 and 1999.
Between 1937 and 1999, 74 films were released and any acts of violence found were categorized into three categories: light (funny), dark (sinister) or neutral. Lighter violence included scenes like Dumbo shooting peanuts from his trunk at the ringmaster in Dumbo, whereas the killing of Bambi’s mother in Bambi would be considered darker violence.
On average, films were 81 minutes long and contained at least one act of violence. These acts lasted 9.5 minutes on average as they ranged from 6 seconds in length to 24 minutes. The authors of this study noted that violence can have a broad range of definitions, and violence will have a different impact on the attitudes and behavior of each child.
Most of the violence found in the movies and examined in this study occurred between the good and/or neutral characters and the bad characters, especially when the characters were trying to resolve some kind of conflict. Unfortunately the use of violence as a means of problem solving gives a message that violence is effective, fun, and can even be funny. In the movies that were analyzed, there were a few exceptions where the main character used clever strategies instead of force.
As more parents are discovering the content of their children’s movies and television programs, many are looking for resources that will help them to make sound and informed decisions. In 1992, Kids In Mind (http://www.kids-in-mind.com/) was created to give parents an unbiased content analysis of movies. Movies are rated based on a variety of criteria, including sex/nudity, violence/gore and profanity. Common Sense Media (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/) and Parent Previews (http://www.parentpreviews.com/) offer similar services.
 Motion Picture Association of America. What Each Rating Means. http://www.mpaa.org/ratings/what-each-rating-means. Updated 2010. Accessed September 8, 2010.
 Yokota F, Thompson K. Violence in G-Rated Animated Films Journal of New England Medicine. 2000; 283: 2716-2720.