Transformers Movie: PG-13 Movie Marketed to Preschoolers

Have Toy, See Movie? Not This One.

Your little kids want Transformers. How could they not? According to The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, no fewer than 129 different Transformers tie-in toys are being offered for kids under 13. They’re also being heavily promoted through ads that are rated as age-appropriate for kids as young as 2. Add to that the promotions with Burger King, Kraft, and others. So, if your kid has the toy, why not take him to the movie? Because the movie isn’t age-appropriate for a 5-year-old, that’s why. It’s rated PG-13 for violence, sexual humor, and language. And if you think that doesn’t matter, think again.

Why is media violence such a big deal? Played a T- or M-rated video game lately? Watched a cop show? Followed a gangsta rap feud, seen an action movie, or checked in on one of the many celebrity smackdowns? Violent and aggressive behavior shows up everywhere. And it’s not simply passive; as video games take center stage, they allow players to maim, kill, and create all kinds of havoc. In fact, that’s how games are won. Studies show that aggressive gaming affects kids — so much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded that “playing violent video games leads to adolescent violence like smoking leads to lung cancer.”

Why you should care: Because the studies don’t lie. Lots of violence affects kids’ behavior. Period. When kids marinate in media steeped in acts of aggression, it can increase antisocial activity and bullying and decrease empathy for victims of violence. The more aggressive behavior kids see, the more it becomes an acceptable way to settle conflicts. Movies with scary images, intense peril, loud noises, and, above all, blood and gore, create all sorts of disturbances, including increased anxiety, sleep disruption, and wicked nightmares. And those first-person-shooter video games? The intimacy of the mayhem and murder pack such a huge emotional punch that they alter brain chemistry.

• Nearly 2 out of 3 TV programs contain violence, averaging 6 violent acts per hour.

• The average child who watches 2 hours of cartoons per day may see more than 10,000 violent acts a year.

• There are more than twice as many violent incidents in children’s programming than in other types of programming.

• Teens who watch more than 1 hour of TV per day are 4 times more likely than other teens to commit aggressive acts in adulthood.

• In a study of third and fourth graders, reducing TV and video game consumption to less than 1 hour per day decreased verbal aggression by 50% and physical aggression by 40%.

• According to the AAP, violence is a leading cause of death for children, adolescents, and young adults — more prevalent than disease, cancer, or congenital disorders.

• By the time kids enter middle school, they will have seen 8,000 murders and 100,000 more acts of violence on broadcast TV alone.

• Younger kids are particularly vulnerable to the health effects of media violence — especially those under 7 who can’t easily distinguish between fantasy and reality.

• The younger kids are when they see a violent or scary movie or TV show, the longer-lasting the effects — particularly in nightmares and increased anxiety.

Common Sense says:

• Teach conflict resolution. Kids know that clocking someone on the head isn’t the way to solve a disagreement, but verbal cruelty is also violent. Teach kids how to disengage, use their words, and stand up for themselves without throwing a punch.

•Be age appropriate: Kids ages 2-4 often see cartoon violence. But keep them away from anything that shows physical aggression as a means of conflict resolution, because they’ll imitate what they see.

• For 5- to 7-year-olds, cartoon rough-and-tumble, slapstick, and fantasy violence are okay, but violence that would reasonably result in death or serious injury is too scary.

• 8- to 10-year-olds can handle action-hero sword fighting or gunplay as long as there’s no gore. Violence should have consequences.

• For 11- to 12-year-old tweens, historical action is okay, including battles, fantasy clashes, and duels. But close-ups of gore or graphic violence (alone or combined with sexual situations) aren’t recommended.

• Kids ages 13-17 can and will see shoot ’em ups, blow ’em ups, high-tech violence, accidents with disfigurement, or death, anger, and gang fighting (and with HDTV, they will really see things!). Point out that the violence portrayed is hurtful and causes suffering. And limit time exposure to violence, especially in video games.

• No M-rated games for kids younger than 16 or 17. Sure, the kid down the street has the latest cop-killer game. But these games are ultra-violent and often sexually violent. That’s not good for developing brains and social development.

• Don’t let kids immerse themselves in violent content. Keep an eye on the clock. The more time spent with violent content, the greater its impact and influence.

For information, visit The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

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