Gun violence is exploding in PG-13 movies. There's more gun violence in top-grossing PG-13 films than in top-grossing R-rated movies. So say researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center and Ohio State University in a study published online Monday in Pediatrics.
That's not supposed to be the case. As researchers point out, the Motion Picture Assn. of America says in its PG-13 rating that violence isn't supposed to reach the level of an R-rated film: "A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements, but does not reach the restricted R category."
This new study says it does reach or even exceed that level of violence.
Co-author of the new study Patrick E. Jamieson says in a statement that the PG-13 gun violence study is seen as grim because "children are not restricted from seeing PG-13 movies -- parents are just warned about the content.”
Researchers say that may be the most troubling because of a finding known as the weapons effect. That's the idea that just the presence of a weapon can cause a person to behave more aggressively. One experiment placed a driver in a pickup with -- and then without -- a .303-caliber military rifle mounted in a gun rack in the rear window. The driver purposely stalled at a green traffic light. Researchers found people stuck behind him were more likely to honk when the driver had a gun in the back. The conclusion was that the mere presence of the gun caused people to become more aggressive.