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Our son is now at the age where we let him watch a moderate amount of children's videos to entertain himself -- all firmly G rated stuff.

I have also been allowing him to watch some recent animated features such as Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (PG) and Megamind (PG) and the Incredibles (PG), with mild levels of cartoon / action violence.

I also rented some classic "Looney Tunes" and "Tom and Jerry" cartoons, remembering how much I enjoyed them as a child. But after auditioning a few, I was kind of shocked how much actual, real cartoon violence they contain, and I quickly backed off those. You see where Groening got his inspiration for the Itchy and Scratchy parody from, it's shocking how violent old cartoons really are!

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However, even at the MPAA PG level, I am worried that I might be exposing my son to too much cartoon violence, and I am concerned what effects it might have.

Should I be concerned? Is there any research documenting the effect on children in the 2-4 year age range of watching a moderate amount of G-rated children's videos versus a moderate amount of PG-rated children's videos?

(Note that I am not asking for the effect of no video, just how risky is it, per any published research on the matter, to deviate from moderate amounts of children's videos at G versus PG)

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Related: parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/11/… Even some PG films have some really scary moments. –  JBRWilkinson Jan 18 at 16:05
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4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

Some google-fu got me to the paper Cartoon violence and aggression in youth (pdf) from 2006:

Across the early and middle childhood, laboratory experiments using cartoons with comedic violence have consistently failed to demonstrate significant differences in person-oriented aggression. [...] Field experiments have consistently shown that aggressive behavior towards peers increases following the viewing of non-comedic violent cartoons.

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That's a pretty old reference. Modern day cartoons can be pretty realistic. I've seen a 5 year old watch Kung Fu Panda and then beat his sister up - anecdotal, but what do you call 'cartoon violence' - did you mean 'slapstick' ? –  JBRWilkinson Jan 18 at 16:03
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Ohhh man! This is the oldest question in psychology. How violence affects our children. No matter what, like TV, or video games, or whatever.

If you want some research material on this subject, just look at the Google results for how violence affects children.

Now. Let me tell you an answer for this.

When I was studying psychology I had tons of surveys dealing with this problem. But the end result is always the same. It's about YOU!

You as parent must CLEARLY define the boundries between reality and animation / tv / whatever. Clearly I'm not saying that you should let your child watch a Japanese animated blood and gore serious like Blood+ or Naruto. You just have to wait with that.

But he is gonna be fine if he watches a few looney toons. You turned out right too ain't ya? It is always the parents responsibility what the child gets from a cartoon!! Always! You will tell him what the moral is. You will tell him that he ain't supposed to hit his friends head with a hammer after that. You will have to tell him what the borders are between reality and the cartoon he just saw.

There is an old saying. Guns don't kill people. People kill people. This applies here too. He won't get agitated if you won't let him. It is the parents responsibility. Many of us don't think so.

Many of us think that the tv should ban all this stuff. That the video game makers should ban violence. That what ever censorship should ban every violence. This is wrong. This is because they either failed as parents or are just plain lazy. These are the people who want the school to raise his child because they either work to hard, or just plain don't care.

Now don't get me wrong!! I'm not saying that the just should watch a horror movie right away!!!!! I'm saying that it wont hurt his ability to comprehend violence if you let him watch a Loony Toons movie.

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>It is always the parents responsibility what the child gets from a cartoon!! Quoted for absolute truth! –  Zsub Apr 1 '11 at 11:44
    
Hehe. :) Thanks Zsub!! You flatter me! –  Hannibal Apr 1 '11 at 11:56
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It's true that watching a few Looney Tunes cartoons will not turn the kid into a monster. However, small kids can't yet make a clear separation between "real" and "tale", even if you explain them that what they just saw is not "real". IMHO the key is whether they get enough love and attention from their parents otherwise (and get to watch TV for a limited time, with selected and supervised content), or they watch cartoons (or whatever) on the TV instead of getting proper parenting, for extended periods of time. –  Péter Török Jan 17 '12 at 10:13
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There is a wonderful book called Killing Monsters by Gerard Jones. It was a paradigm shift for me in terms of children and violence. He discusses the research and the value in allowing children to have fantasy violence in their lives. If you take the time to delineate between fantasy and reality (one of the chapters in the book), all will be well!

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If you want to know what effect watching cartoon violence will have on your children, you need look no further than yourself. As you said, you watched Tom & Jerry and Looney Tunes as a kid and you loved it. But you don't seem to have even remembered all the cartoon violence, (let alone been turned into a violent person by it,) or it wouldn't surprise you when you watched it now.

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How do we judge whether we ourselves are violent persons or not? (Do we compare to the average level of violence in our surroundings, or to that of the evening news in TV, or to some ideal like Jesus or Buddha?...) Of course noone sees him/herself as violent. However, violence can take many forms, some of which - especially in societies / groups repressing open physical violence - can be pretty sublime. It takes a lot of introspection and frank discussions to answer this question realistically. And the honest answer might be much more unpleasant than what we would like to hear. –  Péter Török Jan 17 '12 at 10:21
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