The PG-13 movie rating was introduced in 1984 in response to parents' concerns, but today this rating has been extended to films with levels of gun violence that exceed what is present in the more restrictive R-rating category.
In a new study, "Parental Desensitization to Gun Violence in PG-13 Movies," published in the June 2018 issue of Pediatrics, parents reported that movies with intense gun violence were appropriate for adolescents starting at age 15, two years older than the PG-13 rating suggests.
Researchers surveyed 610 parents with at least one child between ages 6 to 17. The parents were shown four 90-second video clips from popular films depicting violent gun use—considered to be either justified or unjustified—and asked about their emotional reactions, the minimum age they would consider appropriate for viewing the film, and whether they would allow their own child to view it. In addition to finding that most parents thought a minimum age for this violence was at least 15, the study found that if the violence was portrayed as justified, parents were more willing to allow their own child to view it.
Researchers conclude that parental acceptance of gun violence in PG-13 movies could be due to its relatively bloodless portrayal and depiction but giving such movies a PG-13 rating may be less restrictive than is warranted, and further research is needed to determine whether viewing of violence in films that appears to be justified affects children's interpretations of such content and their attitudes toward the use of guns for self-defense.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org: