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Can Movie Violence Influence a 12-Year-Old?

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is 12 years old and he is into scary movies. His teachers and other family members are very concerned. He is constantly drawing scary things,like the grim reaper and things he has seen in different movies and books. I don't discourage him because of his interest in wanting to become a special effects artist.

So my question is, am I wrong for allowing him to watch them or read about scary subjects? He is very good at his art and I'm not sure what to say to my peers about discouraging him. I would love some advice on what to do.

A: The gore and violence in the horror genre movies that you mention is not something that I would recommend for the healthy development of a preadolescent. He's at a very impressionable age and stage now. The sex and violence themes rampant in these teen-oriented films do not offer him appropriate pro-social attitudes or images of man-woman co-existence. It's difficult for me to ignore my concerns for your son simply because he says he want to be a special effects artist.

I would not encourage or support his obsession with these movies or their images but I would brainstorm with him for other fantasy images that he could draw. I'd also set up some correspondence or meetings with actual special effects artists who work in the movies. Take his artistic dreams seriously but expand his vision by exposing him to real artists who do what he dreams of doing.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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