One of KIDS FIRST!’s baseline criteria is “no gratuitous violence or abuse.” But what is gratuitous violence, and how can parents and kids recognize it?
What exactly is violence? Physical violence includes hitting, punching, kicking, pushing, shoving, shooting, knifing, killing, certain acts of martial arts, damaging property, causing bodily harm, slapstick humor, and torture - real or animated. Verbal violence includes put-downs, name-calling, screaming, lying, teasing, foul language and disrespect.
Depending upon the age group targeted, not all violence is inappropriate and must be viewed within its context. We are often asked to explain what gratuitous violence entails. Here is a quick comparison of gratuitous vs. non-gratuitous violence to help you and your children make sense of the images they see.
Gratuitous violence may be identified by the following:
- Is not important to the plot and does not add to understanding the story or main characters.
- Is part of a continuous stream of kicking, punching and hitting - all in the name of conquering “the bad guy.”
- Shows humans, animals or cartoon characters being hurt in a humorous way.
- Makes fun of somebody or makes fun of the harmful act.
- Shows humans, animals or cartoon characters being squished, smashed or beat up and recovering a moment later.
Non -gratuitous violence may be identified by the following:
- Contributes to the overall story.
- Is used sparingly.
- Might teach a lesson or define the “bad guy.”
- Shows historical accuracy.
- Is there for its emotional effect on a scene.
- Portrays a negative behavior that is addressed and corrected within the story.
- Is in a program more suitable for an older child.
- Is shown with real consequences or correction.
(pictured top left, Adina’s Deck, an independent film about Cyberbullying.)