Superheroes fight relentlessly to defend the world against evil. That scenario sounds like an ideal set-up where our kids can draw inspiration from - to be defenders themselves and to make this world a better place.
But a study from Brigham Young University led by Sarah M. Coyne showed how the superhero culture does the exact opposite to our kids and how it magnifies aggressive behavior.
“So many preschoolers are into superheroes and so many parents think that the superhero culture will help their kids defend others and be nicer to their peers,” Coyne said, “but our study shows the exact opposite. Kids pick up on the aggressive themes and not the defending ones.”
In fact, the study found that those children who are more engrossed with the superhero culture than their peers can be more aggressive physically and with other forms of aggression.
It is easy to say that these kids who watch these superheroes defend people may become defenders themselves. But the study showed that these kids may actually condone bullying or at least tolerate it.
“Have your kids involved in all sorts of activities, and just have superheroes be one of many, many things that they like to do and engage with,” Coyne suggested.
Coyne explained that the superhero narrative that the media portrays is so complex for younger children to grasp. It may be hard for them to extract the moral of the story beyond the violence and aggression in the story line.
The researchers published their study in Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.
See: School Principals Shape Children’s Behavior Greater Than What We Think