Parent Alert for Hunger Games

The Hunger Games and Children: Playing with Fire

The first installment of Suzanne Collins’ riveting, blockbuster trilogy, “The Hunger Games,” hits theaters nationwide, but what many parents don’t know is that this is ultimately a story about child sacrifice. In Collins’ twisted dystopian world, kids kill kids in gladiator-style “games” imposed by the Capitol to prevent rebellion among starving districts. Impotent or voyeuristic adults acquiesce and watch. Americans were horrified recently when a 17-year-old boy shot and killed students at an Ohio high school, yet middle schools across the country will take students on field trips to see this movie in which kids slaughter kids to survive.

Why this cultural disconnect? We are playing with fire. What children watch and read matters greatly. It seeps into their hearts, minds, and souls. Research unequivocally documents the connection between media violence and aggression in children. Yet tweens and young teens today are exposed to graphic violence through video games, television, movies, and books. Collins’ novels, slated for 12-year-olds on up, are nonetheless being devoured by elementary school children.

In interviews for “From Santa to Sexting,” a book about contemporary middle school, psychologist Brenda Hunter, PhD, and education writer Kristen Blair found that many parents are in the dark about kids’ exposure to media and violence. Yet it’s the child of the “unaware” parent who gets into trouble. “In talking to middle school parents, we have heard that most feel overwhelmed by the media onslaught their children experience daily. Parents are often shocked to learn what their kids are consuming,” says Kristen Blair. Psychologist Brenda Hunter says, “If ‘life imitates art,’ we can expect to see an upsurge in violence and carnage among kids as this movie circles the globe. Kids are copycats who lack the cognitive and emotional maturity needed to process the disturbing material in ‘The Hunger Games.'”

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