Call it irony, call it an origins story, call it a twist of fate. But the numbers are in, and it looks like kids who are fans of superheroes are actually more likely to be violent than heroic in the long run.
And here we thought flawed heroes were saving a generation of pop culture addicted kids, not having a negative impact on them.
This is all according to a study from Brigham Young University, which looked at the behaviour of preschool children who engaged with superheroes. Researchers wanted to see if kids who were into the genre showed any notable difference in terms of aggressive and defensive behaviours.
“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,” Sarah M. Coyne explained, who led the study. But as it turns out, the study found the exact opposite.
Of the 240 preschoolers that researchers surveyed (49 per cent of which were male), those who were into superheroes were more likely to report higher levels of aggression and were less likely to step in to defend their peers a year after they were surveyed.
So much for using the good word of superheroes (a.k.a. the selfless defenders of the weak) to teach kids important lessons. So what’s a parent to do in a world of Batmans versus Supermans, Wonder Women, Supergirls and Flashes?
According to the researchers, most of these characters are targeted at older age groups, which could be a part of the problem. But just because your kid is into the genre doesn’t mean you should keep them away from it altogether. Instead, it may be a better strategy to ensure they’re into a wide variety of activities, and to keep an open dialogue about what they seeing and experience. That includes discussing the pros and cons of superheroes and their complex storylines, which often fly over kids’ heads.
Heck, sometimes we have a hard time figuring out the hidden moral messages in a movie like Deadpool — we can only imagine how tough it must be for children to navigate it. Looks like a little more Napkin Man and a little less Iron Man may be a good idea.