May 25, 2018
Superheroes: Bad for kids
A new study published in The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology suggests super-beings might not be the greatest role models for children, after all. (Disclaimer: This applies to imaginary superheroes, not biblical characters or angels.)
Sure, we all felt way too proud of ourselves when the entire city of San Francisco participated in cancer survivor Miles Scott’s wish to save Gotham City as Batkid, and hell yes, his love of the Dark Knight helped get him through years of chemo, but it turns out that preschoolers may miss a lot of the subtleties of their heroes’ backstories or behavior, and may not be taking away the life lessons we hope to give them.
According to the research, more tykes are impressed with the destructive capabilities of superheroes than by their role as saviors and protectors.
Preschoolers who engage in what the study calls “superhero culture”—watching videos, playing with action figures, dressing in costumes, and other activities now acceptable for adults—are more likely to be aggressive a year later. What they’re not more likely to be is more social and protective of others.
The primary author of the study theorizes this may be because storylines are complex and not geared toward very young children, but she stops short of suggesting banning Spider-Man pajamas, and instead calls for “balance”. Parents might consider other forms of electronic babysitting and/or actually talking to their children about both the positive and negative aspects of their hero’s behavior.
Surely, there’s a suitable TEDx talk or something that busy moms and dads could crib from.
Here’s a thought to ponder after a nice long MLK Jr weekend: Maybe, just maybe, there are some real heroes who have overcome adversity and saved the world (again, and again, and again) to tell your kids about. Maybe if parents want their kids to act like heroes, they need to lionize those traits of sacrifice, selflessness, compassion, and courage in protecting the weak.
Then again, the only thing cuter than a kid dressed as Batman is a kitten dressed as Batman.