2 studies, 2 views on the impact of superheroes over kids
There are 2 primary studies that looked into the development impact of superheroes on kids:
- The 1st study suggest that parents may need to help their preschool children filter the messages arising from superhero media in order to minimize aggressive behavior outcomes and promote defending gestures on behalf of their most vulnerable peers.
- The batman effect study proves that positive effect is an active cognitive strategy that moves us forward with confidence as we stay in the stressful situation but with our alter-ego leading the charge: adopting an alter ego can also help children concentrate on a complex card game, in which they had to follow complex rules that kept on changing.
Sailor Moon was my superhero obsession when I was a kid. Back in the day, all my friends had a favourite superhero to impersonate when we were playing together mimicking the cartoon. It was non-violent fun and games. I don’t recall any bad scenes while playing and mimicking Sailor Moon (maybe that more girls wanted to be “the Sailor Moon” at the same time”).
Fast forward to 2022, Bianca, my 3 years old toddler, loves PJ Masks. They are 3 superheroes for the little ones: by day, they go to school like all the other kids their age. By night, this brave band of heroes dons their magic pyjamas, and sets out to face fiendish villains to stop them messing with your day!
I read in this study that “Kids pick up on the aggressive themes and not the defending ones.” and I panicked a bit. 5 min later I realised that: I was Sailor Moon and I “punished” evil forces in the name of the moon.
So, maybe the truth lies somewhere in between. As I am a true believer that “All models are wrong, but some are useful“, I look deeper into the matter:
The Batman effect study investigated the benefits of self-distancing on young children’s perseverance:
180 four- and six-year-old children were asked to complete a repetitive task for 10 minutes while having the option to take breaks by playing an extremely attractive video game. Six-year-olds persevered longer than four-year-olds. Nonetheless, across both ages, children who impersonated an exemplar other – in this case, a character, such as Batman—spent the most time working, followed by children who took a third-person perspective on the self, or finally, a first-person perspective. Alternative explanations, implications, and future research directions are discussed.
The results of the study were analyzed by applying Analysis Of Variance ( ANOVA ) on the percentage of time on a task and comparing the 3 groups: self-immersed, 3rd person, and exemplar.
ANOVA is normally used to analyze experimental studies. Analysis of Variance is a generalization of the hypothesis test for equality of means. Here, you have multiple populations, and you want to see if any of the population means are different from the other means. That means that the null hypothesis is that ALL the population means are equal to each other. The alternative hypothesis is that at least two of the means are not equal.
Across both ages, children who impersonated an exemplar other – in this case a character, such as Batman—spent the most time working, followed by children who took a third-person perspective on the self, or finally, a first-person perspective.
Another article investigated the matter and concluded that some studies measure with low facts that boys are more impacted , others that there might be positive effects.
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My view on this
I like superheroes and I like to think that they can be 100% beneficial for kids…
On the other hand, I saw plenty of almost-violent toddlers at the playground and none were wearing a cape. The parents should stop the aggressiveness.
What I personally take away from this study, is that a toddler needs more clarification about what a superhero is. Superhero stories are often complex, but preschoolers may not fully understand the complexities behind the violence or aggression they witness.
Superheroes represent the good, so it’s handy to explain the opposite of bad :).
Exposure to superheroes ( and screen time) should be allowed in moderation. We should not be afraid of one single study. Kids’ personalities will give the general trend: if a toddler expressed aggressiveness, then yes, maybe exposure to superheroes is something negative for that kid.
If your child’s aggressive acts are frequent and severe, or your efforts to curb them have no effect, you’ll need to consult your pediatrician or a trained mental health professional, such as a child psychologist or psychiatrist.
My summary on this is that we all need a superhero in our lives…
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If you suffer from Sailor Moon nostalgia, you can get something on Amazon.
Bianca has the 3 PJ Masks costumes, the watch, and another amulet. She loves them all…
This is a personal blog. My opinion on what I share with you is that “All models are wrong, but some are useful”. Improve the accuracy of any model I present and make it useful!