Updated: Mar 25
It was just a recent walk in the mall when a young child ran pass shouting followed by another child close behind.
"I will punch you like Superman!"
The first response that comes to mind is usually, “Wow, so violent! What have they been watching? Better don’t watch Superman anymore.” Poor Superman, what did he do?
No matter your stand in the matter, there are positive and negative impacts when it comes to introducing superheroes to a child. Even if parents delay the introduction as much as they can, their kids will still come to know about them from friends because children just love superheroes; even the young ones. There’s just something about their striking costume colours, superpowers and unlimited strength that keeps children fascinated. They are super cool and always fight for good, which is why children love to replicate them.
But what about the amount of violence shown in superhero movies today? Research has shown that allowing children to watch superhero movies could send the wrong message, especially to younger children. They found that children aged 3-5 (preschoolers) mimic superheroes fighting because they do not have the cognitive ability to understand the underlying message in all superhero movies which is standing up for what is right.
Parents also tend to forget that superhero movies are not made with children in mind because children are not the target audience. However, this does not mean a total ban from all superhero movies! Children will have the capability to grasp the right message and draw positive returns when they reach ages 7 to 8. Here are some positive reasons as to why kids need superheroes in their life.
1. Superheroes can be Role Models
And sometimes just like that, children are able to solve problems on their own because they are emulating the superheroes that they love. As adults, sometimes we forget how vulnerable children can feel. Every day they are learning new things which sometimes can be difficult, even scary and overwhelming! By using superheroes as role models this gives them the courage to do things which they would otherwise not attempt on a regular day.
By following their superhero, they learn the differences in moral values too. For instance, learning between good and bad or even understanding other people’s suffering and pain. Take for example the whole underlying message of helping those in trouble. By following their favourite superheroes, they get to role play and be empowered to choose to help another friend and be someone bigger than themselves.
2. It helps with Children's Development
Playing superheroes can do wonders for child development because it is during play that they learn to test the waters but in a safe space. While your child pretends to be the one with superpowers out to save the world, he or she is actually trying out different roles. To adults, it might look like a simple game of good guy versus bad guy. But it is through these roles that they learn:
between right and wrong,
to improve their language and negotiation skills,
to problem-solve, and
Playing superheroes also allows children to develop physically, cognitively, socially and emotionally. So it is okay if the boys get some healthy tumble play as long as parents are monitoring them and it is done in a safe space. Instead of fostering violence, this actually helps them to work out differences and handle conflicts without aggression later on in life.
3. Superheroes instil Moral Values from Young
There are so many moral values children can pick up from Superhero movies, so why not start them young. For example, The Incredibles showcases family values. Then Spiderman devotes himself to keeping his city safe from evil, forgoing his own happiness with Mary Jane. This is taking responsibility and sacrificing for the greater good of things.
How about the importance of being true to yourself? Captain America teaches that! There was even a scene where kids can relate to in Fantastic Four when The Thing took a moment to share his insecurities about being different. There is nothing worse than being exiled and labelled a mutant, but the X-Men choose to work together despite their differences and combine their superpowers for something good.
Superheroes instil hope, resilience, perseverance, empathy and the belief that good will always prevail, triumphing over evil. And it is this that builds good character in our children which in turn sets a firm foundation for handling whatever life throws at them in the future. Superheroes give children something to hold on to, whether it is bullying or peer pressure. They will find ways to overcome them.
4. It Boosts Confidence Level
Emulating a superhero will certainly help jumpstart your child’s confidence because everyone knows that the first attempt at anything is always the hardest. Superheroes teach children to believe in themselves and to trust in their own abilities. It always takes courage and perseverance to overcome something. After crossing that first hurdle, every victory thereafter will continue to build their confidence. When children start to believe in themselves, then the sky's the limit.
Confidence also builds maturity which then allows children to make conscious decisions for their actions. They begin to understand purpose, and take into account the consequences of their actions.
It is okay to fail or to suffer minor setbacks. The idea is to never give up so easily because superheroes always make a comeback. This encourages children to keep trying and to find other solutions around the problem. Sometimes a closed door could mean an open opportunity elsewhere, you just have to look hard enough.
All in all
Is worrying about aggression in children being overprotective? Personally, we don’t think so. We think it is good for parents to be aware and to monitor what their children are watching. It is good to watch the movie yourselves first to gauge the level of violence involved.
Perhaps limit the younger children to superhero cartoons until they are older and have the cognitive capability to understand. Again, parents should always use their discretion on how much violence is too much violence, and to decide on appropriate superheroes to introduce. As younger children are easier to influence, choosing the right superheroes to watch and to look up to is important.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Avengers: Infinity War, that shattered the box office records when it was first released. Remember Doctor Strange?, the superhero that uses mythical energies, is played by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch. He once said that Doctor Strange is not a good superhero because of his unique powers, but his determination and resilience.
“This man reaches the very bottom and then more. You think, How much more can this guy take? He's broken, he gets up again, he's broken --- and that's really what makes him a superhero.
A lot of people have asked me, 'What makes him a superhero?' That's really the answer I should have given. It's not the Cloak of Levitation. It's not the Eye of Agamotto. It's about his staying power. It's a marathon and not a sprint. The guy endures so much” - Benedict Cumberbatch
Did you know that Benedict Cumberbatch is not only a great actor but also an amazing storyteller? He has narrated several children’s books and among them; The Snowman and the Snowdog by Raymond Briggs, both available on the Me Books Plus app.
Other than Benedict Cumberbatch, there are many other celebrities and professional narrators from both the local and international scenes, providing children with high quality narrations for all of the books on the Me Books Plus app.
Download the Me Books Plus App now to have Benedict Cumberbatch and other narrators read phenomenal books to your children today!