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What Superheroes Are Teaching Your Kids

By Michael Ippersiel on January 10th, 2011

As a reformed comic book collector and now a parent of two boys below the age of ten, I’ve been looking at super heroes in a new light – and it isn’t very good. At one time, super heroes symbolized an ideal to live up to; the heroes of today however, instantly resort to violence and seem to battle themselves as often as they fight the villains.

Here are some of the things that super heroes may be teaching your kids – not by what they say but by what they do.

1)     Violence Solves Problems: When’s the last time you saw a super hero solve a problem without using their super powers in a violent way? I do my best to teach my children to use their words to solve a problem instead of their fists. However, when the kids watch their favorite heroes solve problems the same way they do it doesn’t exactly inspire them to avoid physical conflict. In real life, when people fight it hurts and someone ends up in jail or in court – not something to aspire to.

2)     Being a Martyr is Noble: A noble sacrifice (like a parent giving their life to save a spouse or child) is one thing, but living a life of sacrifice is also simply settling for less than you deserve. This can lead to low self esteem and depression in real life, especially if something that provides joy is sacrificed for prolonged periods. 

3)     Greatness is Determined by Fate: The vast majority of heroes became that way due to birth, accident, luck or tragedy. This implies that greatness is due to factors outside of your control rather than what you make of yourself.

4)     We Need Saving: Heroes exist to help the masses who can’t help themselves. In times of need, they swoop out from the sky and help us in our darkest hour. They do this of their own good will and ask nothing in return. While this is a nice fantasy, it doesn’t prepare children for the fact that in the real world they’ll need to bail themselves out if life takes a turn for the worse. Young children may not need to know this, but definitely teens need to get ready for the responsibilities of adulthood.

5)     No Consequences: Villain attempts to take over city, hero arrives to stop villain. Fight ensues. City is leveled, villain is beaten and arrested. Hero flies off into the sunset – who the heck fixes the city or pays for the property damage? If one child threatens the cat and the other arrives to defend it with the house getting wrecked in the meantime – you better believe there are going to be some consequences at my house!

Like any form of mass entertainment today, parents have to be vigilant about what their kids are exposed to since it can have a profound impact on how the child develops. Wil reading comic books or watching super heroes on the big screen turn children to violent and reckless adults? I’d like to think that I turned out okay after a steady adolescent diet of comic books!

However, it’s best to monitor what your children watch and consider what they may be learning from it. Decide for yourself if it will benefit them in later years, and don’t be too quick to dismiss the lasting impact that regular exposure has upon the young and old alike.

After all, a lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth.

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