Our fascination with violence

October 29, 2004
Toronto Sun
By Joanne Richard

So your kid wants to be Freddy or Jason? Your daughter wants to dress up as assassin Uma Thurman from Kill Bill? Just what's a parent to do?

"What kind of message are we giving our kids by glorifying violence and worshipping psychopaths," asks Dr. Arlette Lefebvre, a renowned child psychiatrist at Sick Kids.

"It's all about survival of the most brutal. And whenever children start taking on the identity of murderers, this is not a good thing," she says. "When violence is encouraged in order to be interesting and entertaining, there's something wrong."

It's a wakeup call for parents, she says. "It's up to parents to take a stand and point out personal values and the discomfort of portraying violent characters. With younger children, you can steer them in the direction of fun and interesting."

Costumes don't have to be gory to be good, says Lefebvre, adding that it's up to parents to encourage homemade, imaginative costumes rather than store-bought killer costumes.

According to Dr. Glenn Sparks, although kids master control of fearful characters by playing them out at Halloween, he finds the increasing goriness a concern and potentially problematic.

"We continue to push the envelope and just where is it going to stop?" asks Sparks. "To what extent do we want to put such gruesome images in the cultural mainstream?"

Sparks ascertains that it impacts on our emotional desensitization: "It's not healthy for our culture overall to be less sensitive to violence in real life."