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Gearing Advantage

Doctors Sylvia and Milton Gearing have been serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area since 1985 with compassion and professionalism.

The Gearings implement the latest in psychological research to stay at the cutting edge of their field and bring the most effective and life changing techniques to their clients.

Their methods and strategies have been sharpened over the years, and are now built upon Gearing Up’s Three Gears of Change.

Harry Potter Panic - Nov 18, 2005

Harry Potter Panic

November 18, 2005

Dr. Sylvia Gearing, CBS 11 News

With the latest movie installment of the Harry Potter series, reviewers are describing a more violent, darker Harry. As a result, many parents are wondering whether this movie is appropriate for their child. Here with some advice for parents is Dr. Sylvia Gearing.

Q: Should parents be concerned with a movie that has this much violence?

Dr. Sylvia: Yes, parents need to be quite concerned with any excessive violence in front of their child. Whether this movie, or any other movie, is appropriate for a child depends upon the maturity of that child. The younger the child, the more vulnerable he is to the effects of media violence. The older your child, the better his ability becomes to differentiate between fantasy and reality. But remember, irrespective of your child's age, you must make that call based on several factors. His tolerance of anxiety in general, the circumstances of his life currently and how he has weathered similar movies are all important factors to keep in mind.

Q: Are kids more sophisticated about violence than previous generations?

Dr. Sylvia: They are more familiar with violence than any other previous generation. From a young age, children are now exposed to more graphic violence than ever before. Unfortunately, the studies on exposure to media-depicted violence in childhood are conclusive. Exposure can lead to:

  • Increased anti-social behavior
  • Less sensitivity to the pain and suffering of others
  • Fearfulness of becoming a victim
  • More likely to see the world as a violent place
  • Desensitized to violence

Q: What should parents do with a movie like Harry Potter?

Dr. Sylvia:

Pay attention to ratings: If you are in doubt, you can reference other similar movies or television shows to which your child has been exposed. You can achieve a good understanding of how your child will react to this movie based upon his previous reactions.

Talk to your Child: Research shows that kids, especially between the ages of 8 and 12, want their parents to talk to them about tough issues. Having conversations with your child at this age will encourage their confiding in you when they are teenagers. If you are on the "line" about the movie, have a conversation with your child.

Encourage Child to Talk: Children feel better when they talk out their feelings. If you do go to the movie, and it was frightening, this is a prime opportunity to coach you child into self soothing. Acknowledge his fears and reassure him that he is completely safe. This is a "coach-able" moment in which you can help your child by listening and modeling your own coping skills.

Q: Does a movie like Harry Potter have more impact than reading the book?

Dr. Sylvia: Visual images tend to have much more impact than something we read or hear for most people. With a book, we can psychologically digest it as we live our lives. This process dilutes the psychological impact. Until 9/11, psychologists underestimated the power of visual images. Millions of people had traumatic reactions to the horrible images of the planes. The brain tends to encode a dangerous scene as a way of protecting you from potential harm. Unfortunately, such encoding can also make us highly susceptible to anxiety in the modern era.

Q: How do you explain to your child that their access to Harry Potter is being restricted?

Dr. Sylvia: We have a saying in psychology that parents have to be bigger, wiser and kinder. It is okay to set a limit with your child. You have a responsibility to restrict your child if you are convinced he needs to be more mature before they see the movie. Do not cave in to your child's assertion that "everyone else is doing it." You are not rearing everyone else! Offer an alternative movie or activity that is appropriate and remind your child that he will see the movie in the future. "Not right now" doesn't mean "never!"