When we think of art we tend to think first of its beneficial effects on society and individuals: The awe-inspiring grace of the Parthenon, the tenderness and majesty of a painting by Vermeer, the endlessness of sky and sun captured by Georgia O'Keeffe, the jewel-like harmoniousness of a Q'ing vase. But just as art has the power to inspire us to perform at our best and to use whatever talents we have to the fullest, it important for us to recognize that art can also have harmful effects on children in two different ways. The first of these is the more troubling: The images contained in some works of art can traumatize children, especially when they are younger. The second way in which art can be harmful (at least from the parents' point perspective) is the images in a work of art run counter to the values and morals that those parents wish to instill in their children. At times a work of art can be traumatic on both levels.
There are real dangers from children's being exposed to violence, whether literal or suggested in works of art and mass media, as summarized below:
An important outcome of the National Television Violence Study was the identification of nine factors associated with the three primary harmful effects of viewing media violence (learning aggression, emotional desensitization, and increased fear and mistrust of others). Information about these factors--such as rewards and punishments, consequences, realism and humor--is being widely disseminated to the entertainment industry and consumers to raise awareness about what may contribute to a program's positive or harmful effects on viewers (http://www.mediascope.org/whtwedo/inits.htm).
But it is not only on television or in the mass media that violence appears in art in ways that can well be harmful to children. An example of fine art that might well be traumatic for younger children at least are the prints made by Kathe Kollwitz. Her simple prints focused on imag...