Superheroes: how do they influence our children?
Can superheroes have a good influence on our children? Yes, they can for instance teach kids to support others or allow them to find their strengths and develop morals.
Identifying with superheroes, in fact, helps children to find solutions; it’s a tool through which children can find the courage to deal with real situations of their life.
Superheroes allow kids to dare, to express brave parts of themselves. They also teach children to acknowledge their vulnerabilities and limits as elements that make them unique; the message is that being different is a plus. This is very important because it is what help kids stay grounded without getting lost in an imaginary world. Identifying with these characters, in fact, doesn’t have to become a getaway from reality but has to remain a fantasy that is helpful for coping with reality and accepting it, also with its flaws. Kids can look up to and learn from superheroes because outside of their costumes they are real people with real problems and vulnerabilities, say psychologists who did research about this topic.
Children, as mentioned, can as well develop morals and generosity through superheroes: superheroes are protectors who fight against villains and the division between the two is strong and clear. Therefore kids learn to distinguish what is good and what is bad and, identifying with the hero, they embody a model; they line up with the good and through this they can discover their values.
We can also notice that Robin, Batman’s sidekick, teaches that you don’t need to be the front man to be successful; it’s fulfilling to get things done in different capacities. This figure shows that everyone needs a sidekick, even a superhero, and therefore it’s absolutely normal to seek help. You don’t always have to take center stage to do good. We are all destined to different roles and it’s important to give our best whatever our role is.
By looking at classic heroes, we can realise how each of them has their own morals.
Batman teaches that you do not need to be born with super powers to be a hero: you become one.
Superman looks like the perfect man, though we know that he makes mistakes as well.
Thing is not a beautiful guy but he develops a great sense of humour that makes him special.
Professor X is a paraplegic, but he possesses one of the most powerful mutant minds of all time. Brains over body, again.
Through heroes children can as well learn to turn negatives to their advantage and develop strong points that make them unique. Especially in a world that constantly proposes us perfect and unattainable models, most of the time revised by photo editing, kids can appreciate and value their flaws; be proud of who they really are.
However, a paper presented by Dr. Sharon Lamb to the American Psychological Association concludes that modern superheroes do not provide positive role models for children: "today’s superhero is too much like an action hero who participates in non-stop violence; he’s aggressive, sarcastic and rarely speaks to the virtue of doing good for humanity. When not in superhero costume, these men, like Ironman, exploit women, flaunt bling and convey their manhood with high-powered guns”.
"Watching modern superheroes beat up villains may not be the best image for boys to see if society wants to promote kinder, less stereotypical male behaviors".
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About Francesca Moresi
Psychologist and psychotherapist qualified in England and in Italy, with over 10 years of study, research and practice with clients from around the world. I am expert in relationship counselling and I believe you are more powerful than you think: my method aims at guiding you towards reaching a unique perspective on life and relationships.