Children and superheroes

February 12, 1997

ANN ARBOR—Television and movie superheroes who are irresistible to children often seem to possess powers children wish they themselves had. Heroes, like Power Ranger and Ninja turtles, seem to be able to solve every problem and overcome all obstacles.

However, warns Su-Fen Lin, director of Children?s Services at the University of Michigan Housing Division, many superheroes settle their problems by fighting. When children play out superhero fantasies, the play can escalate into fights.

If parents and care-givers recognize that children develop play themes around their understanding of roles and situations, says Lin, they can find ways to turn superhero play into a more constructive experience. Here are some guidelines she suggests:

—Monitor the amount of time children spend watching superhero programs.

—Watch with the child or read to the child about peaceful real-life heroes and heroines. Talk about their courage and determination, and how they overcame obstacles without using violence.

—Supervise the child?s play to make sure aggression does not get out of hand.

—Help children recognize other characteristics of their superheroes such as kindness, helpfulness, and mental problem- solving skills.

With careful adult guidance and verbal discussion, says Lin, children can understand the difference between superhero fantasy battles and other ways to solve problems in the real world.