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The scene opens with Bruce Willis talking — in his role as John McClane — to a group of thugs. Things quickly get heated in “Live Free or Die Hard,” and in less than 17 seconds he shoots three men in the head, spraying blood everywhere.

A parent watching the film as part of an Annenberg Public Policy Center study — the first violent clip the group sees that day — likely says his child can see the movie when he is 17 years old.

Five scenes later, the parent sees John Connor struggling to survive in a fight against a Terminator robot in “Terminator Salvation.” After a few seconds of struggling, Connor rapidly fires a machine gun at the robot, killing it.

By this time in the study, the parent probably responds that his child can watch this film when he is about 14 years old.

This type of response is what Annenberg Public Policy Center researchers found when studying parents’ reactions to violence and sex in films. After exposure to films with either violence or sex — shown to parents in a random order — the age that parents gave as the minimum for their child to watch these films dramatically decreased, according to the study released on Monday morning.

At first, the parents’ average response was that their child could watch the film when he or she was 16.9 years old. After the second clip, parents generally lowered the minimum age for their child to watch the film by about one year. By the end of the first six clips — which were a mix of R- and PG-13-rated clips — parents were willing to let younger teens watch these movies, giving ages of approximately 13.9 years old for violent films and 14 years old for films with sex.

“We didn’t expect such rapid desensitizing,” said Dan Romer, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and the lead author of the study. “This tells us parents aren’t able to act as gate keepers” of the content that their children are watching, he said, because they were not able to accurately judge whether a film was appropriate for their child, compared to past movie standards.

Despite the different conditions that the 1,000 parents in the study were tested under — including PG-13- versus R-rated movies and robot versus human violence — nothing significantly impacted the age at which parents said children should be able to view these movies.

“The rating didn’t matter, they all generally had the same reaction,” Romer said.

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