Boy Mimicking Cartoon in Sandbox Stunt Dies

"Kids are little sponges, they learn from everything," Gentile said, adding that in the '50s and '60s there was a spike in the number of boys visiting emergency rooms after accidents in which they were acting like Superman. "There isn't something magical about this show."

Gentile drew a distinction between shows, movies and games that are clearly fictional and media featuring realistic criminal behavior. The latter, he said, is much more likely to prompt dangerous behavior. As always, he added, parents should be reminded to talk to their children about the media they are exposed to.

Like Gentile, Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta and a professor at Emory University's School of Medicine, said there's nothing new about a child imitating a superhero — from Batman and Superman decades ago straight through to today's characters. "It goes back as long as there's been superheroes," she said.

But as children become more closely engaged in the process of play, Kaslow said, they do not think of the consequences their mimicry might have. "They are so focused on their activities, they are not thinking clearly," she said.

With so many children pretending to be superheroes around the world, Codey Porter's story is truly an extreme case, Kaslow said, but one that provides parents another lesson in awareness.

"You don't want to blame the show because millions of kids watch the show and don't take it to this limit," she said. "It's not the show's fault, it's not the kid's fault, it's not the parents' fault.

"That's what an accident is."

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