Yes or No: Kids and Scary Movies
When a child is too young to understand the difference between reality and fantasy, they are probably not going to be able to tell the difference between when it's okay being scared and knowing that no harm will come to them versus when something bad is actually about to happen, meaning parents have to take into account their child's age before letting them watch scary movies.
In this article, we will discuss whether or not kids should be allowed to watch scary movies at all and if so, what age group they should fall under.
1. What age should you let your child watch a scary movie for the first time
When it comes to being age-appropriate to show young children scary movies, the answer varies depending on who you ask.
Some people believe that children under the ages of 12-13 should not be allowed to watch horror films AT ALL, whilst others think even kids as young as five or six believe it does them no harm to be exposed to this type of content - that they will learn at an earlier age, that not everything that looks scary, is.
The answer really isn't straightforward... Not only does it depend on the age of the child; it also depends on the child and their personality.
You know YOUR child - if they have already expressed an interest, it's a much "safer" bet that you're not going to mentally scar them for life by showing them a scary movie.
Consider the movie's rating
If the movie is primarily aimed at young children, it shouldn't be too much of a problem - although watching it with your child/children is always a good idea to be on hand for any explanations needed.
The same goes for movies that are rated R or above; most kids won't be able to follow along with the violent and disturbing imagery in these types of films which means letting your 5-year old an adult horror film is probably not the best idea in the world...
Aside from the nightmares, they would, most likely, experience, no amount of explaining would make up for the fact that it has the potential to cause trauma, even in later life.
Know what you can do to minimize the effects of a scary movie on your child
Even though some parents may think watching something terrifying will "toughen up" their child, this isn't always true which means there are things parents can do to help minimize the effects of a scary movie on their kids.
2. Risks of watching scary movies
There are a number of risks to letting your child watch horror films. For one, if you let them see something scary when they're too young and aren't used to it yet, their brain might not be able to tell the difference between what's real or fake which can cause some kids nightmares or even worse.
Having an overactive imagination that causes them real distress later on down the line.
Another risk is: your child is a long way from being fully emotionally developed and being exposed to things like murder scenes could have lasting negative effects because they don't yet understand how death works and therefore showing them images of people being killed/murdered may lead to discrepancies in their understanding of what happens when someone dies.
3. Tips on how to prepare and protect your kids from being scared when they see their first horror film
Once you have made the decision to allow your child to watch their first scary movie, there are a few things to keep in mind: First of all, make sure YOU are fully aware of the contents of the film, ie. level of scary (violence, blood and gore, etc.) so that you too, are prepared for what you're about to watch.
If your child has asked to watch a certain production, they are likely aware of exactly what they're about to see (this is the kind of thing that, to this day, will rip through a classroom like a wildfire), meaning, if necessary, having a pre-screening of said movie before letting your kids watch might be a good plan of action!
Talk about why they might be feeling scared or anxious after watching a scary movie
If your child does seem anxious or more scared than normal after watching a scary movie, it's important to talk about why they might be feeling that way and remind them that what they saw on screen was just an act.
Explain that what they saw was not real, even though it can sometimes seem real in movies to try to help them understand what they just saw.
Be prepared for nightmares and broken sleep
No matter the age of your child, some scary movies can cause them to have bad dreams which is why doing a little prep beforehand is always a good idea:
- Have an open dialogue about the film beforehand so that they're not left wondering whether or not it's real-life which can cause problems later on down the line when processing events in reality.
- Talk about why they might be feeling scared or anxious after watching a scary movie
- Comforting your kid after seeing something terrifying on television, whether in real life or in a movie, is important for their emotional development.
5. What about TV shows? Or the news?
Even though scary movies are a little more obvious when it comes to monitoring what your kids watch, TV shows should really be given the same treatment - even children's TV contains some elements of "violence" (old shows featuring a certain cat and mouse have been deemed too extreme/explicit to be shown to children and have consequently been banned).
This is not to mention the daily news shows that depict real-life events (on some channels, all-day, every day).
The easy answer would be to switch over or even turn the TV off, however, if letting our children watch scary movies is on the agenda, then perhaps a frank talk about what they see on the news wouldn't go amiss (things can look very similar to a child but they are poles apart).
Most children are curious by nature and if there is something they don't understand, who are we to offer at least some form of explanation?
Keeping the lines of communication open at all times will benefit not only your child but also you.
Do kids and scary movies go together?
There really is no right or wrong answer, as long as parents exercise a little bit of common sense - some people believe that watching horror films might have an adverse effect on children because of their age or developmental stage, but there is no research to support this belief.
It's not easy to know how your kids will react - we recommend talking with them about the movie beforehand and discussing what they think is scary or funny, as well as their fears surrounding it.
We all want to protect our children to the best of our abilities but we can't always prevent them from being exposed to things that are completely outside of our control.
Why not take the little control we do have and ease them into life rather than saving it all for a future age?