Should You let your Kids Watch Scary Movies?

kids watch scary moviesWith this being October, we’ve been talking about Halloween!  We’ve talked about the most popular costumes for the year, and fun non-candy treats.  Now we’re talking about Halloween movies!  After all, ’tis the season for tricks and treats and all things cookey and spooky!

I consider myself blessed that my daughter shares my dislike for the scarier side of Halloween.  I don’t have to worry about going to the Chainsaw Massacre’s Bloody Acres of Darkness or the Terror Caverns and Dread Hollow.  Nope, we hit the carnivals, a couple of trunk or treats, maybe a hayride if we can fit it in.  Then it’s home to watch ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ with hot chocolate while she sorts out her trick-or-treat loot!

But not all families are like mine.  Some of you probably like to get a little scared, especially on Halloween. That is all fine and dandy for us adults.  But what about our kids?  We all hope our kids will like the same things we do and that includes our taste in movies and entertainment.  However, the last thing you want to do is scare your child to the point of having them in your bed every night for the next month!

So, how do we decide when our kids are ready for something scary?

Before 6

By age six, kids are generally starting to be able to tell what is real and what isn’t.  Before then, however, be extremely cautious.  At age 2, toddlers are starting to engage in make-believe.  But from 2 – 4 it can be hard for them to tell the difference between reality and fantasy.

Ages 6-9

At this age, kids can usually tell real from imaginary.  But, not always.  Some kids believe that Superman is real or that you can drive a car like they do in cartoons.  (I was guilty of that last one.)  Movies which are humorous and over the top but without the gore and violence are good choices.  Horror movies which seem to be very realistic, like the ‘Blair Witch Project’ and ‘Misery’ are likely far too intense and easy to confuse with reality.

Ages 10-13

It’s not hard to see by this age, your child is quickly becoming a young adult.  Most of them completely know that movies are all make believe.  (Even the movies ‘based on a true story’ are mostly make-believe.)  This also seems to be the age when kids get the bug to scare themselves.  Either by riding roller coasters or going to haunted houses or being a daredevil – they love the adrenaline rush!

But that doesn’t automatically mean they are ready to watch a scary movie.  At this age, it is very important you know your child’s tolerance to be frightened.  Two kids in this age range can have VERY different reactions to watching the same movie.  Also, at this age, peer pressure can influence a kid’s desire to watch a movie that they normally wouldn’t because ‘all the kids at school have seen it!’

Ages 14 – 16

By this age, most kids have very definite ideas about what they like and don’t like.  (Even if those ideas are instilled in them by their peers.)  It can be incredibly hard to dissuade them from watching a movie that you know is too scary for them.  You likely don’t have to worry about your child diving into your bed in the middle of the night, but they still aren’t too old to get nightmares from something they saw on a movie.

No Matter What Age

  • Scary movies don’t get a free pass to be watched in your home just because it’s Halloween.  If you have a ban on certain types of movies due to swearing, nudity, violence, offensive behavior, etc – these rules apply no matter what holiday it is.
  • Either watch or research the movie yourself first.  Some movies are marketed with toys that can make it feel like they are age appropriate.  Just because they sell a toy for it doesn’t make it a kid’s movie.
  • Also, remember that you know your child best.  You are the best person to decide what they are ready for.  If your gut warns you against a particular movie, go with your intuition.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn the TV off!  Don’t wait until your child is traumatized to decide maybe they shouldn’t be watching this.
  • Have a backup plan.  If the movie gets too intense – or too boring – for your child, have in mind something else that you can do.  A different movie, or maybe a Halloween theme craft, even making treats in the kitchen.

Take Away

Scary Movies are a rite of passage for many families.  But certain movies are just not appropriate for certain age ranges.  It can be tricky deciding what to let your kids watch.  However, you know your child best.  Deciding when he or she is old enough to watch a scary movie is a lot easier when you keep in mind how old your child is, how tolerant they are to being scared and know firmly what you will and won’t allow to be watched in your home.

Is my child ready for scary movie

2 thoughts on “Should You let your Kids Watch Scary Movies?

  1. Wow, Rebecca – brilliant, timely post. Our 13-year-old daughter has suddenly become obsessed with scary movies. And yes, in her case it’s because her best friend is into scary movies. Or maybe they are egging each other on. I am hoping it’s just a phase. 🙂

  2. lol, oh boy! My daughter is also 13 but fortunately, she and her friends are not into scary stuff (at least not yet). I’m so glad you enjoyed and hopefully got something useful out of it!

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