Is It Okay To Let My Child Watch Scary Movies?

Now that Halloween season has arrived so have the endless list of scary movie marathons that go hand in hand with the spookiest night of the year. It's hard to turn on the television without seeing a commercial for the latest big box office horror flick, and even kid's channels like Disney often have their own 'child friendly' spooky fare to get your little ones in the Halloween mood.

It's often hard to decide whether your child is ready to make the transition from the Disney-fied spooky movies that play during prime time to those more grown up scary movies that streaming sites promote endlessly during the entire month of October.

Scary movies can be totally fun if your child is mature enough to understand that they're completely made up, and they can also be a literal nightmare if your child is simply too young to not be terrified of what they've just watched. Parents often end up sleeping with their children for days and sometimes weeks on end after they've watching a scary movie that was a little too intense for them.

Kate Oliver, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker suggests there are some ways for parents to decide if their child is ready to watch scary movies. She tells parents to assess whether their child acts younger, or older than their actual age. If they act younger, it may be better to let the child wait before watching anything too scary. She also suggests that if your child scares easily, it may be best to hold  off on the horror movies.

"You can’t un-watch the movie," she writes. She also suggest delaying watching scary movies if you child has a history of trauma until they're old enough to understand that scary movies aren't real.

child scared
Credit: iStock / Bluehousestudio

Still, others feel that exposing children to scary movies when they're young is crucial to their development. Whit Honea is an author and father of two boys, and he wrote why he thinks it's important for kids to see scary movies.

"As a parent I appreciate the opportunity to address such topics in a manufactured and clearly fictionalized environment," Honea wrote. "Kids need to know what fear feels like, if even for a safe, small moment, and I would much rather they first recognize it while holding my hand in a quiet theater than someplace lonely and lacking in comparisons, contrast and overpriced popcorn. Experience with fear now will only serve children better when they face the real thing. It is one more layer in the protections that we give them, and there is nothing scary about that," he said.

Parents seem to be mostly split on the matter on Debate.org, with 57% suggesting that kids should watch horror movies. Rebel Circus suggests letting kids watch scary movies because not only does it allow them to differentiate between what's real and what's fake, but it also feel a bit more mature for being allowed to watch. At the end of the day, no one knows your child and what they can handle as well as you do, so you know whether your child should be watching scary movies or not. However, if they happen to know the Netflix password, be prepared they just might be watching without you knowing!

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