Allowing kids to watch scary movies or horror films is a subject that brings out opinions from both sides. Each side is completely sure their opinion is the correct one and that they can back it up with a study.
Therein lies the confusion for some parents. There are many conflicting studies that point in both directions.
One set of studies says kids under 8 may have nightmares or trouble falling asleep, become fearful or anxious, and even get aggressive by imitating characters and scenarios they see in scary movies.
A different set of studies says exposing kids to these movies will help them learn to deal with their fears in a safe environment accompanied by a parent.
I have to confess, my kids were watching horror flicks with me from the time they were able to sit up in their little baby chairs. They did not turn out to be psychos just because they watched Psycho.
Discussing the latest horror flick is one way we continue to bond. We’ve had great fun attending horror film conventions and zombie walks. I’m not suggesting this is the right thing for every kid, because as we know, they’re all different.
Maybe I’m lucky that watching a scary movie didn’t cause my kids to have nightmares or act out in any way, or maybe the discussions we had while watching them helped them realize they were not any more real than a cartoon.
Speaking of cartoons, did you know that a study in the British Medical Journal states that children’s cartoons have 2.5 more violent incidences in them than a horror film?
What’s a parent to do? Like everything else in parenting, you have to know your child. Always watch any movie yourself first. This will allow you to determine if your child can handle it.
You need to use some common sense. If your kid is already afraid of the dark, jumps at the sound of a loud noise, or easily gets anxious or fearful, a scary movie obviously wouldn’t be a good choice.
If you decide to let your kids watch a scary movie, start out with one that is light on violence and has a happy ending. I often would follow a scary movie with a comedy, just to lighten the mood. Reassure them that they are safe with you and movies are like fairy tales and aren’t real.
You can explain how directors use special effects, make-up, scripts, and music to add to create the eerie feeling they are conveying to their audience.
If your child becomes too frightened or freaks-out, it is your responsibility and duty as a parent to immediately shut off the movie or leave the theater. The object is to show them how to deal with fear and have some fun, not to scare them to tears.