How to Choose a Scary Movie for Your Kid

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Scariness comes from fear of the unknown, from surprise, and from fears about the loss of a loved one. Different things scare different children; it’s not always possible to predict what will frighten a particular kid. Young kids are frightened more by creatures that older children know don’t exist. Abrupt noises, eerie sounds, and music create tension in both younger and older children. Psychological suspense, with its threats of impending doom, can terrify your middle-school kids.

Movies with scary images, intense danger, loud noises, and — above all — blood and gore, can create all sorts of disturbances. Among them are anxiety, sleep disruption, and fears about possible situations. Children younger than 7 can’t easily distinguish between fantasy and reality –- even if you tell them “it’s not real.” You will know if your kids have become too frightened when they start having sleep problems, irrational fears, and obsessions with things like zombies. Scary and disturbing images and sounds can affect vulnerable kids for years.

Tips for parents of all kids

  • Know what they’re watching -– and whether it’s appropriate. Check out Common Sense Media reviews, which offer age recommendations and provide age-appropriate selections.
  • Practice your poker face. Some research suggests that kids will become more scared if they see that you are scared by something in a movie or on TV.
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