Are there benefits to letting kids watch scary movies?

Anthony Breznican, of Entertainment Weekly magazine, recently argued in EW’s new family section of the website that there are benefits to letting kids be scared by movies.

Here is what Breznican said in Entertainment Weekly:

“Now, I don’t believe young children should watch The Exorcist. And I’m not sure humans of any age should watch the likes of Saw III. So we all have our opinions, and some are more easily agreed upon than others. That’s always how it will be. But as my generation of kids has turned into the parents, we’ve made a virtue out of sheltering our own children from any ghoul or ghostie less friendly than Casper. That can only lead to kids growing up to fear their own shadows. Generation X is raising Generation Ahh!”

“There’s a reason we crave scares, whether it’s the free-fall of a roller coaster or the dread of a Stephen King novel. As we clutch the edges of Pet Semetary, reading about a father resurrecting his deceased little boy, it’s the actual terror of losing a child that underpins the horror. The supernatural elements, if anything, are like those cushioned roller coaster straps that lock us in and make us safe before the plunge – this just feels dangerous, but it’s all pretend. It’s a defense mechanism as our psyches seek out the worst-case scenario….”

“Yes, we have to think about what’s appropriate for any given age, and yes, all kids are different. But to deny them access to the macabre entirely only creates a mind with a false sense of security. If we don’t let kids safely poke around the dark corners of their imaginations, how will they ever find out what’s hiding there?”

My kids are fairly sheltered from scary movies. I don’t like slasher movies and they have never seen anything close to those. (I do like adventure movies with surprising scares that make you jump but I don’t like any movies that show people being mutilated or killed.) We have just started watching some mildly scary movies like “Beetlejuice” or “The Nightmare before Christmas.”

Do you let your kids watch scary movies? How scary? What is an appropriate scary movie for kids, tweens, teens? Do you see benefits to these movies? (Check back in at noon for some great Tween “scary” movies ideas.)

33 comments Add your comment

Kat

October 31st, 2012
6:54 am

I’ve let my kids watch scary movies for a while – if you consider “The Nightmare Before Christmas” scary, as I’m sure some do. We don’t go any further than that into scary movies yet. The kids are still under 12.

I didn’t realize there were so many scary movies for kids these days. I guess mine will have to wait a few years for some of them.

Kat

October 31st, 2012
6:55 am

Don’t forget everyone! Traffic is HORRIBLE in Atlanta on Halloween. Leave work early to get home in time for everything!

Mayhem

October 31st, 2012
8:08 am

And if you are driving at night, please watch out for the little ghosts & goblins!!!

And parents, don’t follow you kids in the car. Get out and walk with them. Get a few neighbors and go as a group. I can’t stand to see some parent sitting in the car, while the kid is going door to door. Get out and walk, get some exercise, and take care of your kids! I believe it’s more dangerous. The kids are blinded by your headlights and can’t see around your vehicle when they are darting from house to house. They aren’t paying that much attention, they are focusing on candy, and getting to the next house as soon as possible.

But most of all PAY ATTENTION!!! And wear reflective clothing. And to the drivers, slow down just a little bit. Let’s not have any accidents tonight.

My public service announcement is now over. Your regularly scheduled program will continue……

Voice of Reason

October 31st, 2012
8:11 am

I let my kids watch some scary movies. My 5 year old is much more sensitive than my 8 year old about such things. He told me he had nightmares after watching The Matrix with me one night. But he loves Ghostbusters but I try to be cognizant of what I have on TV and whether he should be able to handle it or not.

The scariest thing for me this Halloween is what the future holds for Star Wars now that Disney bought Lucasfilm.

motherjanegoose

October 31st, 2012
8:11 am

@ Mayhem…thanks for the reminder: “I can’t stand to see some parent sitting in the car, while the kid is going door to door. ” This is what I do not like about Halloween. We do not have many little kids in our neighborhood, as most have moved on to college or out on their own. We do have lots of folks who come in to our niehgborhood and drive. To me, it is dangerous.

Mayhem

October 31st, 2012
8:23 am

My kids have been watching scary movies since they were young. We used to have Friday Night Scary Movie-junk food night. They’ve seen just about every scary movie that’s out there. Halloween, Friday the 13th, Saw, etc….Criminal Minds is their favorite tv show.

Me, in my old age, am not a fan of scary movies anymore. I don’t like gore. What I do like is a good psychological scary movie….less gore, but they sure do make you scared.

M.E.

October 31st, 2012
8:31 am

You do have to gauge how sensitive the kids are. When the kids became sensitve, we stepped back and used the rating system, i.e., PG-13 meant you had to be 13 to watch whatever. When it was a popular movie, like Harry Potter, we waited until it was on DVD and the kids watched it at their own pace, able to turn it off it got too scary. Don’t take kids to the theater if it might be too scary for them; it’s bigger and more in their face and they can’t leave so easily. Both kids came back as older teens and thanked me for sticking to my guns about age-appropriateness on movies, and thinking about their emotional welfare.

Voice of Reason

October 31st, 2012
8:39 am

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Me

October 31st, 2012
9:00 am

My mom loved scary movies so when my sister and I were younger (I was around 9 or 10) she started letting us watch them. This is how she prepared us. The first few times she rented the making of the movie, and let us watch it. Then she let us watch the actual movie. From then on we were never scared.

kimmer

October 31st, 2012
9:13 am

“Yes, we have to think about what’s appropriate for any given age, and yes, all kids are different. But to deny them access to the macabre entirely only creates a mind with a false sense of security. If we don’t let kids safely poke around the dark corners of their imaginations, how will they ever find out what’s hiding there?”

Hm..What did kids do prior to the early 20th century when there was no such thing as movies? Relied on books and stories I suppose. That seems like a better way to explore one’s imaginations than a movie. Plus, if you trust the ratings system how many scary movies are there out there that are suitable for a preteen?

Techmom

October 31st, 2012
9:38 am

I liked scary movies when I was a kid but not so much now. Not sure what changed except maybe I don’t have time to watch a lot of movies and scary ones are usually the worst ones (crappy acting) so I spend my time watching better made movies.

I remember watching Children of the Corn when I was about 6 at a friends’ house when we were being babysat. My mom was only pissed b/c my brother, who is older than me, watched it to but he’s the one who had nightmares from scary stuff. It really just depends on the kid I think.

I never really let my son watch them when he was younger but that’s again, mostly b/c I didn’t watch them. He watched Paranormal Activity with my bro-in-law a couple of years ago (so he was about 15) and he said that did freak him out (and my bro-in-law as well… apparently they slept with a light on after watching it!!) But it didn’t stop him from wanting to watch the 2nd one when it came out.

Techmom

October 31st, 2012
9:43 am

Oh and to answer the question- do I think scary movies are beneficial? No. I think they’re entertaining to some people but no one is gaining any real-life skills by watching them. Unless I guess it sparks a kid to want to try hard in school so he/she can become a scary movie producer or costume designer later in life, I can’t imagine there being some profound value in scary movies.

JOD

October 31st, 2012
10:02 am

@Techmom – LOL, “profound value” – too funny.

We’re not to this point yet. DD does love The Wizard of Oz, and has just recently decided that the Wicked Witch might scare ME. She tells me I don’t have to watch if I’m too scared :o)

@Mayhem – Sir, thank you. In our old neighborhood, which was huge and full of kids on Halloween from our neighborhood and others, parents would often drive kids from house to house. The amount of traffic was obnoxious and I felt bad for the kids.

JOD

October 31st, 2012
10:03 am

I just realized that for some reason, I think Mayhem is a man. Hmmm. Revise that to “Sir or Ma’am”!

FCM

October 31st, 2012
10:19 am

A few years ago the kids were 7 and 9. They had a buddy coming to a Halloween night at our house after T or T (it was a Friday or Sat night). The buddy was 8. The mother had a fit about how scary “hocus pocus” (disney with Bette Middler, Kathy Najimi, and Sarah Jessica Parker as the witches) was and they could not watch it as it would give her child nightmares. So when the kid left we watched it. To this day I think it is silly the way the mom reacted.

A few years later the same child spent the night at my house (her mother knew me better) while the mom was on a date. She called every 2 hours to see what the kids were doing–and had me on speaker phone. I finally said Jello Shots and Watching Texas Chainsaw Mascare. We are doing Pschyo next you want to join us? Her date (who knew me) cracked up and said you know FCM is not going to do that. (They were actually watching High School Musical 2 and Charpay is scary enough).

This weekend as Halloween treat we watched Dark Shadows. My oldest (13) said it was the right speed of scary for her age. Her sister got bored and went to play with the dog.

Both have seen all the Harry Potters and the Twilights. Scary has it’s place…although I am not advocating Saw III for them.

FCM

October 31st, 2012
10:22 am

TWG…my 2 found Beetlejuice (last year) and Ghostbusters (2 years ago) to be very funny.

Scooby

October 31st, 2012
10:31 am

I thought Beetlejuice was more funny, not scary. I saw the original Bad Seed when I was 8 or so. Still one of my all time favorite movies. Rhoda was one scary little girl!

Mayhem

October 31st, 2012
10:42 am

@JOD – FYI it’s Ma’am…..I am a woman…. :))

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 31st, 2012
10:58 am

I’ve had moms say no Harry Potter — my rule on HP was they had to read the book before they could see the movie so they were older with each movie as it got darker. (The first ones are pretty benign — those end ones are pretty dark)

Judge Smails

October 31st, 2012
11:10 am

I recall seeing “Dracula has risen from the grave” at about ten or so… Scared the living $%#@ out of me!

My youngest (8 at the time), saw “I know what you did last summer”. She is 14 now and still has nightmares about that movie.

Each kid is different, but the Hollywood types know how to scare kids and grown-ups very well.

JOD

October 31st, 2012
11:20 am

@Mayhem – Sorry, ma’am! ;o) At any rate – awesome post!

It’s funny that what terrifies one person (any age) is just good, clean fun to others. Paranormal Activity 1 & 2 scared the everliving cr@p out of me. I mean, watch during the day and sleep with the lights on, scared. DD thinks they are such fun and wants me to see 3 & 4. Nope.

Judge Smails

October 31st, 2012
11:24 am

Oddly enough, ” Rosemary’s Baby” is by far the scariest movie I have seen. There is no blood, gore or monsters, but its what is implied that makes it so scary.

PS

October 31st, 2012
11:33 am

I hate scary movies. HATE HATE HATE them. The scariest I get is Harry Potter. I refused to watch Gremlins as a kid, and still do to this day. Ha! So, I’m not really thinking I’ll let my kids watch a lot of scary movies, mostly because I don’t enjoy them myself.

However, I really have no problem with scary books. I guess because I can let my own brain decide how macabre my visual is going to be.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

October 31st, 2012
11:52 am

I didn’t see Rosemary’s Baby until I was an adult and it scared the crap out of me.

My brother loves slasher movies and I just cannot tolerate them at all!!

FCM

October 31st, 2012
12:19 pm

Hunger Games with the kids killing each other is pretty scary….That and Twilight they had to read first.

HP they are starting to read now and I do not regret they saw the movies first (except they did read book 7 before 7.2 came out in theater).

Mayhem

October 31st, 2012
12:40 pm

The Exorcist. My mom would NOT allow me to go see that movie as a kid. It came out when I was a teenager……

I saw it years later, and it scared the crap out of me and I’ve never seen it again.

The Omen was a scary one too……I won’t watch anything that has to do with the devil….

Wayne

October 31st, 2012
1:04 pm

The first scary move that I saw was “The Blob”. I remember leaving the living room and then hiding behind the couch, peeking out to watch it. Scared the bejesus out of me. That was a very long time ago…

FCM

October 31st, 2012
1:20 pm

Alien was good and scary the first time around.

Cynic

October 31st, 2012
2:02 pm

My mom encouraged me to read the Exorcist when I was 10 or 11. I then saw the movie when I was 11 or 12. I will say that the book is extremely adult while the movie takes it down a notch (if you can believe that). I certainly was mature enough at the time to handle the book and the movie but the content forced some discussions that I don’t think my mom was ready to have at the time. Now I am a HUGE fan of halloween and every kid in the neighborhood loves my decorations every year.

At age 7 I saw the 1950’s version of the blob at summer camp and had nightmares for 2 years.

Its all about timing.

Personally I don’t think that anyone of any age should see films like Saw, Hostle, and other gratuitously violent films that simply pander to the violent core of humanity. I found Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Toby Hooper version) equally disturbing for all the same reasons. If we want to see that base level of humanity we can turn on the news or watch a presidential press conference (both parties). Nobody needs to add to that, encourage that, or glorify that.

Cynic

October 31st, 2012
2:04 pm

Glad to see that someone else found the blob very scary. I saw it again as an adult and laughed most of the way through. Couldn’t understand what my problems were as a kid, but then as I said, all about timing.

Wayne

October 31st, 2012
2:39 pm

@Cynic: I haven’t seen The Blob since I was a kid. I’d probably laugh at it now. But I’m not so sure about that…. It was pretty dang scary! LOL

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

October 31st, 2012
2:41 pm

best line ever in beetljuice.

“i’ve seen The Exorcist about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every time I see it!!!”

Lucky

November 5th, 2012
10:37 pm

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