Here’s a very real, very serious fear of mine:
It’s a few years from now… I’m sitting in my living room late at night. Let’s say I’m playing a video game with my headphones in. I’m zoned into the game when a tiny, thin figure hovers from around the corner and places a pale, cold hand on my wrist.
Of course, it ends up just being my young son after he crawled out of bed, but I don’t realize it in time to stop myself from screaming like a preteen girl, waking up my wife, and terrifying my son. (And probably removing all chance of respect from them in the future.)
I Watched Horror Movies As A Kid (My Wife Didn’t)
The worst part is, that fear is extremely likely to actually occur at some point. I’ve seen A LOT of horror movies. I tend to stay up pretty late most nights. I’ve had chronic insomnia for my entire adult life, so even when I do go to bed early, I end up laying awake until 3 AM. So I’m usually out in the living room, writing, playing games, watching TV, etc.
I tend to seek out really well-crafted horror novels, movies, and shows. I’ve just always liked the genre, ever since I was a kid. I think I started watching Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees movies around 5-8 years old. I watched The Blair Witch Project at 9-years-old. Stephen King books got me really into reading in Junior High (and really into writing later.) So I just kind of grew up with the horror genre.
My wife is exactly the opposite. She never watched horror movies as a kid, so now she refuses to watch them with me. If a movie we’re watching happens to contains scary or intensely suspenseful scenes, my wife leaves the room or hides her face until it’s over.
Should Kids Be Exposed To Horror Movies?
The question that’s been around as long as the horror genre itself. Should kids be allowed to watch scary movies? It’s not a question with an easy answer, or even an individual answer for all children. Whether or not I show horror movies to my kids, that doesn’t necessarily mean you should or shouldn’t. Maybe your child has no interest in scary movies. Maybe they want to prove their bravery by watching one, but can’t handle it. Individual kids are different, so this issue requires some adaptive parenting.
My wife and I have talked about this subject several times, but it’s a hard nut to crack. What age is appropriate? What movies are appropriate? Will it give our kid nightmares? Will it scar him emotionally? Or will it make him braver and more resilient?
If you lean one way toward one or the other, maybe we can break it down so you can see all sides of this argument. Some concerns are probably a little overprotective,
Pros of Exposure to Horror:
- They learn to separate fictional danger from real danger early.
- The Horror genre uses valuable life lessons as narrative tools: Problem-solving, family, community, bravery in the face of adversity, etc.
Cons of Exposure to Horror:
- Possible long-term fears
You Don’t Have To Jump Right Into The R-Rated Movies!
A lot of kids may have started off with Freddy Krueger, Chucky, and Jason Voorhees, but let’s be real, those are going to be really intense for your 8-year-old no matter how brave you think they are.
Thankfully, the horror genre isn’t actually restricted to PG-13 and above. Disney, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network have all focused kid-friendly movies that ease them into “scary” movies. They’re typically Halloween-themed movies like Hocus Pocus. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you probably mostly remember the Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker as quirky witches and a talking cat. But at least one of the supporting characters is surprisingly terrifying for a kid’s movie.
Remember Billy Butcherson?
His backstory (which is explicitly stated in the film) is that he was an “unfaithful lover” to Winifred Sanderson (Bette Midler) and had an affair with Sarah Sanderson (Sarah Jessica Parker), so Winifred poisoned him, sewed his mouth shut with a dull needle, and killed him.
If you had read that description without the context that this was Hocus Pocus, you’d probably keep that movie away from your child at all costs! But chances are, you loved Hocus Pocus as a kid, and you still plan to show it to your kids at some point.
And that’s okay!
Movies like that are made to be watched by kids and families. They have some slightly intense elements, but nothing that’s going to scar them for life. If you’re interested in easing our kids into scary movies, it’s all about deciding what’s age appropriate.
Scary Movies For Kids!
Beginner Scary Movies For Kids
- Halloweentown (1998)
- Hotel Transylvania (2012)
- Goosebumps (2015)
- ParaNorman (2012)
- Casper (1995)
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
- The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- Monster House (2006)
Intermediate Scary Movies For Kids
- Gremlins (1984)
- Army of Darkness (1992)
- Beetlejuice (1988)
- Ghostbusters (1984)
- Tremors (1990)
- The Witches (1990)
Advanced Scary Movies For Kids
- House (1986)
- Stephen King’s IT (1990) or (2017)
- The Lost Boys (1987)
- The Frighteners (1996)