Now, before we start the mommy-shaming, let me just clarify some assumptions you may have from my title. No, I do not just let my daughter watch just anything, and yes, I am always monitoring what she watches. But if she sparks up an early interest in ghosts and Halloween, what’s so wrong with that?
It has been no surprise to my family and friends that my daughter loves all things spooky; ghosts, witches, mummies, and zombies (I blame the Simple Song channel on youtube, if you know, you know). I love watching her walking around the house, acting like she’s a ghost. My favorite is when she walks slowly with her arms out and says “UH OMBIE!”.
The moment I knew she inherited my liking for the “strange and unusual” was when, at the age of one, I took her into the Halloween Spirit store. I was wary of letting her walk around thinking that she would get spooked by the animatronics but not quite. She stepped in front of this and laughed. Since she was too light for its sensor, she kept asking me to do it. The only sense I made of this is that she had mixed up this terrifying decor with Jack Skellington.
Two years later and she has upped her game. Enjoying shows like Haunting of Hill House and other paranormal-themed shows. I stay away from movies like Chucky or any other slasher and snuff films. That is where I draw the line! As much as I love having a scary movie buddy, I think about what her actual understanding is of what is going on. I’ll watch her reactions and see that, rather than being spooked, she is excited for jump scares. In fact, she will request to watch “gos moobies” or “inidus” (Insidious).
But because she is two and her grasp on reality is not yet established, I worry about how this will affect her outlook and imagination. Although she is fine and seems to not be scared at all, I choose to not let her watch scary movies anymore until she is able to understand the difference between reality and movies. Children cannot distinguish the difference between fact and fiction, so I can imagine how damaging horror movies can be on a developing mind.
Every parent, of course, is different and that is ok! I was curious to see other parent’s point of view on this topic so I took this to r/parenting to ask if they would allow their kids to watch horror movies and where they draw the line. I had a mixed response of some that I can relate to and others where they share their negative experiences. Here are a few:
“I grew up in a family where I was the youngest by 14 years. My brother would often be charged with watching me. When I was about 4, he had me watch the exorcist. I had nightmares for weeks. Night terrors on and off for pretty much my entire childhood. While I love the horror genre as an adult, I will still have intensely horrifying dreams. I feel like it is a very bad idea to let a small growing mind be exposed to that kind of content.”
“My daughter loved any spooky thing that had to do with Halloween since she was a baby. She is 5 years old and still the same. I don’t worry about it much as long as it doesn’t look like she’s having bad dreams or being violent. To me is just preference. Some kids love Halloween and scary stuff, other kids obsess over Christmas.”
“My sister and her husband love scary movies, and they always watched around their son until he was 2. He never had any issues or anything but then suddenly he started having really bad night terrors and they haven’t stopped since (as far as I know). He’s almost 3 now and doesn’t sleep through the night/ very well.
I would recommend keeping it pg. My son is 6 and he got scared watching Zootopia when he was 5.”
“My 2 year old also loves Halloween, “spooky” things, and the Nightmare Before Christmas. However, we draw the line at graphic (non-cartoon) violence.
Exposure to graphic violence at tender ages, even through fiction (since toddlers have a hard time telling “real” until about age 4-5), is harmful. Suspense? Sure. Ghosts and ghoulies? Fine. Blood and gore? Not so much.”
Evidently, some parents feel that their children will be perfectly fine while others will strongly disagree. My first scary movie was at 5 years old and since then, I have grown up loving horror movies! And yes, that is where my daughter gets her weirdness from. In spite of everything, I feel like I turned out ok! This all comes down to how you parent and how your child takes it. For future parents to come, communication is key. Wait till your child is able to understand and when they are able to tell you how they feel!