Con: Not in my house

Con: Not in my house

Exposing children to horror movies will likely lead them to copy the behaviors being displayed, as well as cause mental problems later on.

Watching scary movies is a staple for thousands of kids worldwide, whether it is “Resident Evil,” “Swamp Thing,” or “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” While parents are not to blame in any way, children, tweens and teens shouldn’t be exposed to the graphic, violent and often traumatic nature of horror movies until they are emotionally mature enough. 

There are several reasons for this. One is the level of gore, violence, and sex often associated with the genre. Arguments are often made to support the theory that ingesting violent media may lead to copying violent behavior and desensitization of the viewer. While I am not quite ready to pin the responsibility on horror movies alone, it may be one of the factors that contribute to the development of violent behaviors.

In an article written for the Michigan State University Extension website, Carrie Shrier, an Early Childhood Educator, states that children are great at imitating behavior. “Young children can, and will, copy what they see happen on television,” Shrier wrote.

Nudity and sex are also a staple of horror movies, particularly slashers. The representation of this is also often very one-sided, with female characters being given this treatment much more often than men. In many horror movies, there are often scenes of a  female protagonist sprinting across the lawn with a bathrobe barely covering her chest, while a knife-wielding maniac chases after her.

Such displays of violence and vulgarity can’t be healthy for a developing mind. An article on the Association for Psychological Science website cites Dr. Ross O’Hara from the University of Missouri. O’Hara argues that adolescents exposed to increased sexual content in movies engage in sexual activity at an earlier age, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use contraception.

Allowing children to watch horror movies can lead them to develop anxiety, sleep disorders, and aggressive behaviors, claims a study published by the Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital of New York-Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center.

The elephant in the room remains. What is the appropriate age for a child to start watching horror movies? The answer is different in every case and depends on the individual’s level of emotional maturity.

Once a child can separate fact from fiction, avoid copying unsavory behaviors, and prevent the imagery and scares of a horror movie from affecting them, they should be mature enough to watch Jason Voorhees chasing unaware camp counselors without the fear of it permeating into their developing psyche.

Either way, it is better to be safe than sorry and avoid allowing your kids to watch horror movies for as long as possible.