Q: My ten-year-old daughter was recently invited to a party where a scary movie was shown. Out of the eight kids invited, I was the only parent who did not let my child go. Am I being too old fashioned?
A: Considering that some ten-year-olds still believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, I think you made the right call. Exposure to fantastical elements in scary movies— ghosts, predators, monsters, and gore—has a lasting impact on kids.
A 1999 study from the University of Wisconsin found that 90% of college students who reported watching scary movies as a child or adolescent could recall the experience years later. What’s more, 26% reportedly developed what’s known as “residual anxiety” associated with these movies. In other words, some college kids were still experiencing sleep disruption, nightmares, obsessive thinking about the frightening images, and/or avoidance of certain situations because they watched a scary movie as a kid. What’s scarier than that? The study also found that the younger the age of the viewer (toddlers and preschoolers in some cases), the longer the negative effects persisted.
Granted, some kids seem to handle the anxiety better than others, but that really doesn’t seem that reassuring in light of the evidence. I applaud you for not succumbing to parental peer pressure. You’ve also gained another bonus for standing your ground: a full night’s sleep uninterrupted by your daughter’s movie-induced nightmares. Who wouldn’t pass that up?
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