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A Nightmare on Film Street

With Halloween peeking its head around the corner, many households are a buzz with the upcoming beastly bash! Who doesn’t enjoy dressing up, tacky decorations, yummy treats, themed parties, and scary movies? 

Each year, our eager mini “Halloweeners” dive deeper into the frightful feast, and it makes these traditions so much more exciting! From the costumes, decorations, pumpkin carvings, and trick-or-treating, we relish in all the festivities together.

I can’t wait to start incorporating scary movies into the mix. Our seven and five year olds aren’t quite ready yet, so I’ll be happy to wait it out and enjoy another round of the Addams Family or Monsters, Inc. or maybe introduce them to the original Ghostbusters this year. I was casually sharing my Halloween theatrical lineup in a parent group when I came across several (very vocal) parents with little to no child restrictions on movie watching. I was quite shocked to hear fathers out there watching movies like Friday the 13th, Joker, and IT with their young kids!

We’ve all seen how parents get very defensive (especially online) when parenting advice is shared. But some of the more intelligible discussions I read were around how kids should learn that movie violence isn’t real and that they all develop at different rates. 

Yes, I agree that we must teach kids about the magic behind movies and that what they see on screens is fake. But perhaps we can teach these lessons with screen violence that is a little less extreme…for example, Spiderman cartoons. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that we should be more vigilant and restricting access to what our children are watching, especially when media has become so unfiltered and easily accessible. Exposure to screen violence at young ages is directly connected to lack of empathy for others, nightmares, anxiety, and behaviour problems. 

And while some kids “can handle it”, simply telling kids that the images they see aren’t real doesn’t change the fact that many young children are still working on differentiating between fantasy and reality. We might be creating confusion, fueling desensitization, and exposing our kids to developmentally inappropriate content (such as aggressive behaviours) which kids often mimic and accept as normal in their limited world views.

Besides, when it comes to watching scary or violent movies with our kids, what’s the rush? I fully expect that my boys will enter a stage in the near future where they’ll beg to binge-watch horror flicks. When the time comes and they’re ready, I’ll be right there watching with them!

Frank Emanuele is a proud father of two boys, a special education teacher, and a director of Dad Club London.


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