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Should Young Children Be Exposed to Horror Movies–Even Animated Ones?

When my young son saw the preview of the animated movie Frankenweenie, he sat bug-eyed and then covered his face with a cushion. I wish I’d known the movie’s content before allowing the trailer to play. That night, he couldn’t sleep. The images of a sewn-together dog, albeit animated, was keeping him awake.

ParaNorman is another new animated, 3D horror-comedy. It’s about a young boy who communicates with the dead and is called upon to fight ghosts and zombies who threaten his town.

I know that scary movies for kids is not a new phenomenon. Ghostbusters, Beetlejuice and Gremlins are just a few examples of horror movies that cater to a young audience. But because they’re animated, are Frankenweenie and ParaNorman being marketed to an even younger audience–possibly as young as preschool? And if this is the case, is such exposure to the dark and paranormal inappropriate or just a bit of fun?

Frankenstein is definitely not a movie for children, so why would Hollywood make a child’s version of the story? I don’t know the content of the whole movie, but when I saw the preview, I found it disturbing for a young child. And the idea that a boy brings his dead dog back to life is just horrible.

Critics of these movies are questioning whether they’re actually child-friendly. Not only because of the content of the movies, but also because of the themes of talking to the dead, or bringing a dead dog to life. Some have gone further and think these types of movies desensitize children.

Advocates for kids’ horror movies suggest that children should be exposed to these kinds of films because they reflect the realities of life–not that the themes are real, but that life can be horrific. Children shouldn’t be sheltered, they argue.

When I was a child, I used to watch horror movies out of curiosity, but they would haunt my dreams night after night. I’d be afraid to go to the bathroom and sometimes stepping into a dark room would cause heart palpitations.

Even as an adult, scary movies had a negative effect on me. I have a vivid imagination. For this reason, I stopped watching scary movies about 10 years ago. One day I just decided I didn’t want that kind of stuff contaminating my subconscience. I didn’t want the images replaying in my mind. And in turn, I don’t want my children carrying those images in their minds, either.

I also agree with some of the critics who suggest that these movies are desensitizing. I’m really not comfortable with the idea that my children are used to watching horror movies, or that they won’t feel the need to cover their eyes when ghosts or zombies or demonic creatures present themselves on the screen.

I don’t want my children feeling that way. And I don’t believe that watching scary movies made me a stronger person. In fact, I think they made me more fearful.

For the record, both these movies are rated PG. The Dove Foundation reviewed them, giving Frankenweenie a four-dove rating and recommending it for ages 12 and older. ParaNorman, however, was rated “Not Dove Family-Approved.”

Ladies, do you believe that these movies are appropriate for young children? Do you enjoy watching scary movies?

Image: Thinkstock | istockphoto

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40 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by amyriedelc on April 14, 2014 at 17:12

    I haven’t personally seen any of these movies and from what you have said I do agree that a child (depending on the age) shouldn’t be watching a movie such as this. ALTHOUGH I do NOT agree when people say things such as below and I quote “I don`t agree with you, because I think some horror movies isn`t appropriate for any christians to watch, because they teaches something else than the bible, but I also know some people are more sensitive than others.” Many movies teaches things other than the bible. You can’t simply stereotype horror movies or the people that watch it, it isn’t fair. I LOVE horror movies so much, most people would say I’m quite obsessed. I know anything and everything about them and people often come to me for a good horror movie to watch. I am 17, I have seen so many horror movies and I will agree that many aren’t for children to watch (seeing that majority are rated M, MA and R) but for the ones that are rated lower I suggest watching them before letting your child watching it because these days, you never fully know if it is appropriate just by looking at the rating. For instance, the original Carrie, made in 1976, was rated R and the remake, made in 2013 was rated MA. I tell you now that 2013 was so much more gory, violent and disturbing. 2013 version should be R while the original should be MA. I was shocked with the content of 2013 version especially when I saw the rating of MA.
    Children shouldn’t necessarily be watching these child horror movies unless you know they are stable and ready to watch it. Otherwise watch it before they watch it. But I do get you because you wouldn’t think a preview would be all that scary. I don’t know how old your child is, but maybe he is just a bit of a scaredy cat (not being rude, I have a 8 year old sister that is scared of Disney Princess movies, so I’m not taking a shot at your kid). Anyways, I love horror movies, I love God, I think people need to stop stereotyping people that watch horror movies because everyone has a different perspective of movies for example I hate romance movies, probably because I am not with anyone so I hate watching them.
    GO HORROR MOVIES! haha

  2. sisterwhocares

    Posted by sisterwhocares on November 2, 2012 at 19:01

    Scariness and necromancy isn’t the only controversial thing in ParaNorman. I actually found out that in that movie they mention that a kid is gay. WAIT!!! WAIT!!! Don’t accuse me of being a homophobic yet, let me have my say.

    The problem I have with bringing up gay people in movies for children (after all, ParaNorman is marketed to children, despite its frights) is that it was a very indiscreet move. Parents should not be forced to explain to their six year old the meaning of “gay” if that kid isn’t ready (again, like horror, explaining homosexuality to children can differ per age/personality type). Gay relationships are a more mature theme for adults and older teenagers, and should not be revealed to young kids (which the movie targets). I am not saying this out of homophobia. I am saying this because, again, parents may not be ready to talk to young kids about this stuff (some young kids are mature enough, but most won’t fully understand). So, the movie is not only scary, but indiscreet. If you are going to mention sexual orientation differences in it, at least market it to older kids/teens/adults, not 6 and 7 year olds.

  3. maroschkar7

    Posted by maroschkar7 on October 30, 2012 at 01:48

    Horror movies and Halloween is forbidden in our house. We may not bring any of that into our home, and for that I love my Parents because it helps us to grow closer to God.

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by narutolover4ever on October 26, 2012 at 06:58

    I liked frankinweenie aside from the fact it rememinded me of my dead dog. it was a cute movie. and I wasnt scared at all

  5. Joni

    Posted by Joni on October 22, 2012 at 15:13

    I do not think that little kids should watch Horror movies

  6. LittleMissGrace

    Posted by LittleMissGrace on October 22, 2012 at 12:16

    It depends on the age of the child I wouldn’t reccomend showing them something like nightmare on elm street or psycho however something like Harry Potter or Haloweentown would be okay.

  7. applebypie123

    Posted by applebypie123 on October 21, 2012 at 16:24

    I’m 14 now, but I don’t think I would have found frankenweenie at all scary when I was little, because I don’t think it has scary themes, paranorman on the other hand I do think is inappropriate because it’s about a boy who sees and communicates with dead people and that’s pretty occult it seems like to me, so parents wouldn’t have let me see it anyway, but frankenweenie does not look at all scary and I am/was the most easily scared person lol

  8. Project Inspired

    Posted by BeStillAndBreath98 on October 21, 2012 at 15:58

    I have never been interested in scary movies (beside the scary movie parody movie’s lol) and honestly frankinweenie or whatever doesn’t look interesting at all.Depends on the kid.But I just don’t wanna mess with my spirit like that so that’s why I avoid it.

  9. lauramae

    Posted by lauramae on October 21, 2012 at 01:10

    I was allowed to watch scary movies as a child I cant watch scary movies today for being afraid of a scary monster I’m 18 now! I stopped watching scary movies when I was a tween but then decited to give it a try by watching I am legend it gave me the creeps and I havnt watched a scary movie sence! I think that if I hadnt have been so scared as a child watching scary movies I wouldnt be so afraid of watching them today!

  10. Project Inspired

    Posted by Maddie on October 20, 2012 at 20:41

    First of all, this post is a bit dramatic. Movies are a form of expression and they are a work of art. I think that instead of whining about what the industry keeps putting out, just stick to your own movies. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it. That’s very simple. Too many of us whine and complain about this and that movie or show or whatever and don’t think about the fact that we can just turn it off!
    Don’t live your life in such a way that you can’t enjoy anything because you can’t see past the labels. Enjoy your life and live it to the fullest! I doubt God cares if you see Frankenweenie.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by on October 21, 2012 at 10:50

      That is so true. The group of mothers in my husband’s old homeschool group was the kind of group that if one of them found something offensive in a book or a show, she would have to keep talking about how horrible it was and show the offensiveness to the other mothers. Then they would keep looking at whatever it was and rail on pointlessly about how bad it was instead of just knowing they didn’t agree with it and put the thing away. :p

  11. texasgirl

    Posted by texasgirl on October 20, 2012 at 14:18

    No, scary movies are NOT appropiate for little kids. I enjoy watching good scary movies, like Signs, The Village, and weeping angel episodes of doctor who. I love doctor who. and stargate.

  12. Julez22

    Posted by Julez22 on October 20, 2012 at 11:59

    I am creeped out by the Frankenweenie previews. It’s weird how it’s spooky yet animated. Is its for kids or adults?

  13. Dee

    Posted by Dee on October 20, 2012 at 07:09

    I’ve watched Doctor Who since I was ten, but I was never personally affected by the scary stuff. (Don’t give me that, “It’s not scary,” crap. Try telling that to my little sister who wouldn’t sleep Sunday nights for quite awhile.) I’ve also watched plenty of scary movies. I think that it depends on the child. For me, scary stuff was fun. It’s a little thrill when the monster that you’ve been anticipating comes on screen. It never really made me more fearful, and hasn’t affected the way I view real life in any way. However, it did, and still does, scare my little sister very badly. She won’t go to bed when I watch her while my parents are away because she’s frightened of a lot of different things that might happen. Werewolves and robbers and random people watching her sleep. (I’m not 100% sure where the fear of people watching her came from.) We’ve known for a long time that she’s easily scared, so we didn’t let her watch scary stuff. My parents recently decided that they needed to let her start making decisions like that for herself. She’s drawn to scary stuff. *eye roll*

    My point is that it’s different for each child. I definitely wouldn’t let a kid under the age of 8 or 9 watch scary stuff. But after that age, it might be okay if the child doesn’t seem to get too caught up in it, or too scared by it.

    Frankenweinie didn’t sound all that interesting to me, in fact it kind of made me sad to see that this kid couldn’t leave things alone. Once a creature’s dead, why would you want to bring them back? That’s one movie I won’t be seeing. 😛 Paranorman seemed cute, but I’m not rushing to the theaters to see it either.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by on October 20, 2012 at 13:45

      I’m going to ask you a question. A question that freaks my best friend out whenever it’s asked: “Are you my mummy?” :p

  14. Paris

    Posted by Paris on October 20, 2012 at 00:48

    Young children should not watch scary movies,unless they are Scooby-Doo type of movie. Meant to be kid scary and funny. You know,it dosen’t scare them because the scare level has been really watered down.

  15. Marianna

    Posted by Marianna on October 19, 2012 at 21:00

    Depends on how graphic it is or not and what the parents think. The parents might want to watch it beforehand to see whether or not they want their kids to see it or not. Tim Burton movies tend to be on the questionable side.

  16. unicorns4567

    Posted by unicorns4567 on October 19, 2012 at 19:35

    i,honestly think that it is bad to watch that kind of stuff because it has witchcraft in it. i mean anything that has to do with talking to the dead is witchcraft. plus in the movie frakenweenie they think that God isn’t real. and we all know that God is real. i know this because if you see in the trailer about the science teacher doing something to a frog, or something, it made me doubt. but i still believe. but it can disturb your faith. Oh and God say’s you should not mess with that kind of stuff.

  17. Project Inspired

    Posted by BabyDoll on October 19, 2012 at 16:02

    Well, I’m certainly not a fan of scary movies, but I feel that shows based on surrealism like Courage the Cowardly Dog or movies like Paranorman are quite interesting

  18. Project Inspired

    Posted by leslierue on October 19, 2012 at 15:34

    Answering the second question, I don’t watch many. They terrify me- i guess that was the point though, right? Even the trailers for the two big ones that are out now make me look over my shoulder to make sure nothing’s there.

  19. Project Inspired

    Posted by tyrell25 on October 19, 2012 at 13:44

    I think you miss the point on Frankenweenie, it wasn’t horror at all, it was just a quite moving, but gothic, tale of the love between a boy and his dog…

  20. Project Inspired

    Posted by Naomimaria on October 19, 2012 at 13:17

    I do not think young children should be exposed, but I guess it does matter the way the child has grown up and whether they are mature enough to handle it. Speaking from experience, these movies can haunt thoughts and dreams for years, and I wouldn’t be able to sleep, after just the mistake of accidentally watching one movie. Children can be especially sensitive and I wouldn’t want mine to be revealed to things that can cause them fear, I understand that children should also not be sheltered from things as well though, and certain ages and personalities can handle movies better.

  21. Project Inspired

    Posted by haley_nicole_4_Christ on October 19, 2012 at 13:01

    I enjoy being scared. 😀 I love the thrill. But that doesn’t mean I believe in all that ghost/demon crap.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by lovelybird on October 20, 2012 at 21:33

      You do know that demons and ghosts are real right? Demons can posses people and my own cousin was possessed before. However glory be to God that He drew it out of her during church service. Everyone was yelling Jesus so the demon would flee from the room. Deons are afriad of the name Jesus…just read the some chapters in the New Testament when Jesus and even some of his disciples rebuked demons out of people. Thank God He drew that spirit out of my cousin. When the service ended the review mirror of my parents car was broken from a tree limb that fell from a tree during service while the demon was being cast out my cousin. The devil was mad that he couldnt have my cousin and tried to get us upset by scratching our car. But we didnt care. My couson is free. This is a true story and it happened last year. So don’t be fooled. If God is real…then so is the devil. If the devil is real then so are demons..and angels. There are a LOT of supernatural things that we don’t understand with our physical minds. That why God warns us to be careful of what we warch, hear or read. We have to guard our hearts because out of our hearts are the issues of life. That’s why as Christians we are called to be different from the world and not like them. If it means I cant watch certain things just because it seems “innocent” and fun then it is worth not doing thongs everyone else does. When we become Christians we drop the old things of the world and take upon Christly things. Some things may not seem bad but just because were not of the world and we Christ’s we cannot do things that we may even desire ourselves. Mann…I’m taking too much. When I start its hard to stop…anyways….demons are real.

  22. I

    Posted by I on October 19, 2012 at 12:12

    Well, I believe it depends on the movie and how old the child is. And then, it sometimes just depends on your kid’s personality. Even older kids like 11-13 can be very sensitive to rather harmless movies like Monsters Incorporated.

  23. I

    Posted by I on October 19, 2012 at 12:05

    Well I believe it depends on the movie and how old the child is. And then, it sometimes just depends on your kid’s personality. Even older kids like 11-13 can be very sensitive to rather harmless movies like Monsters Incorporated.

  24. Project Inspired

    Posted by QuannasLove on October 19, 2012 at 09:27

    I personally wasn’t allowed to watch movies like this when I was younger, and some I’m still not allowed to watch (I’m 14) and I don’t think it is appropriate for younger kids to watch them. Some of them, however, I find now as a teen amuse me, and I know I’m not the only one. To me it seems like more teenagers enjoy kid’s movies these days than the actual kids do. I don’t plan on seeing either of these movies, perhaps a few years into the future I’d watch it with friends during a sleepover to give us the giggles. That’s all we do during scary movies, laugh at our own commentary throughout. But, to the point of this article, I don’t believe younger kids should be watching these movies and twelve or older for most is probably a good place to start watching SOME of the movies.

  25. Project Inspired

    Posted by on October 19, 2012 at 09:24

    Just face it; some kids like that kind of thing, and others end up shaking under their sheets. I was told by my 7th grade Bible teacher in my Christian middle school not to read Poe, and I ended up missing out on some really phenomenal literature because she made me believe it was morally wrong to read those stories and poems. Fortunately, I grew out of letting other people pick my entertainment selection.

    • Dee

      Posted by Dee on October 20, 2012 at 07:19

      My seventh grade teacher (my mother) bought me a whole book of Poe. I love Poe. 😀

      • Project Inspired

        Posted by on October 20, 2012 at 13:50

        This was also the teacher who wasted an entire week of class, just railing against Harry Potter. >__<

  26. SoulfulGinger

    Posted by SoulfulGinger on October 19, 2012 at 09:13

    I honestly think it depends on the movie. Some scary movies are actually really good and interesting. Some though are absolutely terrifying and I don’t think anyone should watch them!

  27. HurricaneMurphGirl

    Posted by HurricaneMurphGirl on October 19, 2012 at 09:09

    No, I do not think that young children should be exposed to that kind of thing unless they can actually handle it. And frequently, it’s hard to know what they can and cannot handle. I have seen my little sister with dark circles under her eyes because what she had seen -that we didn’t even think she would be scared by!!!- had kept her up very late. We have a certain sense of duty to out siblings and small children to give them an innocent and safe childhood. I think there is a difference between “sheltering” them, and protecting them from things that could hurt them. We wouldn’t let our kids stick keys in electrical sockets just because life sometimes brings a shock, would we? Just like the key in the socket, a movie that’s too scary for the little kid WILL hurt them.

    Of course, I do not agree with the content of either of these movies, as I do not think that contacting people who are dead is good or biblical. (Remember what happened to Saul???) And raising people from the dead is Jesus’s job, not ours.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by on October 19, 2012 at 15:19

      …In ParaNorman, he doesn’t actively contact the dead. It’s something he’s born with. It’s not like he practices necromancy or calls upon spirits. They’re just hanging around the town, and he feels like it would be rude to ignore them. =^_^=

  28. Project Inspired

    Posted by on October 19, 2012 at 07:32

    I don’t put morality labels on art. I believe art is meant to be enjoyed, not judged. So, either you enjoy it, or you don’t; if you don’t enjoy it, don’t watch it, but I always get annoyed when people whine about the supposed immorality of a piece. Personally, I loved ParaNorman; I thought it was hilarious. My only problem with it was that I found the Salem-esque connotations distasteful. It’s less about talking to the dead and more about accepting each other, standing up to bullies, and learning to deal with things in a non-confrontational way.

    I don’t like it when Christians in the public eye flip out over things like this because it makes us look like paranoid crybabies. Interaction with art is an individual thing, and Christians shouldn’t be putting a blanket “No” on films for everyone because there will be some who will be judged for enjoying certain pieces. That, to me, is intolerable.

    • IdaPahus

      Posted by IdaPahus on October 20, 2012 at 01:51

      I don`t agree with you, because I think some horror movies isn`t appropriate for any christians to watch, because they teaches something else than the bible, but I also know some people are more sensitive than others. Horror movies can disturb people in a horrible way!

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by mrscoolio990 on October 19, 2012 at 15:56

      I totally agree. Just because a movie has spooky themes, it must be labeled automatically “inappropriate” or “bad.” There is deeper and better moral lessons included in most children’s movies. All kids are different! Some kids can handle the scariness without worries or demonic images in their heads. Some kids can’t barely handle a G rated movie… I know a girl like this, when we were much younger we went to go see Disney’s Princess in the Frog. She was at least 11 and had to cover her eyes at least 5 times during the movie. Every kid’s different!

    • ruthie27064Him

      Posted by ruthie27064Him on October 19, 2012 at 14:36

      I beg to differ! Movies, especially, are always pushing some sort of idea or philosophy. And I believe that we should stand up for what is right and good in this world, and not let evil and corruption go unpunished. ‘Morality Labels,’ as you so call them, are a good thing. They cause people to think about what they are watching. Yes, of course, there are ‘pieces of art’ that are made to be enjoyed, and not everyone will. But when something is morally disturbing, e.g. wrong, then we should put our foot down and say ‘No, children that young shouldn’t be watching stuff like this!’

      • Project Inspired

        Posted by on October 20, 2012 at 17:26

        I stand by what I said. It’s art, and it is not subject to morality codes unless the production of said art is gained by harming another living being. That is the only circumstance, in my opinion, in which its right for existence and exhibition should be questioned. No one’s forcing you to watch Frankenweenie or ParaNorman (though, I really think you’re missing out on an amusing flick). Live and let live.