Different things scare different children, and it’s not always possible to predict what will frighten a particular kid. Introducing scary stuff to preschool-age children can be tricky. Kids this age can’t readily tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fantasy, so they can be as scared of something pretend as they are of something real.
In general, experts recommend avoiding scary programming — including emotional intensity, separations of parents and kids and parents and kids in peril — for preschool-age kids. When kids do see something that scares them, the best comfort is reassurance that everyone is safe — plus a hug and a favorite toy).
General age guidelines for scary media content
- Age 0-2: No violence, scary stuff and nothing emotionally intense.
- Age 2-3: Anything that involves physical or emotional peril or separations of parents and kids — human or animal — can be scary and upsetting. Avoid emotional intensity, loud or sudden noises and situations with violence as the only means of conflict resolution.
- Age 3-5: Violence may start to be harder to ignore, especially if kids watch cartoons. Avoid shows and movies in which characters use violence to resolve conflict. If it comes up, talk about alternative ways characters could have solved a problem.
Learn how to find the right movie for your sensitive kid and get suggestions for scary (but not too scary!) movies for kids at Common Sense Media.