As many of you already know, I’m an elementary school teacher with a fascination about the human brain and its development.
A couple of days ago I asked my students (first grade-ages 6-7) about Friday the 13th. Specifically, I asked if they knew the reason the date was
Several of my students replied, “That’s when Jason was born.”
I was flabbergasted. I questioned them further and found the following:
Of the 18 students in my class, 14 had seen horror films such as the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, etc. Of these 14 students,
all indicated they had watched the movies with their parents or older siblings and had done so multiple times.
Now, this is not the first time I’ve encountered students who regularly watch horror films. Ask just about any middle school student about the
horror film industry and they can give you endless examples from their favorite gore flick. But first graders watching people mutilated and killed on
screen? This disturbed me greatly.
Since that day I’ve done some research on the effects of horror films and violent video games on young children. (Please note, while many cartoons
are violent in themselves (poor Coyote), the films mentioned below are NOT cartoons). Here’s what I’ve uncovered so far:
Anxiety (both short and long term)
Sleeplessness (immediate but can continue for up to a year)
Fear (nightmares, night terrors, fear of losing control, fear of dying)
Phobia (clowns. Need I say more?)
Sleep disorders (long-term)
Aggressive and possibly self-edangering behaviors
Potential for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
To truly understand the effects of violent television or video games on the young child, we must understand the psychology and development of young
Young children (ages range from 3-6, depending on child) are extremely literal. They are often unable to differentiate from fact vs fiction, and
accept everything at face value. While this can lead to some hilarious situations, it does mean that when these children view violence via tv or
games, it can have a lasting impact.
When children are constantly exposed to violence, they become desensitized. This is the same phenomenon that happens with drug addicts. Once an
addict becomes desensitized, they require more of the drug to feel the effects. Children and teens who are desensitized to violence….I’ll let you
draw the parallels.
So what should we do? First of all, parents PLEASE don’t let your young child view violent horror films. Observe the movie rating system. Preview
the movie first. If you feel your child can handle the movie, then be sure to discuss with them afterwards what they saw and the reality of it. Be
ready for probing questions, and do your best to answer them truthfully.
Infants and toddlers should not watch television at all, if possible. At this age, the children are drawn more towards the vibrant colors and
movement of the program and not so much to the content of the program. Some studies show a possible link between ADHD and early television viewing,
but the jury is still out on that connection.
So, ATS….should allowing young children to watch horror movies constitute abuse? Hard question to answer.
Myself, I'm hesitant to qualify it as abuse because I think its based on ignorance and would be extremely difficult to prove logistics reasons.
However, I do hope we can educate parents on the dangers of the horror movie industry on impressionable minds. Next year I will be conducting a
parent training in my county about the effects of television on young minds, and I have great hopes this will help parents understand the potential