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Film Mom: The Last Word on Scary Movies for Kids

Family Film Mom is a weekly column about family entertainment for parents with kids (and kids with parents) by Tara McNamara, the editor and founder of

I don’t see scary movies because I know that I suffer from a disorder known in medical circles as "overactive imagination." I’m an adult, but this malady has plagued me since I was at least five years old. My 11-year-old daughter Riley suffers from the same affliction and will lay awake all night after watching Disney Channel’s My Babysitter Is a Vampire. Until my son was 6, he was positive there was a killer giraffe with red eyes hiding in his closet.

This week in Entertainment Weekly, senior writer Anthony Breznican suggests we are creating a generation of wussies by not letting our young children watch scary movies (his 3-year-old apparently saw Brave and Frankenweenie and remains so far untraumatized). I’ve worked in the kids movie space for eight years, so I feel qualified to share my professional observations. I surmise three groups of people would prefer kids NOT be brought to movies that are too scary for them:

1.       Kids. As the editor-in-chief of kids movie review site, the No. 1 complaint from kids about movies is “too scary.” Children generally don’t appreciate getting freaked out. Starting around 9, there can be a cool factor to “surviving” a scary movie but younger than that, it’s all about lying awake knowing giant sea monsters are going to overtake your room.

2.       Other moviegoers. When one kid is screaming and crying “Get me out of here!” during a movie, even a movie for kids, it’s disruptive and unfair to all the other people who paid for a ticket now grumbling that the parent should know better.

3.       Parents. The embarrassment of all the eyes on you in the movie theater when your child is screaming louder than the film is an awful feeling, but it’s trumped by the world’s worst parent feeling that you took your child to see a piece of entertainment that instead left her in terror. That emotion turns to annoyance at bedtime when the child asks for water, another story, anything to not be left alone. And, it’s pure aggravation at 2 a.m., trying to soothe an irrational, hysterical child in the middle of the night who just can't believe a monster isn’t in the closet, no matter how many times you show her that nothing is in the closet.

Living in a world where parents are dismissive of the messages their children are receiving and figure kids will be “probably be okay” with the movies they watch, now that's scary. What do you think…are we shielding our kids too much? Is it just a matter of knowing your own children and what they can handle?


Here are three movies you can see can see with your family this week:

 Chasing Mavericks. Finally, a family film with no zombies, vampires or ghosts. Gerard Butler plays a surfing legend who mentors a fatherless teen and finds a relationship more fulfilling than any wave he could surf.



 Fun Size. Victoria Justice is a teen who loses her little brother while trick or treating, but be careful your children don’t lose their innocence watching this Nickelodeon film whose trailer is surprisingly raunchy.



 Frankenweenie. Hey, it’s Halloween. Go see a monster movie that celebrates science, but be warned: these monsters may scare the trick or treat out of little ones!



To see what KIDS think about these and the other movies in theaters, please go to, where all kids are movie critics. 



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