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Violence in Media

At what age can my teen watch horror movies?

Pushing boundaries is a huge part of the movie-going experience for teens, but a lot of what's marketed to them -- for example, psychologically disturbing movies such as the V/H/S series -- are too mature. Guide teens toward age-appropriate thrillers and horror flicks or old-school classics (such as Hitchcock films). Follow these guidelines for when your teen wants to see horror movies.

Young teens:

They may be ready to be scared silly. In general, skeletons, monsters, and aliens are OK. Even so, stick to movies that have humor mixed in or those with safe-and-sound endings. Be mindful of blood and gore.

… Or not. Some teens still scare easily. Let your kids know it's OK to be scared and to tell their friends they'd rather watch something else.

Older teens:

They may be ready for more than you think. Developmentally, teens can handle dramatic and psychological suspense, but kids under 16 still shouldn't see slasher horrors, especially those that feature kids in dire danger or that have lots of gore.

Mind the messages. Many scary movies now pair horrific graphic violence with sexual situations -- not a great combination for kids exploring newfound sexuality. Be sure to talk with them about the content of the movie they're seeing and the messages it may convey. Check Common Sense Media's reviews for conversation starters.

Dig into the vault. If you like scary movies too, try introducing your teens to some of the horror and suspense classics. Just make sure any younger siblings are already tucked in bed.