At what age is my preschooler ready for scary content?

Different things scare different children; it's not always possible to predict what will frighten a particular kid. Introducing scary stuff to preschool-age children also is tricky because 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 something real.

In general, Common Sense recommends 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). Here are our general guidelines (learn more about introducing content age-appropriately).

Age 0-2: No violence or scary stuff. Also 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. Also avoid emotional intensity, loud/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 -- but if it comes up, talk about alternative ways characters could have solved a problem.

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Comments

Aunt written by jswim77

My almost 4 year old niece is scared now I told her one of the Mario Cart drivers is King Boo a ghost. I said it a nice ghost but she says it scars her. And, mom and I make the mistake taking her to Kung Fu Panda. She had seen other Disney movies too and her dad has to sleep with her at night. Is there any way to fix this?
Teen, 13 years old written by Pinkpoint13

Try to find ways ways to reassure her that everyone is safe. Encourage and reward her for sleeping by herself at night. Good luck