The Influence of Scary Movies on Toddlers

When the boogeyman jumps out of the shadows or mega spiders tiptoe through a town, you may shriek with delight. To your toddler, the screen can come alive with unspeakable horrors. Before you scar your child for life, dive into the details of the influence of scary flicks on the toddler set.


When toddlers see images and scenes in scary movies, they may not understand exactly the entire plot and every detail about the movie, but they can pick up on the fear and the stress going on. A toddler seeing a scary character in a movie might react by crying, trying to escape and having nightmares, states University of Michigan. Toddlers have the brainpower to discern negative emotions and energy in a movie. Witnessing characters screaming, crying and feeling afraid or sad can create a strong and lasting impression on a little kid.


Even images or characters in a movie that are created as the “good guys” can be scary to a youngster, states Joanne Cantor, Ph.D., with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Costumes and makeup can be so realistic and riveting that a young child may feel overwhelmed and shocked by the appearance, completely missing the fact that the character is a hero in the movie. These misperceptions can be as frightening for a child as viewing frightening bad guys in a movie.

Sleep Disturbances

Get ready to burn the midnight oil if you let your kid sit through a horror flick, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. Nightmares, fear of being harmed and sleep disturbances top the list of issues that crop up after time spent watching scary stuff on the screen. Don’t count on your little one believing you when you tell him there’s nothing lurking in his closet or hiding under his bed.


Kids under age 8 don’t have a firm grasp on the line between fantasy and reality, according to the AAP. When you allow kids to watch scary movies, often filled with violence, murder and mayhem, it’s likely they won’t understand that it’s not okay to carry out unspeakable acts on other people. You may find some pretty scary imitation and adopted behaviors going on in your little ones.

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