Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is dark. In fact, the theme song “Look Away” advises that you look away because the story is awful and unpleasant. (Hint: If you do watch the show, but sure you don’t skip the theme song; it’s good and there are actually four different versions of it that give some mini-spoilers of what’s the come.)
I can’t tell you if your kids are ready for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events or any of the slightly more mature or darker shows; there’s no magical age and it really varies from child to child, but here are a few things to take into consideration when you’re trying to make a decision:
Will you (or another adult) be watching with them?
This is the most important consideration. It’s always best to watch tv with your kids so you are aware of what they are watching and can initiate conversations about issues that come up, or even turn off a show if it’s not working for your kids. The reality is, that doesn’t always happen. If I can’t sit and watch a show with the kids I like to try to be in the same room or nearby so I can check in on what’s happening, or I try to watch a few episodes of a new show before I let the kids watch it without me.
The type of show I’ll allow the kids to watch definitely depends on whether I’m watching it with them and giving it my full attention, checking in, or not able to supervise much at all.
What are their fears or sensitivities?
No one wants their child waking up with nightmares, so it’s obviously important to make sure a show or movie you’re choosing doesn’t play into fears they already have. Dinosaurs may be fascinating to some, and scary to others.
Cooper, my 9-year-old, has a great imagination and an interest in writing and movie making. We have watched videos and behind-the-scenes extras about how movies are made and special effects are created. Fantasy monsters, villains, and fight scenes are more likely to pique his curiosity than instill fear. However, he’s a sensitive kid and worries a lot about real-world events, like a death of a loved one or a natural disaster. Knowing this, I’m much more comfortable allowing him to watch Guardians of the Galaxy (which does include a parent’s death, but early on and obvious, and the movie focuses more on fantasy elements) than Bridge to Terabithia or My Girl, which include unexpected deaths of beloved characters.
Are they open or vague (or even deceptive) about their feelings?
Some of kids wear their heart on their sleeve; you can tell the moment they are happy, scared, mad, or angry. Other kids are more discreet about their feelings; it can be difficult to know if they are worried or scared or uncomfortable. They may even deny being scared because they feel like it’s embarrassing to be afraid, and continue to watch something they find upsetting.
In our house, our kids love talking (at great length!) about how they feel and they won’t hesitate to ask us to turn a show or movie off if they find it scary or upsetting.
What are your values and priorities?
Values and priorities vary by family, and as parents we each need to determine what values and priorities we have and want to pass on to our children.
For our family, we like to be as open with our kids as possible. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on family movie night, but things like some swearing, mildly scary scenes, or unconventional lifestyles aren’t automatically going to prevent us from allowing our kids to watch a show or movie if we think it’s a quality movie with issues we can discuss with them.
What are things you’ve already discussed with your children? What things are you (and they) ready to discuss?
The birds and the bees, swear words, religious beliefs, discrimination, and death are just a few of the discussions parents have with children when the time is right. The discussions you’ve had and are ready to have is a huge consideration in choosing shows. Many shows or movies offer great opportunities to discuss issues, especially difficult issues, and start important conversations, but you need to be sure you and your child are ready for these talks.
When in doubt, I like to read about the shows or movies we’re considering on CommonSenseMedia.org, where I can see age recommendations from other parents and kids and some specifics about the type of content to expect.
Netflix has a huge selection of shows and movies perfect for every age and maturity level.
Here are some Netflix shows Count Olaf (the evil guardian in Lemony Snicket’s) loves:
Thanks to the Netflix #StreamTeam for providing information and recommendations about Netflix Streaming shows and movies.
How do you determine which shows are right for your children? What things do you take into consideration when making that decision? I’d love to see some comments in the comment section!