Recently some of us were having a discussion on whether it is okay to “scare” kids with movies, fairy tales and the like. Here was my contribution:
Something I learned long ago that really surprised me (I raised 7 kids). My kids loved all kinds of stories- fairy tales, Lord of the Rings, etc. Some of which IS scary.
We watched very little TV (none for many many years), saw few movies. My kids (the younger ones) would be afraid at movies like the Wizard of Oz (the wizard). yet they could listen over and over again to Lord of the Rings with nasty creatures like orcs and nargals (or whatever they are).
When the movie came out (much later after they were mostly grown) they watched it, I KNOW as kids they would never have been able to watch it. Finally it dawned on me.
When you read something (or are read to), your mind produces the images based on the words. It’s only going to come up with something it can handle- it won’t be “too” scary. I am sure as I read about orcs, each child had a different picture in their mind, some probably more gruesome than others, but none of them anything more frightening than they could handle. And all was based off the very same words.
But with a movie (even an illustration to some extent) you are “stuck” with what the creator has decided an orc looks/ sounds/ acts like. And that may indeed be too scary for some (like me- I hated those parts).
So, I think scary fiction, fairy tales, Lord of the Rings, whatever, IS okay, and good. Being scared (not too much) IS fun- with written fiction, the reader/ listener is the one in control of the level of scariness.
It may be that if a child is exposed to lots of visual frightening scenes, perhaps their mental images of things they read would be too scary, but that’s another issue (how much scary TV/movies- TV/movies in general- our children should be exposed to.)
As I said, it was an amazing insight.