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Eight-Year-Old Watching Horror Films

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My husband and I have an ongoing disagreement about what types of programming our 8-year-old son can watch. He recently brought home The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to share with our son. I put my foot down and refused to let him watch that. My husband said that our son knows enough to walk away if he's scared. He thinks that watching these movies together is a "guy thing." Also, my husband doesn't see any harm in allowing our son to play violent video games. I don't want to restrict my son too much, but I don't think these materials are appropriate. What's your take on this?

A: I cannot emphasize enough how totally inappropriate this movie is for an 8-year-old. In fact, I would not recommend this movie for a child of any age. Your husband maintains that your son can choose to stop watching if he's afraid. How realistic is it for an 8-year-old boy to walk away from a slasher-type movie when he knows that his dad thinks that they are doing a "guy thing" together? My guess is that his dad also doesn't see anything wrong with single-shooter video and Playstation games that reward killing more people in less time. Kids who've killed their classmates played these games over and over again; they were experts at virtual murder.

I realize that you and your husband do not share the same views on the dangers of your child watching violent programming and playing violent computer games. There is more than ample research to document the harm that these activities cause young minds. I hope that your husband can be persuaded to see a child or family therapist with you to discuss how these violent movies and games can hurt your son. If you want to show him research on this topic, write back and I'll send you the most convincing research findings. I applaud your courage in preventing your son's mind and heart from being polluted by violent media and games.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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