Let me guess: Your tween or teen is asking to watch Stranger Things. I bet they’re practically begging. After all, the show has not only rocketed a whole new set of young actors into the forefront of Hollywood, but it’s those young actors and the lives of kids their age that the show predominantly revolves around. If the show is about a 12-year-old, it can’t possibly be terrifying to a 12-year-old… right? Not necessarily. Is Stranger Things scary? Depends who you’re asking. If you’re wondering whether the series is appropriate for your kid, we did some groundwork that will help you decide for yourself if your adolescent is ready to visit Hawkins, Indiana, and deal with things like Demogorgons.
After all, every kid is different. Even kids in the same family or friend group might have different tolerance levels for creepy things. What you allow one tween to watch might be wildly inappropriate for another. My partner watches it. I do not. We love a lot of the same shows, but my ability to not be scared crapless over shows like Stranger Things is nonexistent. This stuff traumatizes me. But, I will acknowledge that I’m a giant wimp.
So, is Stranger Things scary? Is your kid ready to watch it? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, What’s Stranger Things About?
At this point, it often feels like literally everyone in the known universe has already watched Stranger Things. But what if you haven’t? We imagine there are at least a few of you out there, so here’s the basic idea of the show.
When a young boy suddenly vanishes in 1983, the tiny town of Hawkins is rocked to its core. The kids of the town have lost a friend, a classmate, a charge, or a sibling, and everyone is searching for answers. Soon, another person disappears. In their quest to find their friend, the young stars — and their parents and sheriff — discover an alternate universe (The Upside Down), a terrifying monster (the Demogorgon), and much, much more. Mixed in with the wildly creepy and thrilling sci-fi adventures is a lovely, relatable look at teenage friendships, angst, and emotions.
What’s the Stranger Things Age Rating?
Netflix Rating: TV-14
Common Sense: 13+
First, it’s worth noting that the maker of Stranger Things, Netflix, has rated it TV-14. That means they don’t think it’s appropriate for anyone under 14 to watch it. Of course, not all 14-year-olds are the same. At 14 years old, I watched things much more gruesome (I became a wimp later in life). At 14, my cousins still covered their eyes during violent scenes in kids’ shows and weren’t allowed to watch Saving Private Ryan.
Another rating source many parents use is Common Sense Media, a site with three separate rating entities: experts, parents, and kids. The Common Sense experts say the show is fine for kids 13+, while both parents and kids agree the show is appropriate for ages 12+. It’s worth noting, however, that if you scroll down and read some of the reviews, many people have let their kids watch it at much younger ages because they felt their kiddos could handle it. I know two brave and sensible preteens (ages 10 and 11) who not only watch the show but are obsessed with it. And one of our editors and her 10-year-old daughter watch it fanatically together — it’s their thing. She just fast-forwards through content that feels too mature for her tween.
Meanwhile, I’ll never look at Christmas lights the same way again. (IYKYK.)
Is Stranger Things Scary, Then?
The show isn’t exactly light on gore and other unsettling things. There are monsters, and sometimes those monsters eat people. There will be scenes with blood, violence, and, subsequently, the occasional dead body. In credit to the series’ graphics department, the visuals are pretty impressively horrifying — the Demogorgons alone (and don’t even get me started on the Demodogs) are the stuff nightmares are made of. Several scenes involve young teens in tense, dangerous, or downright deadly situations. Not surprisingly, that makes for some emotionally intense viewing.
Other mature content to put on your radar: sexual references (there are quite a few, but the sex is always implied and not explicit), lots o’ profanity, and risky teen behavior (including smoking and drinking). Those things aren’t “scary,” but they’re worth considering while we’re on the “is it appropriate for my kid” kick.
Where Are the Stranger Things Jump Scares?
Stranger Things is way more than a spooky series as it focuses on other aspects of the 80s and teen life. But, if we’re being honest, there are parts of the Netflix series that scare the living snot out of us, particularly the jump scare scenes. Here’s a list of jump scares to warn your kids about.
Season 1 Episode 1
- 00:00:45 — A stressed and panicked man bursts through the door.
- 00:45:44 — An object smashes into Billy’s car.
- 00:46:38 — As Billy leans on the car, something speeds across the screen.
- 00:01:29 — A man is grabbed by a creepy creature as the door to the elevator closes.
- 00:05:49 — A sudden and loud noise goes off, and Will sees a creature standing on the road.
Season 1 Episode 2
- 00:00:33 — A screech and a shot of Billy interrupt a quiet shot of an abandoned building.
- 00:16:32 — Billy turns around and smacks Mrs. Wheeler in the face.
- 00:31:46 — As Billy touches his arm in the shower, it cuts to a sudden flashback, and Billy screams.
So, How Do I know If My Kid Can Handle It?
The best way to know if your child, tween, or teen is ready to watch Stranger Things is by watching it yourself. (I’m sorry, fellow wimps!) You know what your kids are already watching and what games they’re playing. You know if your tween is capable of separating reality from fiction or not. What other thrillers or horror movies or shows have you allowed them to watch? How were the days and nights that followed? If your kid crawled in bed with you that night or if your tween still prefers you leave the hallway lights on for them, they might not be ready for Stranger Things. If they’re already eating up shows like Riverdale and Sabrina and dressing as Michael Myers for Halloween, they’re going to be fine. So, your child’s temperament plays a big part in determining if a show is too scary for them.
If you do decide to let them watch, it’s unlikely it’ll scar them for life (even though that’s what all parents worry, right?). According to Psychology Today, “Even when researchers find negative effects of screens on kids/teens, typically, the effects are very small. In other words, playing Fortnite or watching Stranger Things is not going to turn a happy, polite child into a psychopath or an emotionally disturbed individual.” The most likely negative outcome, per the site, is “transient fears such as increased fear of the dark and strangers, trouble sleeping, and some nightmares.”
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