'Scream' Parents Guide: Should You Let Your Tween Or Teen Watch?

The ‘Scream’ Parents Guide You Need If Your Kid Wants To Watch Ghostface

scream-5-neve-campbell (1)
Paramount Pictures

ICYMI, we’re in the midst of an “everything old is new again” renaissance, and that’s especially true for ’90s and early ’00s nostalgia. Happily for those of us who fall under the elder millennial parenting umbrella, that means we get to enjoy the second coming of some of our favorite things growing up. Like Brendan Fraser. And chokers. The latest example? The revival of the Scream movie franchise, which started way back in 1996 and spawned three sequels spanning more than a decade. Now, 2022 brings a highly anticipated revival with Scream 5. You obviously want to watch it, right? But here’s the rub: Between the nostalgic trendiness and the addition of a cast of young Hollywood “it” actors, your tween or teen might be begging you to watch the long-awaited sequel, too (not to mention the rest of the franchise). Enter: the Scream parents’ guide.

Need to know what dicey scenarios you can expect? How awkward it might be sitting next to your teen during certain scenes? If your tween will see Ghostface in their nightmares for all eternity? Keep reading.

Scream Parents Guide: Is It Appropriate for Kids?

What is the premise of Scream?

Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, the original film introduced us to the fictional town of Woodsboro, California, and a group of teens who become the target of a mysterious killer in a Halloween costume. Ghostface, as the killer comes to be called, begins terrorizing one teen in particular by picking off her friends and peers. That teen’s name? Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell). Throughout the film’s sequels, nearly every person Sid becomes close to dies at the hands of Ghostface — with the exception of tabloid news reporter Gail Weathers (Courteney Cox) and Woodsboro Sheriff Dwight “Dewey” Riley (David Arquette).

This year’s “requel” picks up where the action left off in Scream 4. Campbell, Cox, and Arquette are back (along with Marley Shelton as Deputy Sheriff Judy Hicks). But, and here’s where your tween or teen’s interest in the rebooted franchise really kicks in, Ghostface has found a new group of modern-day teens to stalk. The hot young cast includes Melissa Barrera (In the Heights), Jenna Ortega (You), Dylan Minnette (13 Reasons Why), Jack Quaid (The Boys), Jasmin Savoy Brown (Yellowjackets), Sonia Ammar (Jappeloup), Mikey Madison (Better Things), and Mason Gooding (Love, Victor).

What are the Scream films rated?

If you’re a fan of the franchise, it probably comes as little surprise that every single Scream film is rated R. The Motion Picture Association defines this rating as: “Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.” And since you must be 17 or older to get into an R-rated movie, anyone under 17 must have a parent or adult guardian present.

Omar Epps and Jada Pinkett Smith watch 'Stab' in 'Scream 2.'
Dimension Films

So, is Scream OK for tweens?

It’s pointless to speak in absolutes where parenting and any sort of screen time is concerned, because every parent has different thresholds. Maybe you’ve made it clear to your kid that you aren’t comfortable with them watching anything rated PG-13 or higher until they’re seniors in high school. Or maybe you let your kid watch World War Z when they were seven. No one knows their kid better than you do, so ultimately, it’s your judgment call to make. Yes, you’ll find studies that suggest scary movies can cause emotional problems in young kids, ranging from depression to aggressive behavior. However, you’ll find just as many counterarguments that indicate such emotional issues, if they present, are usually short-lived. If your child is already anxious or easily scared, their temperament points toward waiting until they’re older.

Based on reviews by critics, parents, and even tweens and teens themselves, the consensus with the Scream franchise seems to be that your kid should be older than preteen to watch. For context, Stranger Things — another popular “teen” production — is rated TV-14, the MPA equivalent of PG-13. So, if your kid watches that and finds it too intense or scary, the Scream franchise would be a no-go. Not only are the films clearly centered on violence (*so.many.stabbing.scenes*), but they also include lots of mature language, some seriously risky behavior, and references to sexual activity. The films got progressively more graphic as the franchise went on, meaning the original might be the safest bet if your tween keeps begging to watch (and you know their horror-loving heart can take it). Hey, it’s better than caving and letting them watch Squid Game, right?

How about teens?

You may have been a teen yourself when the first film came out. Did watching it — or any of the other rated R movies you managed to see in your youth — have a lasting impact on you? Besides your abiding love for Neve Campbell, Skeet Ulrich, and Matthew Lillard, that is? Probably not. Still, Common Sense Media recommends only kids over 16 should watch the franchise, including the requel. Having said that, parents on the site think it’s safe for 14+, with kids weighing in that 13+ should be OK. Hey, what can we say — parenting’s a crapshoot. Take your kid or don’t; someone somewhere will still probably take issue with your decision.

Neve Campbell and Emma Roberts are stalked by a serial killer in 'Scream 4.'
Dimension Films

If it helps inform your choice, Slate’s Scaredy Scale rates Scream 5 a 7/10 for suspense (right on par with Jaws) and an 8/10 for gore (same as the OG Scream and Alien). You should know that the film contains “over-the-top” blood scenes, “quite strong” language, teen drinking (plus a reference to drug use), and “several instances of sex-related dialogue.”