Netflix’s hit series Stranger Things — about a group of teens who fight a secret government agency, demogorgons, a mind flayer and some truly terrifying humans — returns to the streaming service this July 4th. Trailers for the much anticipated third season have hinted at story lines that take the teens from summer jobs at the mall, to local Independence Day celebrations. Don’t let that lull you into thinking the show has lost any of its edge. It looks like life is as scary as ever for the teens in the fictional town of Hawkins, and probably still too scary for your similarly aged teens at home.
Netflix doesn’t rely solely on the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) rating system (the standard G – NC-17 commonly seen on movies). Instead, they use a mix which breaks the ratings down by age group — ranging from “little kids” to more “mature” audiences — and then breaks content down for kids ages seven, 13, 14 and 17.
Stranger Things, in all of its 80’s throwback glory, falls towards the higher end of their rating system with a TV-14 designation. This lets viewers know the program may not be suitable for children under the age of 14. Experts agree age is just one of the factors parents should consider before deciding if their children are ready for the show.
Dr. Carole Liberman, psychiatrist, parenting expert and author of Lions and Tigers and Terrorists, Oh My! How to Protect Your Child in a Time of Terror, explains to Parentology why it’s important to keep younger, less mature, children from watching shows like Stranger Things. “The younger a child is, the harder it is for them to tell the difference between scary shows and real life,” she says.
With a show like Stranger Things, which features story lines about kids vanishing and taking part in government experiments, your child may fear a similar fate. “They may have trouble trusting adults,” Liberman says.
How to Make the Call
Even if your teen tells you they’re ready to check out the series, they may not be. Licensed psychologist Dr. Jephtha Tausig tells Parentology kids can have trouble determining their own maturity. She advises parents use their best judgement when determining if their kids are ready by considering three questions: Is your child watching similar shows without incident? Has your child shown some anxiety after watching similar material? Does your child have nightmares or night terrors? “If you have answered yes to these three questions, better to skip such shows for now.”
Because I Said So
If you’re worried about how your child will react to being told that they can’t watch Stranger Things yet, especially if their friends or classmates are watching the show freely at home, Liberman suggests finding a substitute program or activity your child may find even more enjoyable. That way, when faced with questions from their peers about whether they are watching, they can explain that while they aren’t tuning in, they’re doing something else which they find just as exciting.