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My 2-and-a-half year old seems to be fond of shows that I would have expected to be too scary for someone his age. He loves to watch R.L. Stine's Goosebumps (he was introduced to it at daycare by some of the older children), and gleefully watches some rather rough scenes of predation on nature shows and short youtube clips.

Not once has he ever showed signs of nightmares from watching this sort of stuff (although we try to keep viewing restricted to at least several hours before bedtime).

However, there clearly is a line for him, and he seems fully aware of it. There have been some things we've watched where he says it is too scary, and asks to watch something different.

I'd rather not expose him to stuff that he considers too scary, even if he is good about telling me if something is too much.

Since that line between "fun scary" and "too scary" varies wildly from child to child (we have a 4 year old cousin, for example, who finds the music from Thomas and Friends too scary), how do you identify where the line is for a particular child?

Just because we haven't had problems with nightmares yet doesn't mean it can't become an issue. I'd like to

Are there cues that can be used that don't rely on the child saying "this is too much"?

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I think relying on the child to say "this is too scary" is the perfect way to manage it! –  Vicky Apr 24 '13 at 16:21
    
@Vicky: absolutely. Personally, I've had nightmares from a movie (that I remember) exactly once - and it was that lovely children's classic "The Wizard of Oz". That wicked witch was scary! –  Michael Borgwardt Apr 25 '13 at 9:00
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I watch with my kids sitting in my lap. When it's too scary, they shiver and get extremely tense. So far, we haven't had any issues if we stop after the first scene with that reaction. After a few times, we pretty much know their limits beforehand.

Also, there's something to be said for making them face their fears every once in a while, especially the irrational ones. Movie violence and horror is one thing, the Thomas theme song is another. Something like that, I would hold him and show him by example that there's nothing to be afraid of. Our son was deathly afraid of the vacuum cleaner. When he was two or three we indulged him, but when he got to be four and five we made him deal with it. He just turned six, and is still wary of the vacuum, but at least doesn't burst into tears and run away.

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this makes good sense. we need to protect them at least till age 8-9 –  tgkprog Apr 29 '13 at 9:44
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