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How do you decide if a movie is suitable for young children?

I was watching the latest series of Doctor Who with my children and I found I was constantly having to reassure them that everything was OK. Some of it reminded me of some horror movies I have seen. Is this really suitable for children?

  • Doctor Who has about 20 percent of casually scary things, I would not recommended a child sees. However their are a few other episodes like the "The Thing Below" of which I would not recommend any child sees, strongly. Just get the remote and use your best judgement.
    – Justin
    May 5, 2011 at 19:00
  • 2
    Oh, man... This brings back fond memories of watching Tom Baker re-runs as a kid. Scary? Yes! Fun to watch w/ parents? Yes! BTW: how old are your kids?
    – Shog9
    May 6, 2011 at 0:06
  • Reason for closing: We want to avoid having a separate question for every movie ever made, and we already have a question that is relevant to all movies. Oct 3, 2011 at 13:26

7 Answers 7


I think you should teach your child when to say they are uncomfortable with something.

This is an important thing for them to learn. It means that they can decide for themselves in borderline cases when you have already decided they can watch, but they are not enjoying it.

I have the same experience with my son who likes watching animated movies, but will tell me if he's feeling uncomfortable.

I prefer not to be over protective as the world is a scary place, but it's about the child being comfortable and not traumatised. If you constantly have to reassure them, it's probably too much.


The Common Sense Media review of the new series (as recommended in this question) suggests:

Not age appropriate for kids under 8, age appropriate for kids over 10; suggested age 10.

There are really five sets of Doctor Who TV:

  • K-9 - this is aimed at children, and generally plays on channels aimed at children (e.g. Cartoon Network or Disney Channel). The show isn't very scary at all, although it's probably not very interesting to children under about 6, or anyone over about 16.
  • The Sarah-Jane Adventures - much like K-9 (i.e. not scary), but for slightly older children (perhaps 8+), and more watchable by adults. Note that since Elisabeth Sladen (who played the titular character) passed away this year, there will presumably be no new episodes of this show.
  • Doctor Who (original series, i.e. 1st through 7th Doctors) - this isn't a children's show, it's a family one. The difference is particularly in "scariness" and appeal - children and family shows will both avoid violence, sexual material, and so on, but a family show will have more complex story lines and may be too scary for young children, especially alone. The majority of the scary parts in the original series came from the villains (e.g. the Daleks), which are (of course) rather dated-looking now. If something that looks like a monster isn't scary, then the original series is probably fine.
  • Doctor Who (new series, i.e. 9th Doctor onwards) - like the original series, a family rather than children's show. Although some of the villains here are scary-looking, there's also more psychological terror than the original series had. The result is that it's often less scary (than the original series) for young children (e.g. under 5), but more scary for older children (5-8), because they are able to understand more of what there is to be scared of.
  • Torchwood - aimed at adults only. There's plenty of sexual content and violence, although I wouldn't say that it's particularly scary.

The new series varies a lot in the tone. Some episodes are very light and there's little, if anything, that would scare even a child. Others, like Blink, could scare an adult.

I've watched many episodes of the new series with my four-year-old. However, I've only watched repeats with him, and there have been a few episodes that I've skipped past. This is a good way to enjoy watching the show together, without having to worry that a terrifying moment might be around the corner (and since you know your own children best, you're in the position to make that judgement).

If it turns out that this doesn't leave many episodes in your children's case, or if you'd prefer to watch something you haven't seen, then watching The Sarah-Jane Chronicles (or K-9 at a stretch) together is a good compromise - you get to enjoy the occasional references and tie-ins with Doctor Who itself, and when they're a bit older they'll be able to move on to Doctor Who and learn more about the stranger that Sarah-Jane is always talking about.

  • Disagree about TorchWood being unscary - the 'Children of Earth' special had some harrowing scenes, even for adults! Aug 2, 2011 at 19:03
  • Both the new series and Torchwood (haven’t seen the others) also involve some intense emotional material even when that emotion isn’t necessarily fear. I still cringe to think of the end of “Forest of the Dead,” for instance—though a child might well not understand what transpired well enough to appreciate how awful it was.
    – KRyan
    Mar 6, 2017 at 19:20

With Stephen Moffat at the helm, I think we'll see some scary Doctor Who episodes this season. Some (or many, if we see more of the Silence) will probably not be suitable for younger kids.

Sarah Jane Adventures is a Who spin off that's targeted to a younger audience.

For reference, Moffat also wrote the Doctor Who episodes Blink and Girl in the Fireplace.


I think you don't need to worry all that much about that. Being scared at stuff is part of growing up.

They may be scared by some of the contents of Doctor Who and even have horrible(from their point of view) nightmares, but that is part of being a kid. They'd fear Elmo, their shadows, or the lady upstairs, otherwise.

For reference, as a kid, I had lots of nightmares after watching "Monster in the Closet" which is a silly parody of monster movies with gay allegories(rated PG in the US). I also had lots of nightmares for no objective reason.


maybe you should watch the episode you would watch with them first (on bbc 1 if its a new one) and make a judgement, doctor who is always repeated on bbc3 so you can show it to them then. see how scary you can go.


As others have said, it is a great show for kids to be scared at while sitting with you - hiding behind a cushion when the scary monsters came on was one of the really enjoyable bits of watching Dr Who as a child.

With that in mind, my eldest really didn't like the Vashta Nerada, while the little ones had no problem with them, but my youngest was scared by the Blink episode and the elder two thought it was great fun.

Let them watch with you, with a cushion and a cuddle for protection, that's my advice.


We've had middling success with my 5 year old, although my wife doesn't like the current Doctor as much as Christopher Eccleston it's still a fairly good family show depending on the episode. Some definitely take a darker turn, although the current US series looks promising...it was weird but of all things my son took to the Daleks more than anything in the current seasons. Some of them have bored him a little as well.

He knows to tell us when he doesn't like a show, when that happens we turn it off or watch something else, the important thing is to make sure the kids know they can tell you and that its all right.