I'm searching for a research-backed answer to a question about introducing children to difficult emotions in movies.

There a seemingly innocent titles like Lion King, Bambi, or Finding Nemo which, while being otherwise colorful and cheerful, contain very sad scenes (in particular, all three movies depict the death of a parent in one of the first scenes!).

I know there might be no single good answer suitable to children of all ages, cultures, and all levels of development, but I'd like to know is it better to fast forward/skip these scenes, or watch and discuss them with my kid. I'm expecting rules like "you shouldn't do that until a kid has ability X" or "you should do that if ...".

So far I've found a 2014 article by Andrea Nair for ymc which suggests that kid below 2 years old, should not watch any screen at all, and that the reason story tellers include these scenes in the first place was not to introduce these topics to children but rather to construct a plot in which a child is on its own adventure (which sounds like a rather not-well-thought-out decision).

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    I'd go with "watch and discuss" personally, but largely for reasons that it's more in line with my general parenting philosophy and approach. I'm glad that you have asked for a research-backed answer because I would love to see a more scientific response (whether or not it aligns with what I tend to practice!) -- good question.
    – Acire
    Commented Mar 3, 2016 at 20:33
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    I think you need to be careful with "research-backed" answers to this; what applies in general may not necessarily apply to your child. The best that such an answer can give is a "default position", which should always be modified (sometimes radically) based on the personality of the child. Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 2:45
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    I just want to say that I am very careful about the media I allow my children to watch. My daughter is 5 and IMHO I think she is too young even for Disney movies like Lion King, Aladdin and Little Mermaid. The only shows she watches Doc McStuffins and Mickey mouse clubhouse. A co-worker once told me he saw Pulp Fiction when he was 5 and I thought what terrible parents he must have had. So just a reminder that I think we all need to err on the side of caution in what we let our kids watch.
    – AbuMariam
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 18:02

1 Answer 1


I have to share this story. I had my six year old niece over for an afternoon, and I decided to show her Bambi, which she had never seen. At one point, I went into the kitchen to fetch a snack, and when I came back out Bambi and the old stag were having their "you must be brave and learn to live by yourself" conversation.

My niece looked up at me and asked "Did Bambi's mother die?"

My heart almost stopped. I felt awful, wondering if I had just traumatized my sister's little girl, who loved kittens and puppies and had pictures of my little pony all over her walls. But I didn't want to lie to her, so I said "yes", expecting to sympathize with her over how sad it was when someone you love dies.

My niece paused in thought for a moment, and then asked, in a frankly puzzled voice "Then why didn't we get to see it?"

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    I like this story (I laughed pretty hard) but the OP did ask about research on the subject :)
    – Acire
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 19:56
  • this story sounds similar to top answers in quora.com/…
    – qbolec
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 19:13
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    We've been in that situation too, where I would censor certain parts of certain kids films. Finding Nemo is a good example, where we'd skip the first five minutes. My intention was that my kids would be able to enjoy the film without being upset by the thought of death. In the end, my kids -still- worried about their parents dying, I had to go through a lot of hassle when watching films and they missed some great scenes. I wouldn't worry about it. Oh, apart from Dumbo and Watership Down. I'm still emotionally scarred by those damned films.
    – Dave M
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 10:08
  • Dumbo... I ALWAYS cried when he visited his mom in that small cart... damn, I still do!
    – Layna
    Commented May 19, 2016 at 13:25

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