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My 4-year-old twins like to watch TV shows occasionally that have a bit of action in them. My kid's favorite TV show is "The Walking Dead."

My husband is concerned that it's a little too intense (and violent) for them. Personally, I feel he is overreacting a bit and I know other kids their age watch worse shows. But that said, I do understand that our twins are very impressionable.

What are some strategies that we can utilize to talk to them about the action scenes and explain to them that violence is not ok?

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    In most countries the Walking Dead was rated either 14, PG or young adult, and has "some of the most graphic and brutally intense violence and gore" according to PTC president. I didn't let my kids see it until they were over 14, and I know some adults who will not ever watch it. You should consider that these ratings are there for a reason - it may not be possible to discuss with kids that are too young. – Rory Alsop Jan 23 at 10:57
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    Seriously I'm a grown man not easily impressed, and still I found some scenes of this series to be hard to watch. Casually crushing someone's head with a baseball bat is hardly something I would call "a bit of action". This show is in no way appropriate for kids this age, so reading that it's "their favorite" leaves me dumbfounded. – Laurent S. Jan 25 at 17:19
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    Honestly, this is not a show for kids. Your husband should save it for after bedtime. And at 4, it is very very hard to show kids violence while telling kids they can't engage in it. – swbarnes2 Jan 25 at 23:59
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At four, understanding the difference between reality and fiction is a work in progress. Research has shown that children may begin to learn that difference by four, using the context in which the information is presented to help differentiate between the two. However, this ability isn't fully developed by four. Each child is different here, and some will be much more able to differentiate than others (my older child was able to watch "scary" movies by five or so, while my seven year old still doesn't like to, in part because of this).

Additionally, one major concern you should pay attention to is that scary content can lead to nightmares in children around that age. The ability to differentiate fantasy from reality was shown to be relevant here as well.

How you can help your children understand the differences between fantasy and reality is by talking to them about it in those terms. Make it clear to them what "acting" is, perhaps even with role play games where they "act" in plays themselves. Talk about the actor as a person separate from their role - look them up on IMDB, show the person has done various different shows. This even works with cartoons, if the actor's voice is reasonably distinctive.

Talk about why the action is occurring, as well. I tend to avoid describing people as "bad" or "good", even in the case of actors playing what we traditionally would call "bad guys", because I don't want my children to think that some people are "bad people" - rather focusing on bad behaviors. So instead, talk about the motivation of the person, and how the behavior is not nice and has negative impacts on others. For the most part even at four I think this tends to be fairly easily understood.

My bigger concern is actually the "good guy". Batman is a great example of this (and of course, he's not truly a "good guy", but that's more complex than is intended in the cartoons). He hits the bad guys when they do bad things. That's not exactly a lesson I want my children learning! I want them to get Mom or Dad if someone is doing something bad. I want them to walk away from fights. So, I would tend to talk to them about other alternatives they might have in a similar situation. What do we do if we see a robber? We call the police, because we're not Batman! What do we do if someone hits us? We remove ourselves from the situation and tell an adult, because it's not nice to hit people even if they're not being nice to us.

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    "What do we do if we see a robber? We call the police, because we're not Batman!" Every police officer was a child at some point. – nick012000 Jan 13 at 10:01
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I don't know how your twins spend their playing time but you should explain them the way that worked in my family.

The main thing about cartoons is that is is drawing and it is far from reality on the sight, for movies and tv shows it is harder because even if it is displayed on a screen it looks like the news for exemple.

For me the way is to try to reproduce few scene of the show with toys and explaining that sometime on TV there is the imagination of someone that is played by other people. Once it is done you should take their favorite toys and make them play with it for 10 minutes, wrote down the story. Once it is done try to roleplay their story to explain what is the cinema and how it is made (homme made in this case).

For me it worked, my nephew understood at the end of the "game" that what he watch was just happening in someone's head and that other people was just reproducing his idea.

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