Scary images can frighten children, make them restless or even cause long-term effects like nightmares. The effects vary depending on the viewer and the viewer's age.
Children can become scared by seeing typically scary or horrifying images, such as:
- monsters, witches and ghosts
- haunting music
- blood, dead people
When children (or teens or adults) see such images, they can become frightened or restless or even get nightmares.
Scared through empathy
It can also be scary to see frightened characters. When you’re fully immersed in a film or television series, you start to empathize with the characters. By putting yourself in someone else shoes you can also start to feel what they feel. So when a character in a film – a human, animal or even a fantasy creature – is scared or in pain, empathy can cause children to feel those emotions too.
The more realistic, the scarier
How believable or recognizable something is, is also important: people are scared most by things that could also happen ‘in real life’. For example: scary scenes in a school building or on the beach, or a killer that looks like they could be your neighbour. For this reason, watching the news can also be scary.
If something is clearly fake, or couldn’t happen in reality, it’s easier to distance yourself. It will make you less scared. This is more difficult to do for young children, who still have trouble discerning between reality and fantasy. They can also be scared by things that are clearly fake.