Teens and Horror Stories

How can we steer our adolescent son away from media that portray gruesome violence and help him make better entertainment choices? He's fascinated with horror stories – both books and films. We're concerned that he's filling his mind with disturbing ideas and images, but he says it's all just harmless fun. What do you think?

You have good reason to be concerned. Your teen may try to argue that a steady diet of horror novels won’t affect him. He may even believe this with all his heart. That doesn’t change the fact that our minds are shaped by the stuff we pour into them. The Bible warns us repeatedly against the dangers of consuming negative and destructive words, ideas, and images – for “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7). That’s why the apostle Paul makes a special point of instructing us to focus on things that are pure, noble, lovely, holy, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).

One of your most important responsibilities as a parent is to guide your child’s moral development. This can’t be done simply with a list of do’s and don’ts. Instead, you need to help him develop wisdom and discernment as he grows and matures. The best way to accomplish this is by providing reasonable guidelines while maintaining a close, warm, trusting relationship with him throughout the teen years.

When it comes to dealing with the immediate situation, we suggest you try the following approach. Sit down with your son and tell him how much you love him. Explain that one of the ways you express your love is by doing your best to protect him from harmful influences. Be sure to praise him for his love of reading, but don’t hesitate to let him know that that you’re concerned about his obsession with horror stories. Tell him you have good reason to believe that this material will eventually have a negative impact on his outlook and character.

Once you’ve explained your perspective in general terms, you can let him know – gently but firmly – that certain types of books (and movies) will no longer be allowed in your home. If you want him to respect your decisions in this regard, you’ll have to convince him that you’re acting on the basis of your own research. Rather than “banning” a book or DVD simply because it has a scary title or repulsive cover, do your homework so that you can intelligently determine which books, authors, and videos are acceptable and which aren’t. If you don’t have the time to do this in depth, you can always take a quick look at the reviews posted on Focus on the Family’s
PluggedIn website. They’re designed to provide parents with all information they need in order to make wise and discerning decisions about their children’s media choices.

In addition, be sure to offer your son some positive alternatives. Encourage him to read teen fiction that is exciting and fun but which also carries an edifying moral or spiritual message.

If you have additional questions or would like to discuss your concerns at greater length, we invite you to call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department.


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