Squid Game. The latest Netflix/internet obsession. After admittedly watching the series myself (spurred by patients asking about it), there are a few things parents should know. There is enough violence, ethical dilemmas, and other mature content to draw a hard line: your young children should absolutely not watch this show.
Still, teachers and schools are reporting kids emulating Squid Game at recess and in the classroom. The show itself is rated mature (17+). Teens of all ages, however, are likely to watch it or hear about it. Keep these things in mind as you navigate their viewing:
- Watch Squid Game, or at least one episode, before you allow your teens to view it. You should be prepared, minimally, to have conversations about the difficult topics and those are easier to navigate when you have seen the content as well.
- If you are a parent of younger kids, keep them in earshot and eyeshot of you when they are engaged on screens if possible. Remind them to get a parent if something scary shows on the screen! While Squid Game is mature in content, it is bright colored and involves child-like games which can be confusing to kids at first. If your child does see it, encourage them to speak to you versus peers and that it is not appropriate for school discussion.
- Your teens are likely going to want to watch this show, so your best bet is to assume they will. Teenage brains crave adventure, highly stimulating information, and immediate pleasure– and this show has it all. Don’t assume that your teen is into violence; they may be getting reinforcement from the heart racing drama. Still, it’s heavy no matter what draws them in.
- Netflix isn’t the only place to find this content. Squid Game is popping up on YouTube, in Roblox games, and other kid-accessible internet sites. One mom of a Kindergartener noted that an ad (with a shooting scene) popped up mid-ballerina YouTube video.
- Suicide scenes in this show go majorly against media reporting guidelines which are well-established. There should be better warnings before episodes that contain suicide, and the suicides should not be depicted so graphically. Suicide contagion can be real; if your child has shown risk factors for suicidality or mental illness, try to skip this show. If your kids have already watched, you can use it as a moment to discuss education around suicide–remind them that most suicidal thoughts pass and acts of suicide are impulsive.
- The mental health struggles shown are imperative to discuss in relationship to acute stress. Even in a “game” that people agreed to play, there can be major consequences. This can happen on smaller levels for your teens. Use this opportunity to normalize intense reactions to stress. In fact, even watching this show might spike anxiety or stress.
- Death is depicted as a game and in a blasé manner. Teens generally can separate reality from fiction, but even as an adult these scenes stuck with me. It’s important to discuss that death can and should be bothersome and should never be taken lightly.
- Ethical dilemmas abound. Participants have to decide if they will become violent to win, or value their own lives over others’ lives. Your teens may think about what they would do, or how they would handle that. This is an opportunity to talk about the value of life.
- The class division portrayed is worth discussing with your teens. Ask curious questions about how they feel about the wealthy class running a game for people in debt, using it for entertainment.
- If you don’t watch the show with your teen, check in after each episode if you’re able. Make sure you offer continued conversations—and if they are feeling stressed by the show encourage them to stop watching.
We can’t always know exactly what our teens and kids are watching, but can do our best to monitor and discuss. If you watch it and decide it is too mature for even your teens, talk to them about why. If you’re going to forge forward, consider the discussions that can help you navigate this best!
* National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 or text “help” to 741-741.
Kids and Suicide: Know the Warning Signs and How to Help (Nemours Blog)
Anxiety in Kids: Know the Signs (Nemours Blog)