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Who doesn’t love a good old mystery to solve? The old gang reunited, the creative juices flowing, and our favorite characters were back at it again on the TV screen. Whether it’s Benedict Cumberbatch’s enigmatic and eccentric rendition of Sherlock Holmes, with his curly locks, curious eyes, and an even more inquisitive and unsettling nature, or an unmatched chemistry with Andrew Scott’s steel-cool yet unhinged Professor Moriarty, or one of the casual Zoinks from our beloved Shaggy as he finds himself, yet again, in another ghost chase with his trusted side kick, Scooby Doo; there is something about mysteries that, like the characters on screen, keeps the viewers on edge.

When you add the murder element, the whole story takes on a different psychological and emotional level, turning a simple mystery into a thriller. Somehow, our moral instincts are kicked in, and we find ourselves more diverged in the story. We want the detective to win and put the cold-blooded criminals behind bars.

But, hey, if you’re a parent reading this, then it is an entirely different ball game. The last thing you want to catch your kid watching, especially at a young age, is a murder mystery show or movie.

Why is it so bad for them, you must ask?

Potential Psychological Impacts of Murder Mysteries on a Young Kid

Fear and Anxiety

Young children may have difficulty distinguishing fiction from reality, and exposure to intense or frightening scenes in murder mysteries can lead to increased fear and anxiety. Nightmares, sleep disturbances, and heightened anxiety about personal safety are potential consequences.

Desensitization to Violence

Exposure to violence, even in fictional settings, can contribute to desensitization. This is a dangerous path to walk on, especially for someone young. Constant exposure may reduce the emotional impact of violent scenes, potentially affecting a child’s ability to empathize with real-life situations and leading to disassociation and a feeling of alienation in social situations.

Intrusive Thoughts and Imaginations

Graphic or disturbing images in murder mysteries can trigger intrusive thoughts and vivid imaginations in young minds. Children might find it challenging to process and compartmentalize these thoughts, leading to increased anxiety or distress.

Impact on Social Behavior

Children often learn about social relationships and problem-solving through observation. If murder mysteries depict interpersonal relationships in a negative or mistrustful light, it could influence a child’s perceptions and interactions with others.

Difficulty Discerning Right from Wrong

Murder mysteries often involve moral ambiguity and complex ethical situations, such as in Patricia Skipper’s book, Deceptive Calm. When the protagonist, Vanessa, obtains the identity of a deceased white baby to run away from her turbulent past, she lies to everyone around her, even her husband. While it can be justified that she was unsafe and had to take such extreme measures, it also sheds light on how easily people can deceive.

Thus, for young children, who are still developing their sense of morality, exposure to such themes without proper guidance may lead to confusion about right and wrong.

Copying Behavior

Young children are prone to imitating behaviors they see, especially from characters they admire. If murder mystery characters engage in aggressive or harmful actions, children might imitate these behaviors without fully understanding the consequences.

Murder Mystery Parents’ Guide

Now that you know the consequences and potential psychological impacts of murder mysteries on children, please continue reading our murder mystery parent’s guide and make informed decisions about what to allow your kids to watch.

Understanding the Genre

Murder mysteries in books and screen adaptations share common crime, investigation, and resolution themes, but the presentation and impact can differ significantly. While some murder mystery books provide a more immersive and cerebral experience, screen adaptations often amplify the intensity through visuals and sound.

Factors to Consider Before Letting Your Kid Watch a Murder Mystery

Age Appropriateness

Developmental Stage: Consider your child’s developmental stage and maturity level. Younger children may struggle with complex plotlines or intense themes better suited for older audiences.

Cognitive Abilities: Evaluate your child’s cognitive abilities. Some murder mysteries may involve intricate plot twists and require a level of critical thinking that may be more suitable for older children and teenagers.

Sensitivity: Consider your child’s sensitivity to suspenseful or scary content. While some children may enjoy a mild mystery, others might find even subtle tension distressing.

Violence and Intensity

Graphic Content: Assess the level of graphic content, including violence and crime scenes. Some murder mysteries may use explicit visuals to heighten the suspense, potentially causing distress for more sensitive viewers.

Psychological Elements: Consider the psychological elements present in the show or movie. While some productions rely on suspense and tension without explicit violence, others may delve into the psychological aspects of crime, which can be equally intense.

Impact on Emotional Well-being: Reflect on how exposure to violence and intensity may impact your child’s emotional well-being. Children vary in their ability to process and cope with such content, and it’s crucial to tailor the viewing experience to individual needs.

Themes and Tone

Alignment with Values: Examine whether the themes and tone of the murder mystery align with your family’s values. Some shows may present moral dilemmas or explore darker themes that may not be in line with your preferences.

Entertainment vs. Distress: Consider the balance between entertainment and potential distress. While a certain level of suspense can be engaging, it’s important to ensure that the overall tone doesn’t compromise your child’s emotional well-being.

Educational Opportunities: Look for murder mysteries that offer educational opportunities. Some shows may provide a chance to discuss problem-solving, teamwork, and ethical decision-making with your child.

Character Relationships

Appropriateness of Interactions: Assess the nature of interpersonal relationships portrayed in the murder mystery. Some productions may include romantic or emotionally charged scenes that may not be developmentally suitable for younger children.

Discussion Points: Use character relationships as discussion points. If the show involves complex dynamics, discussing these aspects with your child can enhance their understanding and provide valuable insights.

Parental Guidance Ratings

Understanding Ratings: Familiarize yourself with the meaning behind parental guidance ratings. Ratings often include age recommendations and highlight specific content that may be of concern.

Supplementary Research: Consider conducting additional research beyond ratings. Reviews and parental guides can provide more detailed insights into the content and help you make informed decisions.

Updates to Ratings: Be aware that the appropriateness of content can vary, and new seasons or episodes may have different ratings. Stay updated on changes to ensure continued suitability for your child.

In our murder mystery parents’ guide, we have also highlighted some recommendations that you can look into, such as:

Family-Friendly Options

“Enola Holmes” (2020)

Description: This Netflix original film introduces viewers to Enola Holmes, the teenage sister of the famous detective Sherlock Holmes. Set in Victorian England, the movie revolves around Enola’s journey to solve the mystery of her missing mother. It combines adventure, mystery, and humor, providing a family-friendly experience without graphic content.

“Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase” (2019)

Description: Based on the iconic character from Carolyn Keene’s novels, this film follows Nancy Drew, a teenage sleuth, as she investigates a haunted house and unravels a mysterious case involving hidden staircases. With a focus on puzzle-solving and a strong, independent female protagonist, the movie offers a wholesome and engaging experience suitable for family audiences.

“Scoob!” (2020)

Description: This animated film brings the beloved Scooby-Doo and the Mystery Inc. gang to the big screen. The story explores the origins of the friendship between Shaggy and Scooby-Doo, intertwining it with a plot involving a supernatural dog apocalypse. While maintaining the essence of the classic Scooby-Doo mysteries, “Scoob!” offers a blend of humor, friendship, and light-hearted mystery suitable for all ages.

“The Great Mouse Detective” (1986)

Description: This animated Disney classic follows the adventures of Basil of Baker Street, a mouse detective, as he solves a mystery involving the kidnapping of a toymaker. Filled with intrigue, humor, and memorable characters, it offers a family-friendly introduction to the world of detective stories.

“Paddington 2” (2017)

Description: While not a traditional murder mystery, this heartwarming film features Paddington Bear as he embarks on a quest to clear his name after being wrongfully accused of theft. The movie combines elements of mystery and adventure, providing an entertaining and family-friendly experience.

“Molly of Denali” (2019 – Present)

Description: Aimed at younger audiences, this animated series follows Molly Mabray, an Alaskan Native girl, as she solves mysteries and explores her cultural heritage. The show emphasizes problem-solving and critical thinking, making it suitable for preschool and early elementary viewers.

“Carmen Sandiego” (2019 – 2021)

Description: This animated series follows the adventures of Carmen Sandiego, a modern-day Robin Hood who travels the world stealing from V.I.L.E. and giving back to its victims. The show is filled with mystery, geography, and educational elements and provides an engaging experience for older children.

Preview Content

In this murder mystery parents’ guide, let’s explore some factors to look into when selecting content for your children:

Purposeful Screening

Why It’s Important: Previewing content allows parents to assess the appropriateness of the material for their family. It enables parents to identify potential content that may be too intense or not align with their values.

Assessing Themes and Tone

How to Do It: Pay attention to the themes, tone, and overall atmosphere of the murder mystery. Look for content that balances engaging storytelling and age-appropriate presentation, avoiding overly intense or dark elements.

Understanding Storylines

What to Look for: Consider the central storyline, character interactions, and potential conflicts. Ensure that the content promotes positive values and offers educational opportunities for discussions with your child.

Open Communication

Creating a Safe Space

Why It’s Important: Open communication fosters a safe environment for your child to express their thoughts and feelings about the content they’re watching. It allows for discussions around any concerns or questions that may arise.

Encouraging Reflection

How to Do It: Ask open-ended questions about the murder mystery, encouraging your child to reflect on the characters, plot, and any emotions evoked. This dialogue can provide valuable insights into your child’s perspective.

Addressing Concerns

Why It’s Important: If your child expresses concern or fears related to the content, address them with empathy. Discussing their feelings helps build trust and ensures they feel comfortable approaching you with future problems.

Set Viewing Limits

Balancing Screen Time

Why It’s Important: Setting viewing limits ensures a healthy balance between screen entertainment and other activities. It promotes a well-rounded lifestyle, preventing excessive exposure to media content.

Establishing Guidelines

How to Do It: Define clear guidelines for screen time, considering the duration and frequency of watching murder mystery shows and movies. Emphasize the importance of engaging in diverse activities to support your child’s overall development.

Monitoring Consistency

Why It’s Important: Regularly monitor and enforce the established viewing limits. Consistency helps create a routine and reinforces the message that screen time is just one aspect of their daily activities.

Additional Tips

Classic Detective Cartoons

Explore classic animated detective cartoons like “Inspector Gadget” or “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” These timeless shows feature mystery-solving and are generally well-received by various age groups.

Book Adaptations

Look for family-friendly murder mystery adaptations from popular book series, such as the “Boxcar Children” or “Encyclopedia Brown.” These adaptations often maintain a balance between intrigue and age-appropriate content.


While murder mysteries are great, we can understand why they might not be best-suited for children. But you, as a parent, also need to understand that you cannot control their choices forever. This is why it is important to follow these tips and tricks to ensure that you can mitigate parenthood in such a way that you raise a child who is mature enough to make wise decisions for themselves without your supervision. It is important that the boundary of parenthood does not cross into anything that remotely resembles policing. Good luck!


How can I control the content my child watches on streaming platforms?

Most streaming platforms offer parental control features. Create a separate profile for your child, set age restrictions, and enable content filters. Additionally, regularly review and adjust these settings based on your child’s maturity level.

What should I consider when selecting age-appropriate content for my child?

Consider factors such as the age rating, themes, and level of violence in the content. Read reviews or watch previews to understand the nature of the shows or movies. Ensure the selected content aligns with your family values and your child’s developmental stage.

How can I monitor my child’s viewing habits without invading their privacy?

Encourage open communication. Discuss the importance of age-appropriate content and establish guidelines together. Regularly check their preferences and discuss the shows or movies they enjoy. Balance supervision with trust.

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