Netflix Show Might Inspire Kids to Be Violent and Bully, Parenting Expert Claims

Netflix's Squid Game has taken the world by storm, but one parenting expert believes the show could have a negative effect on younger viewers. Squid Game was written and created by South Korean filmmaker Hwang Dong-hyuk, and centers on a group of players competing in violent versions of children's games to win a 45.6 billion wan grand prize. The show has drawn over 111 million monthly views worldwide since it debuted on Sept. 17.

In an interview with The Daily Mail, psychologist Dr. Sandra Wheatley warned that young children might be encouraged to "stand by" or "join" bullying rather than helping their peers. She is worried the show could hurt younger viewers; "social and emotional development." Some children might not understand the violence in the show, she added. "It may make them question, 'why is nobody helping them?' Clearly there are messages there that we really don't want our kids to take on board," Wheatley said.

In Squid Game, Lee Jung-jae plays Seong Gi-hun, a divorced and indebted driver who is invited to take part in a life-or-death challenge where children's games can end in a player's death. There are 456 people, all living in debt, invited to the challenge, and the winner will receive a 45.6 billion wan prize. When a player dies, 100 million wan is added to the total.

As with any incredibly violent piece of media that gets as much attention as Squid Game has, some parents have taken to social media to note how it might be inappropriate for children to watch. The show is rated TV-MA in the U.S., which means it is intended for mature audiences only and could be unsuitable for children under 17. Laura Linn Knight, a parenting educator and former elementary school teacher, told Today Parents she believes the show is "not appropriate" for 9 to 10-year-olds. Netflix also has parental controls available, so parents can decide which shows are available to their children based on their ratings.

Since our brains are not fully developed until age 25, Knight believes that graphic violence can seem overwhelming for younger viewers. "Many parents think, 'My child can understand and differentiate between reality and fiction,'" Knight said. "But children cannot differentiate as much as we think. So when we're sending in these images and expecting them to do what an adult can do, it's unrealistic for them."

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Knight later added that the show could be particularly scary because it adds a horror element to games they play on a daily basis. "They're taking childhood games that they're playing on the school yard, like red light/green light and tug of war, so children are actively playing these games with their friends," she told Today. "Now they're being exposed to it in a way where killing is involved and it's life-threatening."