Stranger Things: What Parents Need to Know

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Posted by: Sue Atkins

I’m discussing ‘Stranger Things’ on BBC Radio  Suffolk this week and I will be asked:

Do you have teenage children or grandchildren and do you know what they’re watching on their phones and screens on a daily basis?

The drama “Stranger Things” launched in 2016, has 4 series, is seeing a resurgence and is pulling in a high proportion of teenage fans..

Dramas like this touch on quite mature themes though and are they  too accessible to young people? – and what effect will this have?

*  Does modern technology inevitably mean younger people have easier access to a waider variety of content?

* Similarly does this lead to access to mature news stories? – could that be a driver to them seeking out more mature themed content?

( as a Deputy Headteacher I was aware some children were viewing inappropriate material  – as I could see this in their written work – which touched on violence etc)

*Is is fairly standard for young people to want to access more mature content?

* Will watching more mature content at a young age affect them?

* Is there a possibility children are “growing up quicker” and should ratings and certification be amended to reflect this (eg we saw an introduction of 12A in 2002 to allow younger audiences to access 12’s)  

* Responsibility ultimately lies with parents and carers and doesn’t it? – should we be more aware of what our young people are watching?

Parents need to know that Stranger Things is a sci-fi/horror drama that centers on a group of tween/teen friends who find themselves fighting mysterious, dangerous forces in their small Indiana town.

There are intense monster/slasher-type scares, with frequent death, peril, and gore. Children and teens are killed gruesomely, and people are attacked or taken by genuinely scary monsters, their bodies manipulated, possessed, and absorbed.

Kids are kidnapped and traumatised, and there’s frequent gun use; characters are killed by bullets as well as by supernatural means.

In one scene, rats explode in a bloody, graphic manner; in another, a group of vulnerable kids is brutally murdered.

Children take part in some type of experiment, and one main character spends much of her time processing the abuse she dealt with as a research guinea pig. Medical/military authorities have complicated motives.

Teens date, flirt, and make out (and at least once a girl removes her shirt). Language includes “hell,” “damn,” “bitch,” “s–t,” “douche bag,” “screwed,” and “pissed off.”

It has themes of curiosity, courage, and teamwork and emphasises the importance of family and friendship – but the later seasons in particular may be too intense for younger viewers.

Talk to Your Kids About …

  • Families can talk about what genre Stranger Things is. Sci-fi? Horror? Drama? All of the above? What elements of each does it have?
  • What era is this drama set in? How can you tell? Consider costuming, dialogue, props, and settings in your answer.
  • Many reviews of Stranger Things refer to 1980s dramas like E.T.,It, andPoltergeist. How is Stranger Things like or unlike these movies? Why are these comparisons being made?
  • How do the characters in Stranger Things demonstrate curiositycourage, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?
  • How do the characters change and grow over the course of the show? Do some develop more than others?

My go to website for good advice is always Common Sense Media the leading source of entertainment and technology recommendations for families. Parents trust trust their expert reviews.

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