’The level of violence is horrifying’: Health officials warn that kids shouldn’t watch Netflix’s ‘Squid Game’

The show is still holding a grip on its audience off-screen

Cosplayers dressed in outfits from the Netflix series "Squid Game" stand by a doll statue at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur on October 20, 2021. (Photo by MOHD RASFAN / AFP) (Photo by MOHD RASFAN/AFP via Getty Images) (MOHD RASFAN, Getty Images)

As the Netflix series “Squid Game” continues to be a megahit for audiences across the nation, some health professionals are warning that the show is “clearly not appropriate for children.”

But, that isn’t stopping many kids from watching it, which is becoming a cause for concern due to the extremely violent content.

If you haven’t seen the TV show, the series delves into the stories of hundreds of people who are enduring extreme financial woes. That is until they’re invited to a secret location to compete in six childhood games for the chance to win a billion dollars. However, if they lose any of the games, they’ll pay the ultimate price — death.

Ever since the show debuted on Netflix, it’s continued to hold a grip on its audience off-screen. “Squid Game”-themed Halloween costumes are trending this year, some kids and teens are mimicking the games in-person with their friends, and some of the most violent clips of the show are still able to be viewed on YouTube and TikTok.

According to doctors at the Child Mind Institute, they believe no one should watch the show until late adolescence, as it’s just too violent.

“The level of violence is horrifying — more than most shows,” said Dr. David Anderson, head of school and community programs at CMI, in a statement. “It’s a murder fest with the premise that out of over 400 participants, there can only be one survivor.”

The show is rated TV-MA, meaning it’s meant to be viewed by young adults 17-years-old or older. However, the show is still easily accessible on Netflix, even though there is a subtle content warning at the beginning.

And in addition to the violence, Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization that reviews TV shows and movies, said “Squid Game” pushes even more boundaries.

“Parents need to know that the level of violence is very intense in Squid Game. Characters are systematically tortured and killed for the sadistic pleasure of a game master. Adults have sex, and there are threats of sexual violence: Women are grabbed by the hair and beaten. Themes concerning the highs one gets from gambling, winning, or conning money are a main focus,” CSM said on its website.

“Squid Game” has been compared to “The Hunger Games” series, as both have similar plots -- many compete head-to-head in games for entertainment, but only one person can survive and be declared the winner.

However, “The Hunger Games” movies, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, are meant for a younger audience and had “positive role models” and “positive messages,” including the teen heroine Katniss Everdeen, unlike “Squid Game,” according to CMI.

If teens do opt to watch “Squid Game,” CMI encourages parents to watch alongside them so they can understand and reflect on the content.

Dr. Anderson added that even if parents don’t watch the show, they should try talking to the kids about it, and focus on how it makes them feel.

“The purpose would be to identify kids who are having recurring, unwanted thoughts about things they saw in the show, or images that have stayed with them. Those kind of things can become triggers for anxiety and are a good sign that kids should stop watching because the show isn’t healthy for them,” the institute said in a statement.

The institute added that even the time of day when young ones watch the show can have an impact.

“Watching a disturbing and suspenseful show like ‘Squid Game’ at night can interfere with sleep, and that in turn can mess up your performance on that science test or in that soccer game the next day,” Dr. Anderson said.

If your child has already watched the show, or if you want to know more about what health professionals recommend, visit the institute’s website here.

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About the Author:

Cody King is a digital journalist for KSAT 12. She previously worked for WICS/WRSP 20 in Springfield, Illinois.