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The appropriate age for kids to watch 'The Walking Dead' is up for debate

The Walking Dead is rated TV-MA for ages over 17
The Walking Dead is rated TV-MA for ages over 17
Photo by Laura Cavanaugh

The Walking Dead” On AMC carries a rating of TV-MA, which defines the content as a program intended for viewing by people 17 and older. TV-MA is one bookend of a larger set of TV parental guidelines that filters down on the other end to TV-Y, appropriate content for all ages, and has ranges in the middle incuding TV-PG, content inappropriate for younger children because it may hint at sexual or violent themes. There is a current plan to edit "The Walking Dead" down to TV-14, one step below TV-MA, and distribute the show on Fox-owned MyNetworkTV stations. TV-14 is simply television that contains material that parents might find objectionable for children under 14 years old. The FCC gives a warning regarding TV-14 programs that, "Parents are cautioned to exercise some care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended." It should be said that these ratings are guidelines and every child and parent are unique in their ability to digest and monitor content.

So this leads to the question at what age should a child under 17 watch "The Walking Dead" with or without parental guidance? The answer is not so simple to calculate. Recently the debate came up at one of the largest groups on Facebook where fans gather to discuss "The Walking Dead," and what many parents said was surprising, to say the least. While this was not a scientific study, and it can't be verified if the people posting had children or were even telling the truth, most parents confessed that they watched "The Walking Dead" with their toddlers or children in early childhood aged 4-7 years old. The question was posed by a parent named Gina, who asked, "If you have kids, or not, what age do you think is too young to watch The Walking Dead?" Gina explained that, "I have 6 grandkids, the oldest being 9, and they have watched almost all episodes."

One parent named Ashley said, "My 2 year old watches with me and loves it. Her and I spent a day together watching the first 2 seasons, and she was sad when I turned it off. I think it all depends on how the parent or grandparent acts and talks to the child about it. If it is made clear that it is all pretend, and just makeup, I don't see an issue with it. Showing behind the scenes and makeup to younger kids can help explain how it is all just for entertainment." Another parent, Russell, claims, "6Yr old loves so does my 3 yr old." A parent named Zakiya offered the answer, "I let my 11 & 15 year old watch, but not my 8 year old. I think it depends on maturity. My son has nightmares if he watches something like that."

Maelynn lets one of her young children watch the show, but not the youngest, saying, "I let my 6 1/2 year old watch it. She loves it. She's my walking dead buddy. But I don't let my 3 yr old watch it." Group member Prue offered up her advice that, "As long as they're properly guided, I don't think there's gonna be a problem with it." Parent Rebecca shields her child from the worst of it, claiming, "My 3 yr old watches but only after I've seen it so I can block his eyes for the really gorey bits." Tracey offered an answer on the darker side and said, "My grandbaby is 3 and she watches it with me every Sunday and we also watch the dvds. She has no nightmares and tells me to carry my gun in case we need to shoot walkers." Kristen claimed, "I don't let my 9 year old watch. Too violent." Mitchell feels differently about his kids, claiming, "I have a two year old and a five year old. They both love it!" Sandy offers up a more grim reality that, "I have a grandson and he is 2 and he loves it, but he is going around try(ing) to shot (shoot) my dog."

There are many opinions on the right age for "The Walking Dead." Perhaps the question brings up larger issues about educating parents about what kinds of violent and sexual content their children can really handle for their age. Many parents, for now, are simply ignoring the TV-MA guideline. It should be noted that TV-MA is also the rating that is given to pornographic programing. Parents should be cautioned to make appropriate choices for their children concerning all the programming they watch on a regular basis.