Should I take my kids to see Alice in Wonderland?

Michael RichMedia expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last time, he discussed if what goes on in the brain during a 3D movie.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: The previews for the new Disney movie Alice in Wonderland seem a little scary (particularly the music and goth costuming/make-up). However, the movie is rated PG. Is it too scary for children ages 5-10? What age do you think is old enough to see this film? Any other comments for parents considering taking their kids to see this film?
What about Alice? from

A: Dear What about Alice,

The whimsy and fantasy of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, as well as its PG-rating and earlier animated version, seem to imply that the movie is geared toward children. And it may indeed be a wonderful movie experience for some. The idea of Alice returning to Wonderland as a teenager—who doesn’t remember being there the first time and, for much of the movie, believes it to be a dream—can bring a new and engaging twist to a familiar story.

But some of what might make the movie fun for older children might make it quite unnerving for younger ones. The movie plays a great deal with the border between fantasy and reality, between dreams and waking life, between “madness” and “sanity.” And since research has shown us that young children have trouble telling fantasy from reality, that kind of hazy boundary can be particularly disorienting.

One of the main concerns for young children is that the movie may scare them in ways that are too intense for their developmental stage. In addition to the hazy reality/fantasy border, there are also some images that may be frightening, like the physical distortions of some of the characters (the Red Queen has a disproportionately large head) and the darkness of others (like the electric-fire-breathing Jabberwocky that Alice must fight).

These are some of the factors that may play into your child’s reaction to this movie, but ultimately, you as her parent know best how your child will respond. If your gut tells you that something will unnerve or disturb her, you’re probably right. If you aren’t sure, I would recommend reading some parent-oriented reviews or seeing the movie yourself before you decide whether to share it with her. And remember, you can always share the book now and save the movie for when she’s a bit older.

>>See the movie trailer

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®Do you have a question about your child’s media use? Ask it today!