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Parents: Should You Worry About "Squid Game"?

Even if you haven’t watched “Squid Game,” you’ve probably heard about the immensely popular new show. This Korean battle royal series has stacked up to become Netflix’s most-watched program. On top of that, “Squid Game” and the deadly spin on popular children’s games that it portrays, has permeated culture outside of the streaming service. That means your kids are hearing about it.

For example, if you’ve browsed YouTube’s most popular videos since the series release, you’ve probably caught glimpses of thumbnails referencing Fortnite, Minecraft, or Roblox versions of the show that kids can participate in themselves, or maybe you’ve heard stories of children playing “Squid Game” during recess.

So, what is it about “Squid Game” that has captured the imagination not only of the mature audience its grisly story is meant for, but also of kids who are way too young for the show’s ultraviolence?

What Do Kids Find so Appealing About “Squid Game”?

“Squid Game” is, at its core, a brutal allegory of wealth inequality and class exploitation, as its characters are willing to risk their lives for entertainment and the chance to be freed of their crippling debts. As far as explicit content goes, “Squid Game” essentially checks all the boxes, with its portrayal of violence, nudity, sex, and language. But given the bubblegum, childish aesthetic and mechanics of the “games” in the show, and the fact that many of the “games” (such as “Red Light, Green Light” and “Tug-of-War”) are universally recognizable, it’s easy to see how kids might have latched on to these elements without engaging directly with the show’s gruesome imagery or deeper themes.

With the existence of popular online video games like Minecraft and Fortnite and social media sites like YouTube and TikTok, it’s hardly surprising that the show’s virality has trickled down to these playgrounds. But it’s also reasonable for parents to be wary of the content their kids are finding so compelling.

While the show itself is really too violent for any child to be watching (many experts point to at least 16 years of age as the minimum age to engage with the series), it may be worth it for parents to watch the show in order to be able to have a conversation with their children about what they see, what they find appealing, and what they should (and should not) be taking away from the series. Unfortunately, given its popularity, some kids may try to seek out the show themselves, if only to have a better grasp on the subject everyone’s talking about. If that’s the case, all the more reason for parents to be ready to take advantage of the teachable moments “Squid Game” offers; after all, underneath the gruesome life or death contest lies many themes and critiques ripe for exploring: privilege, addiction, economic inequality, to say nothing of the central moral quandary of humanity-versus-survival.

Should Parents Worry?

So, do parents need to be worried about their kids and “Squid Game”? Of the games themselves, probably not. Given the popularity of games like Fortnite among kids and teens, it’s not likely that a concept like last-man-standing or battle royal is new to them. And reenactments of games like “Red light, Green Light” are fairly innocuous, be it in-person or in a video game. Alas, it’s not as if generations past were any stranger to recess games that erred on the side of rough. Who among us didn’t play dodgeball, or “Red Rover,” or other games when we were kids? As long as children understand that the show’s violence has no place in real life, they should be okay.

Should parents be worried about the show itself? While the show’s contents are too mature for children, the hype surrounding “Squid Game” will unfortunately encourage some kids to try to watch it with or without parental approval. So if your child has been exposed to the brutal aspects of “Squid Game,” the best approach is to provide a safe and open space discuss it with them. And if they are playing the games within the show, make sure they know to leave the violence in the fictional world.



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