Horror stories: how the myth of media’s harmful effects took hold on our imaginations

Scary films and video games can put a name to fears and allow children to safely explore themes such as trauma, death and mental health – yet some campaigners continue to claim they are a source of harm

Screen scares: experts argue that horror films and video games have very little effect on children’s behaviour, despite some campaigners’ claims to the contrary. Picture: Getty

It’s been a few weeks since the backlash against attempts to remove certain words considered offensive in Roald Dahl’s classic novels. While the debate still rages over what’s appropriate for 21st-century children, a strange but familiar conflation took place. The words “offensive,” “inappropriate” and “harmful” were used almost interchangeably during the discourse. This conflation is not just confined to the Dahl debacle, as calls to restrict material supposedly harmful to children have been going on ...