Should Kids Watch Movies In 3-D? Science Says It Might Not Be Safe For Certain Ages

Gone are the days when kids were given a sketchy outline of a princess at the movies and expected to believe it was real. Children's movies these days are filled with special effects, award winning sound tracks and plush costume budgets. 3-D movies are now geared at children too. After all, what better way to bring a character made entirely of Legos to life than with 3-D glasses? But these movies may not be appropriate for all children. Should kids watch movies in 3-D?

It's a question that is being hotly debated as more 3-D children's movies are released. This summer, children everywhere eagerly anticipated the release of Disney's Big Friendly Giant in 3-D. Several more are awaiting the remake of Ghostbusters, also in 3-D.

3-D movies blur the distinction between reality and fiction. For older children, that's part of the appeal. These movies allow them to step inside the story and feel what it is like to be in the hero or heroine's shoes. For younger children, however, 3-D movies can be troubling.

When the giant kidnaps Sophie in the Big Friendly Giant, viewers see his massive hands reaching through the window and into her room. Young children who don't have a good concept of the difference between fantasy and reality might be spooked by that image, especially when the giant's fingers are coming right at them in 3-D. But, of course, this fear can be alleviated by just talking to kids before, or taking them to the 2-D version of the movie.

“For children, the extra processing that their brains have to do may make them more vulnerable to the content. In other words, if something in the movie would have scared them in 2-D, it will likely be even scarier in 3-D," Michael Rich, director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health told

Beyond the fear factor, 3-D movies may not be safe for children under 6, whose eyes are still developing. In fact, Italy and France have warned against 3-D films for children who are too young.

When children look at a 3-D image, they are really seeing two images in two places. The brain interprets these two images as one, but it can bee too much for little eyes to process, according to the Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety in France.

What does this mean for kids excited about 3-D movies this summer? It is best to hold off on 3-D movies until they are old enough to physically and emotionally process what they see. Luckily, there are 2-D options that are just as good.