Sunday night will be ushering in the weekly return of Game of Thrones, but it's also the beginning of another bloody, addictive television program: That's right, I'm talking about Discovery Channel's Shark Week. The weeklong series focuses on sharks of all sizes and shapes and takes a deep dive into their lives, habits, and environment. Much like Game of Thrones, it's definitely got an addictive quality to it — but, unlike the popular fantasy show, it's incredibly educational and promotes conservation (sorry, Tyrion). Does that mean you should let your kids watch Shark Week, though? That's a question that depends on multiple factors.
What should you take into consideration? Your child's age, their fear factor, and what kind of content Shark Week is airing on any particular night. Toddlers will likely be scared by footage of sharks eating, since it's a bloody affair, while a 7-year-old might find it fascinating. Similarly, all kids are different, so while one 7-year-old may love the shark information, another 11-year-old might be terrified by it. It all depends on the individual kid, and parents will typically be able to gauge their children's interest and tolerance for a show like Shark Week. If you haven't seen the show yet, you can watch clips online before deciding whether or not Shark Week will be right for your child.
If you do decide to watch Shark Week with your young one in tow, you may also want to screen the upcoming episodes. Make no mistake: Shark Week is all about one of the ocean's apex predators, and there's plenty of content that's not exactly kid-friendly. For example, if you haven't had "the talk" with your child yet, Discovery Channel's "Violent Shark Sex" episode on Sunday night may leave you with quite a bit of explaining to do. By reading about the episodes ahead of time and watching their related clips, you can get a sense of what might be more child-appropriate and when you may want to put on Finding Dory instead.
If you decide to wait until next year to introduce your kids to Shark Week, don't worry: they can still take part in the fun, albeit in a more child-friendly environment. Even if your kids skip the show itself, they can read fictional shark picture books or educational shark books, or they can look up interesting shark facts online. Discovery Channel also has a few great shark games for kids, and Explore's live shark cams allow viewers to get a glimpse at sharks' everyday lives.
Raising conservation-minded children is one of the best hopes we have at saving our environment, and it's never too early to start teaching your kids about these massively misunderstood creatures (I'm looking at you, Jaws). Besides, Shark Week has been running for 29 years. If your kids don't catch it this year, they can always partake in next year's, or the one after that — because it's never too late to start loving sharks, either.