As fascination with Netflix’s Squid Game grips the world, doctors have a word of advice for parents: Don’t let your kids watch.
The nine-episode fictional Korean drama, which debuted on Netflix in September, follows hundreds of contestants competing in deadly children’s games for a chance to escape severe debt.
Only one person escapes with a $A51 million prize and those who lose, pay with their lives.
On Netflix, it is rated MA15+ for mature adults, meaning it is legally restricted to people over the age of 15.
But the show has found its way to those far younger, drawing concerns from doctors.
Experts at New York’s Child Mind Institute – a nonprofit dedicated to children’s mental health – recommend children not watch the series until at least late adolescence, regardless of whether parents are watching with them.
“The level of violence is horrifying – more than most shows,” David Anderson, Head of School and Community Programs at the Child Mind Institute, said in a statement.
“It’s a murder fest with the premise that out of over 400 participants, there can only be one survivor.”
Common Sense Media, which rates shows and movies based on age appropriateness, called the violence in the show “very intense”.
“Characters are systematically tortured and killed for the sadistic pleasure of a game master. Adults have sex, and there are threats of sexual violence: Women are grabbed by the hair and beaten,” it said.
“Themes concerning the highs one gets from gambling, winning, or conning money are a focus.”
‘It is not easy to skip if you do not know it is coming…’
Earlier this month, Australian cyber safety educators, Safe on Social Media, issued similar advice after being contacted by several concerned schools.
“Parents should know that the level of violence is highly intense in Squid Game, and it is not suitable for young teens and primary school-age children,” it said.
”Even though adults have overwhelmingly positive reviews about this series, there is a lot of torture and murder that seem to be celebrated.
“The amount of killing is horrific, and the methods are awful. There is a graphic image of an eyeball being taken out of the body – it is not easy to skip if you do not know it is coming.
“Sensitive or younger viewers should avoid watching Squid Game on Netflix.
“As always, we recommend that you watch it first and talk to your kids about the themes if you decide to let them watch it. Consider the impact and possible desensitisation to extreme violence, gambling, and addiction.
“Make sure your children/students know that playing violent games like this at school is not OK under any circumstances.”
‘Simply not suitable’
A primary school in Sydney’s inner west became the first in Australia to ask parents to stop their children from watching the series over concerns they make take some inspiration from the screen to the playground.
In a letter to parents, obtained by 7NEWS.com.au, the principal of Dulwich Hill Public School in Sydney’s inner west, Linda Wickham, said children as young as six had watched the series, which depicts “extreme violence and gore, strong language and frightening moments”.
Wickham said the show was “simply not suitable for primary and early high school-aged children” and asked parents to change their Netflix settings and closely monitor their child’s activity online.
“Withholding the capacity of your children to access inappropriate content from age zero to age-appropriate will certainly assist to keep them safe and their growing minds to stay healthy,” she said.
In a statement to 7NEWS.com.au, a NSW Education spokesperson said: “When schools are made aware of potentially harmful trends, some principals feel an obligation to contact parents.”
“Principals make these decisions at their discretion.”
– with CNN