Thinking of watching Netflix’s Squid Game? Here’s what you should know

Story by CBC Kids News • Published 2021-10-08 13:51

It’s trending in a big way, but it’s not rated for kids


Maybe you’ve seen images of the giant robot girl or of people with covered faces and wearing red hooded jumpsuits.

These scenes are from Squid Game, Netflix’s latest hit series that premiered in 190 countries on Sept. 17.

The image of the giant robot doll, left, and of people in red, right, have been all over social media since Squid Game was released. (Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix says the Korean drama is fast becoming one of its biggest shows ever.

According to its internal numbers, the show is holding the No. 1 spot in more than 90 countries.

Lots of kids are talking about it, but is it something they should even be watching?

What is Squid Game?

Squid Game is a thriller drama series from South Korea.

It’s rated TV-MA, which is a rating that means the content has been deemed not suitable for people under 17.

The rating reflects the extreme violence, some sexual content and the use of alcohol featured in the show.

The plot of the show is similar to the popular teen book and movie series The Hunger Games.

Poor and desperate people are selected to participate in a deadly contest.

Squid Game has even inspired creators in Roblox, a popular online game platform, to make games based on the series. Some of the games have attracted thousands of Roblox users. (Image credit:

All of the games the contestants play in the show are well-known playground games, such as ‘red light, green light,’ but instead of just being “out” when you’re eliminated, you’re killed.

Whoever survives the game at the end wins and gets to take home a large cash prize.

Should kids watch it? Here’s what the experts say

So, the show is rated for people older than 17, but you’re younger than that and still want to check it out?

We tracked down some experts to help better understand the risks of kids watching violent and mature content like Squid Game.

CBC Kids News spoke to Neil Andersen, president of the Association for Media Literacy in Toronto, Ontario, and Mike Brooks, a psychologist from Austin, Texas, who writes extensively about the effects of screens and technology on kids.

Some kids can handle it, others can’t

According to Brooks, when you look at the research compiled on the effects of violent and mature media altogether, most kids and teens will not be seriously harmed if they watch a horror film or a violent television show.

That doesn’t mean no individual kid will be badly affected, he said, and the key is for kids to learn what they can handle and what they can’t.

Squid Game combines horror with children’s games, such as in this scene that features a brightly coloured playground and men with guns. (Image credit: Netflix)

Overall though, most tweens and teens can tell the difference between reality and fiction, said both Andersen and Brooks.

So, while kids may get freaked out in the moment, it most likely won’t have long-lasting effects.

“[The violence] is exaggerated and our brains know that,” said Andersen.

Both he and Brooks said that the violence and dark subjects seen and talked about on the nightly news can be even scarier in some cases because it's more real.

Common Sense Media is a site where parents, kids and experts can weigh in on television and movies. Users claiming to be kids rated the Squid Game appropriate for people 14 and over, while Common Sense’s experts and users claiming to be parents rated it appropriate for people 16 and over. (Image credit:

It’s totally OK not to want to watch it

Even if some kids can handle the violence, Brooks said, it’s good for kids to remember that there is “a range of normal” and it’s OK if you don’t want to watch.

He said that unfortunately sometimes there is pressure from other kids to show off and watch content that may make a kid uncomfortable.

One strategy if you don’t want to watch, but also don’t want to admit to your friends that you’re scared, is to tell them that your parents said no, Brooks said.

You can even make a pact with your parents that they’ll step in if friends are pressuring you.

What if your parents are worried about the TV-MA rating?

Even if kids want to watch Squid Game, adults may be nervous about letting them watch a violent show rated TV-MA.

Both Andersen and Brooks said that rating systems are guidelines and that people should use them to make their own decisions.

Brooks said even shows that are meant for younger audiences might be too much for some kids. For example, Netflix’s horror series, Stranger Things, pictured here, is rated TV-14 but sparked similar conversations about what is appropriate for kids to be watching. (Image credit: Netflix)

There are ups and downs to rating systems, according to Anderson.

“Rating systems are great because they make things simple. They’re terrible because they make things simple.”

Strategies for making a decision with your parents

One way for parents and kids to be on the same page is to watch the first episode together.

Or a kid could offer to have their parents pre-screen the show, and even skip scenes they think are inappropriate or too scary.

Parents may not want kids watching something violent or sexual because it conflicts with their own values, said Brooks.

If you decide not to watch the latest trending show, Brooks said, the good thing is that streaming services have lots of other options for kids and families to choose from.

Squid Game is an allegory, meaning something that stands in for reality, about inequalities and wider issues in Korean society. Andersen said the audience can learn from stories like this that have morals and spark deeper conversation. (Image credit: Netflix)

Andersen and Brooks both agree that kids and parents should make it a habit to consume and talk about media together.

It could be a learning opportunity

Fictional media like Squid Game, Andersen said, can be a way for kids and adults to discuss real world issues like violence and inequality.

He is planning to watch Squid Game so that he can have conversations with his own grandchildren, ages 13 and 16, who are already watching and talking about it.

Regret going there?

And if a kid does watch Squid Game and gets scared or anxious?

Brooks said the best thing is to deal with it as soon as possible and  to find ways to remind yourself that you’re safe and that it’s not real.

Have more questions? We'll look into it for you. Email us at

With files from Jenna Benchetrit, Jackson Weaver, Front Burner/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Was this story worth reading?