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Keeping the Fun and Innocence in Halloween!

October 19, 2009
Remember when you were young and Halloween was just a fun night to stay out after dark and get lots of candy?  Putting together silly costumes from things you’d found around the house? At our house we never purchased costumes or did anything really scary unless jumping out at people in the dark was considered scary.  Decorations usually were jack-o-lanterns but they were never gross or scary.  What’s happened?  Halloween is now second to only Christmas to the amount of money spend on decorations, costumes and novelties and for some people the scarier the better.

I’ll be the first person to say that it’s fun to get dressed up as something totally different and to pretend to be someone or something else for an hour or two.  I also love walking in pumpkin fields and doing all the fall stuff, like cider mills and caramel apples. I loved making costumes for my son.  They always reflected what he was interested in and he took an active role in creating his costume.  What I don’t understand is how violent costumes have gotten for young kids.  Yes, there are lots of horror flicks that market their masks and characters but those films are meant for adults not children. So why do I see advertisements for Halloween costumes for children from the movie “Hellraiser”?  A film I refuse to see (I know I am a wimp) and I don’t believe young children should see it either.  And to make it even worse, when the child wears a truly horrific mask to school, like from “Hellraiser”, other children are exposed to it.  Unfortunately I’ve seen it happen, it’s scary but true.  Then those poor innocent children go home to parents who try to figure out what their child has been exposed to and making sense of it.

Do parents let their children watch horror films or are the products just being marketing to the whole spectrum of people regardless of who they are?  When will companies take responsibility not to market to young children things that aren’t appropriate for them?  Companies need to have a moral compass in which to gauge decisions on and based on our current economic situation, the business moral compass has been broken or lost. Parents should not succumb to marketing ploy’s or their child’s requests when it isn’t in the best interest of their child.  If a film is inappropriate for a young child, whether it’s violent, has adult situations or language, it’s simple – don’t take them to see it!  Helping your child understand that it isn’t appropriate for them to see now but they can see it when they are is in their best interest.  It is also a lesson on doing the right thing.  Giving your child clear examples of right and wrong, what they should do and things they shouldn’t do, and standing by their choices when others cave in to pressure will help give your child guideposts for making their own decisions in the future.
I have been surprised to watch films that I know that my students have seen and which there has been huge marketing campaigns to attract young children (Happy Meals, toys, party goods…) that I have been aghast at watching.  I loved “Pirates of the Caribbean” but I can’t say it is appropriate for young children yet you can find tons of party supplies with pirate stuff.  Or “Tranformers” here they take a child’s toy and make into a movie with adult situations and the world coming to a possible end.  Although I’m not a psychologist, I can’t see these situations being healthy for young children to have to sort out.  Isn’t the world coming to an end kind of scary?

As adults, we need to hold companies accountable for their lack of caring for the well-being of the nations children and not allow our children to watch or purchase items that are not appropriate for them.  Too often I’ve had children tell me about going to see movies that I found violent or contain adult situations that made me wonder, “What were their parents thinking?” Why take their young child to see a movie that is not appropriate for them?  The children then come to school the next day and share the highlights of the movie with their classmates and some of the information or situations shouldn’t be shared.  But they don’t know that! They don’t have the experience or understanding to make sense of in the movies.

Let’s have Halloween be one of fun and innocence.  Children love to role play and having an opportunity to explore another identity allows them a safe environment to learn and grow. What do you think?
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