Halloween: Should Parents Be Afraid?

With Halloween approaching, the many fears related to the holiday and to its standard celebratory event — trick-or-treating — are surfacing. Parents are looking for ways to protect their kids from dangers — real and imagined. Police departments are issuing Halloween-related warnings, and parents may find that they aren’t certain what horrors are real, and which ones are make-believe.

If you’re wondering which Halloween horrors to prepare for and whether you should skip the holiday altogether, you may be seeing conflicting information, especially on social media. For instance, you may have seen a recent viral post warning of drugs in Halloween candy.

Halloween fears are often overblown
Image via Facebook

The image above circulated with the following caption.

“If your kids get these for Halloween, it’s not candy.”

The meme circulated around social media, warning parents that what appeared to be Halloween treats might, in fact, be tablets of ecstasy. Though the story was shared by police departments and picked up by news outlets, Snopes assures us that the fear of drugs in Halloween offerings is unfounded.

Of course, when kids are out in large groups as they are on Halloween, a common fear is abduction. Parents fear that it would be easy for an assailant to nab one kid unnoticed out of a crowd, and that a child who is expected to be occupied for hours might not be noted as absent until his abductor had time to get far away.

This, too, is a fear that is echoed by law enforcement. Many police departments have included protection against kidnapping in their Halloween warnings, and at least one in Camden County, N.C., actually linked their Halloween Safety Facebook post to the state’s sex offender registry.

Halloween: how scary is it for parents?
[Screenshot via Facebook
To see whether this fear was founded, Vice checked into sex crimes on Halloween and learned that there is no recorded spike of such crimes around the holiday. There is no sign that a child is at a higher risk of sexual assault on Halloween than at any other time.

It’s also relevant to remember that strangers are not the most likely sexual assailants. In fact, Parents Protect lists this as the largest myth of child sexual abuse. Statistics show that a sexual abuser is most likely to be someone the child knows and trusts.

As far as that goes, many states have specific laws regarding sex offenders and Halloween, ranging from prohibiting registered offenders from handing out Halloween candy or wearing costumes, to actually requiring registered sex offenders to spend certain hours of Halloween inside, entirely away from the festivities. Some even require registered offenders to put out ‘No Candy’ signs. (FindLaw has many more details, if you’d like to check your state.)

In short, many of the biggest fears parents have about Halloween are not such likely dangers as we might believe.

With all that said, though, like any time, parents are certainly responsible for their children’s safety on Halloween, and it’s certainly reasonable to protect your child. Not all neighborhoods are Halloween-friendly, and there are certainly some safer than others.

Do check local police or county pages to make sure that your area is participating in Halloween festivities. Some areas prefer not to celebrate Halloween on a Sunday and some will avoid Saturday nights, while others prefer to avoid weeknights. This year Halloween falls on a Saturday, and some neighborhoods may choose to hold trick-or-treating on Friday night instead.

Make sure that children remember Halloween does not suspend safety rules. Full-sized candy bars are not a good reason to dart across roads without checking traffic.

Many neighborhoods start trick-or-treating early, and are done before dark. If your child will be out after dark for Halloween, reflective clothing is important for safety. (The Atlantic found vehicular accidents to be one quite valid fear on Halloween.)

As always, use parental discretion — if you are comfortable with your ability to keep your child safe the rest of the year, rely on the same instincts and knowledge.

If you don’t feel your neighborhood is safe for trick-or-treating, it does not mean your child has to miss out on Halloween. Check to see if your community, or one near you, is holding a Halloween party or carnival, look for local churches offering Trunk-or-Treat, or ask at your child’s school for safe local Halloween festivities.

For more on Halloween safety, and a history of the holiday, click here.

[Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images]

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