Halloween sends mixed messages to children

By Hayley Devitt

The word “Halloween” usually conjures up images of mischief and merriment both for kids and college students, right? Well, looking back on all the things children typically experience on and just before Oct. 31, it seems abundantly clear to me now that this “fun” tends to go against what parents generally try to teach their kids right from the beginning. Rules and curfews are broken, and kids are put in dangerous situations. In more ways than one, Halloween sends mixed messages to children.

Don’t stay out past dark? Oh, that’s a laugh. This rule is certainly contradicted around Halloween time, when so much focus is placed on nighttime, haunted graveyards and creatures of darkness, not to mention the annual rite of trick-or-treating. It isn’t safe for kids to be gallivanting in the streets at all hours of the night, yet on Halloween that is encouraged.

Don’t take candy from strangers? For kids, this holiday is all about dressing up and trick-or-treating. This means going door-to-door, collecting candy from various people of the town, mostly strangers. What if the goodies your neighbor keeps in a bowl by the front door have been tampered with? Even in its wrapping, you never know if that fun-sized Snickers bar is poisoned.

Don’t eat too much candy? So much for worrying about cavities; Halloween is a junk food smorgasbord. Pillowcases full of crunchy chocolate and sticky suckers equate a recipe for rotted teeth. In addition to that, many sweets can’t be good for small children who are already up late. Sugar buzzes and tummy aches are real problems.

Monsters aren’t real? Every other night of the year parents tuck their little ones into bed with the assurance that there are no monsters in the closet, under the bed, etc. Yet, for some reason, in the month of October all kinds of mythical entities are said to come out and scare children. Scary decorations and ghost stories seem rather counter-intuitive to curbing nightmares, don’t they?

Just be yourself? Please. The whole point of Halloween is to dress up and pretend to be something you’re not. How can we teach children to have confidence and self-esteem if we encourage them to put masks over their faces every year? Trick-or-treat costumes are sending a message to kids that they aren’t interesting enough as themselves.

Anyone reading this has probably gotten very angry and perhaps many just put the newspaper down before the end. To those of you who now want to burn this issue of the Northern Star and dance around the flames, lighten up, because you have just been Halloween pranked. In regards to everything I just said about the holiday being harmful to children: just kidding, I love Halloween.

In all seriousness, parents and communities have a good handle on their kids’ All Hallows’ Eve adventures. And although our yearly activities have changed, I think we college students look back on those years as having been full of mystery and excitement.