“Conceptually, depictions of witches, dark forces and spirits are not necessarily the main threat for preschoolers because they are not likely to understand the meaning of those concepts. But when those depictions look realistically scary and menacing, it can be terrifying for children,” says Glenn Sparks, professor of communication, who studies the effects of frightening images.
Today’s Halloween decorations, costumes and trinkets are realistic and more elaborate than ever, Sparks says. Halloween in the last 15 years has moved beyond a three-day decorating event to a more elaborate season that goes on for weeks. And, while fun for adults, it can be a bit much for children.
“Adults need to be reminded what is OK for each age,” he says. “Parents of preschool children may need to take a pass on some houses with decorations that are particularly intense visually, because it can be a lot for 4-year-old.”
Sparks also cautions parents that older children, while they may seem old enough to deal with such imagery, can actually be more sensitive.
“The mistake is made when parents think older children will understand the difference between fantasy and reality, but many are still vulnerable. Seven and 8-year-olds are still sorting out what is real and not real,” Sparks says.
Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Glenn Sparks, email@example.com