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Why is a kid like you out on a night like this?

Gary F. Ehman
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The headlines glaringly scream: "Sex Offenders See New Limits for Halloween"; "Plan Ahead and Avoid Halloween Violence"; "Halloween: A Very Dangerous Day for Children"; "Halloween Costumes Cause Pedestrian Accidents"; "Police Warn about Drugged Candy."

It's that time of the year again; pumpkins, witches, goblins, black cats, bats and vampires swirl around in the heads of children as they plan their annual assault on the neighborhood to get treats while threatening tricks.

Parents nervously give into childish demands, driven by the economics of retail profiteering, expressed in the seasonal advertising blitz aimed at the kids who make the demands on the parents. Isn't this just all a big bunch of fun? If so, why do we have the glaring, screaming headlines each year?

A study by the University of Michigan states that traffic deaths among children are more than four times higher on Halloween. "On Halloween night, pedestrian fatalities among trick-or-treaters are about 4.5 times the levels of other nights … 'This increase does not occur in daylight periods and it is primarily restricted to children 15 and under,' said John Sullivan of UMTRI."

He noted that this is a consequence of the special vulnerability of pedestrians at night, "along with the greater than usual numbers of children out on Halloween, increasing the opportunity for an accident."

More "scary" than this is the report from the New York Times prior to Halloween last year that: "All across the country this year, local and state authorities are placing registered [sex] offenders under one-night curfews or other restrictions out of fear that in only a few days, costumed children asking for candy will be arriving on their doorsteps" (New York Times, Oct. 2006).

Recent news reports of young children being abducted off the streets in broad daylight would seem to be something parents would consider carefully before they turn their little ones loose for the annual candy search.

While the more concerned parents accompany their children, experts say far too many children are roaming dark streets unchaperoned, or are a part of large parties with only one adult overseeing the activities. One expert says the best monitors in the world for children are their parents. He advises that if you want to keep your children safe, go trick-or-treating with them

Parents make the mistake of thinking that it is only the grade school children who are at risk, but statistics show that teens are equally targeted. Because they are older, they believe they are not vulnerable to predatory attacks on this "festive" evening, and take further chances or engage in vandalism prompted by the "spirit" of the holiday.

Parents need to understand that teenage boys are often the target of random Halloween crimes just as much as girls are. Not surprisingly, boys have a higher risk, because many parents fear for the safety of girls and don't allow them out as late as boys.

In the face of these risks, is it really worth taking a chance in this violent day and age? Is Halloween just harmless fun for youth and amusing entertainment for adults?

Not according to Penn State researcher, Cindy Dell Clark, Associate Professor of Human Development and Family. She says parents need to realize that scaring children this age isn't necessarily a way to make them safe from fears of death and other things frightening.

"Halloween is a time when we expose kids to behavior that is not the norm. Children connect the holiday with death," said Clark, whose study, titled, "Tricks of Festival: Halloween, Children and Enculturation" was published in the anthropological journal, Ethos (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050922020544.htm).

Is there a real story behind Halloween and other holiday traditions that claim to be Christian? Read our revealing article "What Is Hidden by the Holidays?" It will open a new understanding to why you do the things that you do – traditionally.

  Originally Published: 24th October 2006