5 Tips for Parents on How to Navigate Scary Halloween Entertainment
By Melissa Henson
Halloween is just one week away, and already Hollywood has been busy turning-out blood-chilling feature films, specials and original series. Jamie Lee Curtis is back in theaters with a new addition to the Halloween franchise, and Netflix has released an original horror series, The Haunting of Hill House, that according to some reports, is actually making viewers physically ill. And while there are many light-hearted and fun Halloween specials and programs made specifically with children in mind (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown being a perennial favorite), much of the Halloween-themed entertainment available is decidedly not child-friendly. Here are five tips to help navigate your way through the sometimes tricky world of Halloween entertainment to find a treat you can safely enjoy with your children.
Be Clear About What’s Okay and What’s Not
Every family has different rules and sensitivities around Halloween. Some families don’t want to acknowledge it in any way; some are okay with costumes and trick-or-treating, but not with anything that’s dark, scary or supernatural; some are okay with mild scares, but not with things that are gruesome or gory. You know your children better than anyone else, you know what they are sensitive to, and you know what your family’s values are – that puts you in the best position to decide what’s okay for your kids and what’s not.
Older movies can be a good alternative for safe scares and light-hearted entertainment
Although some older movies can certainly be dark and scary – especially for young viewers – channels like Turner Classic Movies will often air classic comedies like Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein or Arsenic and Old Lace around this time of year. Children and parents alike can laugh at the silly antics of the stars without getting nightmares.
Skip the ads
Sometimes just the ads for horror films can be terrifying, and this is the time of year when you’re likely to get a glut of horror film ads. If you have a DVR, use it to skip through the commercial breaks or switch to a streaming service until the season is past – but beware, even the streaming services are likely to be promoting scary content, and sometimes even the cover-art for horror films can scare youngsters — so you might want to send the youngest members of the family out of the room while you navigate the menu.
Classic cartoons are often a safe choice
Generations of kids have grown up watching the Peanuts gang go trick-or-treating while Linus patiently waits for the Great Pumpkin – and it’s still every bit as entertaining today as it was when it debuted in 1966. Old Scooby Doo cartoons can help remind children that monsters aren’t real; Pixar cartoons like Monsters, Inc. and Monsters University can help make them less scary.
Find some safe, fun, kid-friendly alternatives to watching TV
Autumn is a great time for corn mazes, farmers markets, apple picking, pumpkin patches, baking, trunk-or-treat, or myriad other safe, fun, kid-friendly activities. See what’s available in your area. The less time spent in front of the TV, the less likely it is your child will be exposed to some of the darker, more disturbing Halloween fare that’s out there.
A noted expert on entertainment industry trends, Melissa Henson is the program director for the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment. (www.ParentsTV.org)