It’s a “prank” video trend we’re seeing more and more of: setting your kids up in innocuous situations, turning those situations dark and then filming parental reactions as the reality of how gullible our kids are and how thoroughly we’ve failed to protect them sets in.
We’ve seen kids “abducted,” kids being creeped on, kids being lured away from playgrounds. All the videos have a message: Monsters are everywhere! No child is safe! No place is safe!
A YouTube prankster who goes by Coby Persin released a trick or treating PSA video that’s making the rounds as Halloween approaches. It purports to show how easily kids are suckered into walking into predators’ homes as a warning to parents.
Video: Coby Persin/YouTube
The setup is fairly standard YouTube prank fare: The moms in the videos have managed to convince their children that they can go trick-or-treating early. Then they drive around the neighborhood for a tick, let the kids out at a decorated house and warn them to watch for cars and to “be careful.” Persin opens the door, tells the kids to come inside for candy and then breaks the bad news: There is no candy. Then, for some inexplicable reason, murder clowns appear.
After that, the pissed moms confront their terrified children and chastise them for talking to strangers and going inside strange houses, clearly shaken that their children didn’t require much but the promise of candy to put themselves in danger.
The video is being passed around with a pretty universal reaction: It could happen to your kids. The only problem is that the chances of that happening are practically nil.
Watching the videos, the only thing that’s clear isn’t that the children are gullible little naïfs; it’s that they didn’t think they were any danger to begin with. Why would they? Mom’s right outside, waiting in the car. What’s more is that they really aren’t in danger. It was all manufactured. There is something deeply unsettling about setting your children up to fail with an elaborate prank and then panicking when they meet your expectations.
Sure, it’s important to talk to your kids about stranger safety when they’re out trick-or-treating (never mind that the streets will be crowded with tons of people, including parents), but the biggest danger your kids will face on Saturday is actually cars. On average, twice as many kids are struck by a moving vehicle on Halloween night than any other night of the year.
A productive safety chat with your kids before the festivities begin should focus mostly on adding reflective tape to costumes and staying on sidewalks and crosswalks, not that they should fear every adult who opens the door to them during trick-or-treating.
Let’s be honest: The lesson to learn from The Dangers of Trick-or-Treating isn’t, as the video claims, that “not all monsters will look scary this Halloween.” It’s that if there’s a dime to be made off parental fear, someone will definitely snatch it up, no matter how questionable the methods.
Halloween should be fun — and safe, of course — and kids will look forward to the spooky, scary thrill of it all. But let’s not go overboard. Let them be terrified of animatronic zombie babies popping out from behind witches’ cauldrons, not of their neighbors. Danger isn’t lurking behind every corner, no matter how hard everyone works to convince us of the opposite. Teach your kids what they should know, but then take a deep breath, and stand at a reasonable distance while they gather a metric buttload of sugary crap that will last until Valentine’s Day.