Halloween and horror movies are a prime time and way to celebrate some of the scariest and spookiest characters and images in pop culture. From Frankenstein to the headless horsemen, villains and ghouls take center stage ever October. Movies, television and comics would have us believe that all the bad guys wear dark clothes and crackle evilly. In media, villains usually look scary and intimidating but, unfortunately, things are not the same in real life.
Sometimes it is possible to spot a menacing person before they actually say or do anything to you. Sometimes a person’s shifty eyes or demeanor can alert others to danger, other times certain clothing articles (like swastikas or gang signs) can immediately convey a sense of trouble or danger surrounding an individual. Yet the most frightening kind of villain is also the most common—those who look completely normal and blend in well with society.
Throughout history there have been cases of serial killers who were so timid, quiet and unassuming that—upon the revelation of their crimes—their own neighbors simply refused to believe it. Many times kidnapers look extremely well kept and entice their victims with smiles and promises of nice things like an opportunity to see puppies or get candy. Hence, the real challenge for parents today is not shielding children from images of made-up media monsters but teaching them how to stay safe from real monsters…that very often look like anything but monsters.
It is not an easy topic to talk to children (especially young ones) about. However, lessons about keeping out of harm’s way are the most important thing a child will ever learn—even more important than reading or writing! Not all people are nice and so it is important never to talk to strangers or walk away with someone you do not know—no matter how wonderful what they promise you are. Although this seems like a difficult discussion to have, it is crucial to talk to children about staying safe simply by being mindful of who they can trust and what behaviors constitute normal versus abnormal. For example, even children of pre-school age should have enough knowledge about staying safe to know that something is seriously wrong if an adult they do not know tries to strike up a conversation with them in a public place such as a playground.
As frightening as the monsters of media are, the real life monsters are far worse and it is important to keep little ones safe from their influence by giving them the powers of knowledge and awareness.