Halloween is generally considered to be a fun and exciting holiday for children. Approximately ninety percent of children, between the ages of three and twelve, will participate in some type of Halloween activity. Picking out the perfect costume, going to the pumpkin patch, carving pumpkins and trick or treating makes Halloween one of the most popular holidays for kids besides Christmas.
But for many parents, Halloween makes them anxious because of the potential dangers their child could face on this holiday. The obvious dangers are pedestrian accidents as children get excited and dart into the street and candy that could be poisonous. However, the hidden dangers are more sinister, such as the child predators that use this day to try and lure unsuspecting children into their homes.
Here are a few safety tips that parents and children can follow to make their Halloween experience fun, safe and uneventful (in a negative way).
- NEVER allow a young child to go out trick or treating by themselves! If a child is under the age of twelve, whether they are part of a group or alone, they should always be accompanied by an adult.
- Choose brightly colored flame retardant costumes, so the child can be easily seen by drivers. Add reflective tape or have them carry a glow stick to increase visibility. Use face paint instead of masks, so that the child’s vision will not be obstructed.
- Only trick or treat in familiar neighborhoods with well-lit streets. Do not sit in a parked car on one end of the street, and allow your child to approach houses alone! Get out and walk up to each house with your child, or at least be in ear shot of what is being said to them.
- Teach your child that they should NEVER go into someone’s home for ANY reason. All candy or treats should be handed to them at the door.
- Children should be taught to stay on the sidewalks and use the crosswalks. Children under the age of twelve should have an adult crossing the street with them.
- If your child is over the age of 12, and is going out as part of a group, make sure they understand that the entire group needs to stay together. No one should be left to straggle behind by themselves.
- Instead of going house to house in unfamiliar neighborhoods, consider organizing a Halloween block party in your own neighborhood.
- Instruct your child to not eat any candy, before you have had a chance to check it at home. Throw the candy away if there are signs of tampering with the wrapper, the candy looks really faded, smells funny or it just doesn’t look right.
- Parents should do a sex offender search while planning their trick or treat route. Use a website like www.familywatchdog.us to get a general idea of what sex offenders live in the area. Many sex offenders’ grooming process often involves giving a child candy or gifts. Some police agencies visit known sex offenders prior to Halloween night, to remind them not to decorate or give out candy. By restricting their activity on Halloween, the police are limiting their opportunity to engage with children. Sadly, not all sex offenders are properly registered or monitored and some slip through the cracks waiting to strike again.
Child safety is important every day of the year and parents have to be vigilant at all times. But, by being a proactive parent, you can help to ensure your child’s safety and positive childhood memories.