10/21/2013 01:05 pm ET Updated Dec 21, 2013

Don't Let Your Kids Be 'Spooked' by Media This Halloween


As Halloween draws near, I am really looking forward to taking my 3-year-old trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. He is going to be a firefighter, and is feeling pretty proud and excited about this. I can't help but wonder, however, if there will be some scary costumes to encounter, even in the early trick-or-treating hour of 4 p.m.

I have been hearing a lot of buzz about the remake of the now-iconic horror film Carrie. Chloe Moretz looks positively terrifying in the trailers I've seen, and I assume the movie will be a huge hit with those who revel in horror films.

Seeing this trailer takes me back to sometime in the '80s, when I (without my mother's knowledge or permission) watched Carrie. I vividly remember coming upstairs from the TV room and asking my mother questions about what happened to Carrie at the prom. Questions like, "Why was there red stuff that looked like blood all over her?" She did her best to answer me, and didn't say, "You shouldn't have watched that," when I had nightmares for several weeks.

I hadn't really reflected on this experience professionally until now, but several things emerge as important and relevant for other parents reading this:

1. You can't "unwatch" or "unsee" something. For young kids (and even older ones), graphic, scary images can make an impression. This is precisely why movies and TV shows have ratings.

2. Children may overestimate their ability to handle scary things. They don't really understand that what they see may scare them or be confusing.

3. Immediate and constant access to the Internet and television leaves kids vulnerable to seeing things that may negatively impact them.

In regard to Halloween, I am all for spooky themes. I'm really not trying to rain on someone's Halloween parade. But "scary" anything -- especially when it's blaring out of every piece of technology in the house, from iPads, computers, TVs and iPhones to radios -- should be reserved for older eyes and ears. It's easier to have a conversation about makeup and special effects with older kids, who are more capable of understanding that it's not real.

For younger kids who do get spooked this Halloween, I recommend following the lead of Doc McStuffins on Disney Junior, who said:

"There's nothing really scary; it's all just make-believe. The ghost that just said 'boo' is still your best friend underneath."