Scaring the kids

Scaring the kids

A terrified and weeping child woken by nightmares. It’s the stock late-night wake-up call for parents.

Can you hear that familiar beat of little feet thumping up the long dark hall to the master bedroom? It always comes in the deadest heart of night. When the wind is picking up leaves and blowing them down the sideway and past the window, the urgent rustling sounding like a lost ghoul searching for souls to snatch, for brains to eat.

Can you hear that familiar beat of little feet thumping up the long dark hall to the master bedroom?


What parent doesn’t know the eerie feeling of waking to a shaken child standing at the foot of the bed, his pyjama top soaked in tears, looking like the murdered kid actor in a movie about paranormal activity?

But, where does it come from? How do kids learn the fiction of ghosts, goblins, demons and zombies? It sure isn’t in our DNA.

My own childhood, at least the part after lights out, was ruined by a deep terror of being haunted. I had no limits on what I saw, what I consumed on television or tape. I watched Evil Dead on VHS when it hit the shelves. HalloweenFriday the 13thNightmare on Elm Street, murder mysteries, Holocaust recreations, Jack the Ripper documentaries, anything where being scared was the thrill.

And it’s easy to be brave when you’re buried in a beanbag, a sausage roll hovering near your lips and with pals nearby nonchalantly consuming reel after reel of humans being gruesomely hacked to death.

But at some point, you need to lie down in your bed, turn the lights off, and give yourself over to the mercy of a young mind soaked in the blood of Hollywood horror.

I started with a hall light on when I went to bed until its warm glow eventually morphed into the shadows of creeping vampires. Before long I had to sit a black-and-white portable television on the floor, switched on throughout the night, sound off, to let me get to sleep, the Rockford Files or The Odd Couple my lullaby.

Now I have two little boys and I shield them from the pointlessness of horror. And the result are kids who can sleep with the wardrobe doors swinging open, and not believe it’s Freddie Kruger coming to slash them, and with the curtains pulled back, and not believe a vampire will come tapping on the window.

But, still, they have the occasional nightmares. And it’s because even children’s movies, even those drippy dumb things, like Up or Paranorman, have themes of murder and terror.

Up (2009), for one thing. Pixar Studios. The same cats who delivered Toy Story. Master storytellers able to craft a tale without anyone killing ’emselves or someone else. Rave reviews. Perfect for children. I go in and what I think is going to be a tale of beauty is riven by themes of serial killing and suicide.

When you immerse yourself in the pool of modern television and film culture, in all those TV shoes based around the celebration of murder (so many shows about forensic science! and let’s not forget Dexter), you might call it an overreaction.

That it’s just show biz. That it’s entertainment.

I don’t think it is. Can you imagine a world where culture doesn’t set out to terrify kids, often for life?

Wouldn’t that be a good thing?


Самые свежие новости медицины в нашей группе на Одноклассниках
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