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Be careful with scary stories

By Nathan Rice

There has always been an interest in things that are scary, dark or macabre. This interest goes back as far as we can trace human history. Stories about ghosts, monsters, or strange and unusual things can be found in ancient writings, and scary stories have continued into all forms of modern storytelling.

It’s hard to say what drags us into scary stories. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush that comes from fear, or maybe it’s the intrigue of the unknown that draws us in. Whatever it is, scary things can be gripping.

I do not have a problem with some scary stories. They can be entertaining. Most of us are drawn to them from time to time, and children are no exception.

Tales of the bogeyman, monster stories over the campfire, books, TV shows, and movies often tell scary stories to children without being too frightening or going into more adult themes or situations. Unfortunately, this has begun to change.

Many entertainment options geared towards children are now including dark themes and undertones that were once withheld for late-night television or not ventured into at all.

One example is a popular children’s series that features animatronic animals controlled by the souls of deceased children trapped in these figures. Another video game titled “Living Nightmares II” features a boy who is murdered at the beginning of the game only to find his deceased form trapped in a strange land where he faces dismembered patients of a hospital and a host of other frightening creatures.

We’ve come a long way from the monster under the bed and the bogeyman who lurks in dark corners!

Not all scary stories are bad for children, but many modern-day tales take frightening stories, games or shows to a whole new and inappropriate level.

We must be careful about what our children hear, watch and play. Not all scary things are created equal. Many provide a moment of fear in the make-believe world of our imaginations, but others expose genuinely dark and evil things. It’s our job to filter our children’s entertainment options and to protect them from the real darkness that can quickly invade their developing minds and hearts.

Next, we should be careful not to allow our children to inundate themselves with tales of darkness. An occasional scary story is one thing, but a constant diet of scary stories or games with dark and disturbing themes can twist young, developing minds. A focus on evil or disturbing things can affect even the most mature people, but children are especially susceptible to these things.

Scary stories should be limited and closely monitored. We all survived the ghost stories around the campfire growing up, and I am in no way opposed to an occasional story that gives goosebumps to children and adults, but we must be careful. It’s our job to protect our children, and that includes guarding their hearts and minds from the darkness.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.