It’s easy to play tricks on kids and the resulting confusion is usually pretty hilarious, but a recent trend involving scary Snapchat filters might be taking things a little too far.
A few weeks ago, the makers of the photo sharing app Snapchat released new filters that allow you to make yourself look like you’re vomiting rainbows, have hearts for eyes, or are a terrifying demon straight out of your worst nightmares. Seriously, look at this and tell me you’re not scared:
Kids are gullible and filters are fun, so some parents decided to use the horrifying monster filters to play tricks on their kids. Now, if you search for “scared kid on Snapchat” or other related terms on YouTube, you can find dozens videos of parents “hilariously” terrifying their toddlers and then laughing as they cry and try to hide.
It’s truly heartwarming stuff. Like this one, for instance:
Or this one:
The videos are understandably causing a bit of controversy. Some people find them utterly hilarious, but others — like me — think this is one best filed under “pranks gone too far.”
It’s not that playing tricks on kids is inherently wrong, but there has to be a line there where we recognize what they can and can’t handle. Most of the kids in these video are preschool age or younger. It’s not a situation where a parent is jumping out of the corner with a mask on and startling a 10-year-old. These are toddlers with a questionable grasp on reality who may or may not realize that what they’re seeing isn’t real.
According to Darcia Narvaez, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, children under seven are scared by fantasy and don’t understand that things aren’t real, even when you tell them it’s fake. That’s why promising a frightened child that there’s no such thing as a scary witch or a monster doesn’t do much to soothe them when they’re afraid. We, as adults, can distinguish between what’s fantasy and what isn’t, and we can shake off the things that scare us. They can’t necessarily do the same.
That doesn’t mean kids should never be scared or that playing pranks on your kids makes you the worst parent ever. It just means you have to know where to draw the line. If a kid is legitimately crying and frightened, there’s a good chance things have gone too far. If you keep shoving your phone in their face to further terrify them, that’s officially messed up. There’s nothing wrong with playing tricks on kids, but violating their boundaries for our own entertainment shouldn’t be a trend.
This article was originally published on