Until now, I have chuckled at the ridiculous “scary clown” reports that started in South Carolina and quickly spread across the country, dismissing them as stupid pranks by goofy kids and teens who crave attention or just want a good laugh. However, I now believe it is time for parents to have serious conversations with their children about how scary it will be for them if they call in a false report that requires adults to jump into action to investigate these so-called “scary clown sightings.” And, maybe it’s time for a reading of “The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf.“
As of this writing, it seems that not a single local “scary clown” report has posed a legitimate threat to the safety of the children or the citizenry. However, police officers, school personnel, and parents are forced to jump into action. Chaos becomes the order of the day for all involved. These kinds of reports are taken seriously because the world in which we live can get scary, and many a jokester is now behind bars facing charges for making terroristic threats.
As with the little boy in the children’s story, it will be a sad day if a true predator appears on the scene, and not because the police and school personnel will fail to come running. They will always answer such calls on the outside chance that the threat is real. The problem will arise when our children fail to recognize a real threat themselves. (Let’s add a reading of “Little Red Riding Hood” to the list of appropriate stories.) An inundation of false reports dulls the senses as people tire of hearing the reports. That’s exactly what the “wolf” wants. He is an opportunist who loves this kind of thing. It makes his job much easier.
No doubt, we don’t want kids to stop reporting suspicious behavior, but as parents and the responsible adults in their lives, we must remind them not to cry “Wolf!” or lose their innate sense of danger. Certainly, they must understand the consequences of generating false reports and stirring the “scary clown” pot just for the fun and excitement of it. This kind of tomfoolery is not funny. It is expensive in terms of time, money, and the long-term effects on the populace.
In the words of Deputy Barney Fife, it is time to “Nip it! Nip it in the bud!”