Jimmy Kimmel Halloween pranks on kids: Good fun or harmful to trust?

Every now and then late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel asks parents to prank their own kids, video tape it and post the results to You Tube. Since 2011, he has been asking parents to pretend that they have eaten all their kids’ Halloween candy and then tape their reaction.

Often the kids cry and scream and are pretty upset that their Halloween candy is all gone. Kimmel has also asked parents to give their kids terrible Christmas presents and pick out horrible fake first-day of school outfits.

The videos are wildly popular on his show and on You Tube. The post-Halloween videos have been viewed more than 106 million times online since 2011.

But now psychologists are saying these pranks are not fun and games and can truly harm a child’s trust in their parent.

From The Associated Press:

“Pranking your own children is not harmless fun, but is cruel and potentially damaging,” said Mark Barnett, a professor and graduate program coordinator at Kansas State University’s department of psychological sciences. A child’s trust in his parents shouldn’t be trifled with, he said.

“A parent who would violate this trust for a big laugh or 15 minutes of fame is, in my opinion, acting irresponsibly and not looking out for the best interests of the child,” Barnett said.

No one from Kimmel’s show, broadcast on a network owned by the traditionally kid-friendly Walt Disney Co., was available to comment, representatives said Wednesday. A YouTube posting of Kimmel’s on-air highlights was viewed more than 7 million times through late Wednesday, with more than 45,000 giving it a “thumbs up” and 2,191 offering a “thumbs down.”…

Kimmel said this year he received an “avalanche” of great responses and it took much of last weekend to work through them all.

This year’s videos include two blond boys who break out in uncontrolled tears when their father tells them, “it’s all gone.” An empty candy wrapper is on the table in front of them.

One girl, still in costume, tells her mother that “you ruined my whole day.”

Children throw stomping tantrums, one so vigorous the toddler’s pants fall down. One angry girl throws an envelope at her parents. Another bawling child is hardly mollified by news that it’s a prank: “Well, that’s not very kind,” the boy said.

Kimmel’s studio audience laughs at most of the reactions.

Jane Annunziata, a McLean, Va.-based psychologist who deals with family issues and is the author of the book, “Sometimes I’m Scared…,” said she thought the prank was inappropriate parental behavior.

“Parents should always serve as role models for their children, role modeling most appropriate behaviors and the most constructive ways to express feelings,” Annunziata said.

Kimmel, 46, said on the air two years ago when introducing the first round of stolen candy videos that “I guess I didn’t expect so much crying” in response.

“To the children whose fears are about to be immortalized on television, I apologize in advance,” he said.”

My husband watched the Kimmel show Wednesday night and reports that Dr. Phil was giving Jimmy are hard time about the prank. He also said that Kimmel said his mom used to pretend to be dead.  I think that explains a lot about why Kimmel would think the Halloween candy being gone is funny.

So what do you think: Are these types of pranks all in good fun and funny or could they really decay the trust your children have in you?

Have you ever pranked your kids? Did your parents ever play pranks on you? What do you think of Jimmy’s mom faking her own death?

59 comments Add your comment

jarvis

November 7th, 2013
3:29 pm

It’s funny. If those kids are damaged…..they were going to be damaged anyway.

justmy2cents

November 7th, 2013
4:10 pm

I LMAO- the last one was priceless. Bigger question, why are all these parents filming their kids naked or half naked and putting it on youtube?????

Young Lady

November 7th, 2013
4:31 pm

It’s hard to tell from one clip what kind of household these kids deal with. In my experience it’s the amount of pranking and how long it goes on that makes the biggest issue. It does decay trust. I have trust issues with my mom for a lot of reasons. One of those reasons is how she would latch on to something as funny and heckle me relentlessly for it. She would find it funny to embarass or prank me. After several days or weeks it’s not funny, it’s torment.

mom2alex&max

November 7th, 2013
5:52 pm

I don’t think it’s funny. While I am all about having fun while parenting (because lets face it the whole thing ain’t exactly a barrel of monkeys), I don’t see the point of doing this.

I’m don’t think it will “damage” them, but it is mean and I don’t see the fun in making kids cry so that you can film them and then laugh at them.

Ehren Turner

November 7th, 2013
7:16 pm

There are kids who’s reaction is to freak out, throw a temper tantrum, and then there are the kids who take it all in stride. I doubt that the ones that take it in stride have any trust issues to begin with. The ones that break down, on the other hand, may benefit from the opportunity to practice dealing with frustration. As fascinating as it is to see the variety of reactions, I think the psychs are right that it’s not worth the cost to lie to a child. It tends to give license to lie when it’s convenient– which is when it matters most– and it encourages cynicism. Just as any parent that takes delight in spanking shouldn’t do it, any parent that takes perverse pleasure in pranking and teasing their children should never do it. If you want to pull off the prank, do it without lying. Let the kids discover the disappearance of the candy for themselves, along with lots of empty candy wrappers, and draw the conclusion for themselves. If they’re not up to that task, they’re too young to find the experience instructive. Also, the kid’s gotta come out ahead somehow or the lesson is dark.

Bisnono

November 7th, 2013
8:10 pm

Making your child cry intentionally for your own amusement? That’s sadistic and cruel.

Once Again

November 7th, 2013
9:06 pm

Obama told 300,000,000 American citizens that they would be able to keep their insurance and their doctors if they liked them. That prank (lie) helped convince reluctant Congressional representatives to vote in favor of that measure that is now destroying our economy, our medical system, and our dysfunctional insurance system. I don’t know about you, but pranking kids on Halloween is nothing compared to the blatant lies (repeated some 19 times I believe the video evidence shows) told to the American people.

beth

November 8th, 2013
1:18 am

I say funny!!! If it was done repeatedly over long periods of time and in a multitude of situations, I could see where it would cause trust issues. But 1 TIME… definitely not a big deal. Have a sense of humor!

Miss Priss!

November 8th, 2013
6:18 am

Well, I hope the humorless children got a ribbon, certificate, or a small trophy, at least, for participating.

catlady

November 8th, 2013
7:40 am

And a little child shall lead us:” That’s not very kind.”

Hillary

November 8th, 2013
7:41 am

It takes a village.

In this case, a village idiot to do something like this to a child.

hockey goalie

November 8th, 2013
8:07 am

I would never, ever do this to my kid, but MAN are some of those funny!

Mayhem

November 8th, 2013
8:17 am

We are prank masters in our home. Someone is always pranking someone else. My friends are big pranksters too. Just this past summer, we bought a rubber snake, and put it in the toilet if one of my dear friends. He is scared silly when it comes to snakes. We were up at the lake and on the dock when he discovered it. He ran around yelling for 20 minutes…..PRICELESS! We still laugh at him….

There is nothing wrong with a good prank, but it shouldn’t make anyone cry.

xxx

November 8th, 2013
8:54 am

Kimmel, like these immature parents, fail to the similarities between their childish antics in the name of ratings and bullying. Parents are supposd to protect kids, not humiliate them for their 15 minutes of fame so they can brag to their friends. Patheic behavior. On the bright side, most of these soon to be single parents probably have their payback coming in spades when these kids become teenagers.

just me

November 8th, 2013
9:32 am

1. I thought the videos were funny…. very funny.

2. Why were those middle aged children bathing together and why did someone video it?

3. That ‘you ruined my whole day’ girl was not still in costume. Anybody raising a very girly girl like myself will know that those dresses double as casual wear.

Kat

November 8th, 2013
9:33 am

Pretty funny use of “decay” at the end of your blog post, Theresa. I got a kick out of that. I think the pranking depends on the age of the child, and what they are being pranked about. I see no real harm in this type of pranking, but I would never post my kids on youtube, Facebook, etc. At home, I think some pranking is good, because they will respond better to pranking (not bullying, but pranking) at school and with their friends if they understand that it is virtually harmless. We have never pretended to eat the kids’ candy, but we have pretended that our family movie night will involve something more intense than planned upon. Or that we’re going out for seafood, because THEY LOVE (sarcasm) seafood. Simple stuff that gets them to understood gentle ribbing, but nothing that would make them not “trust” us (with their lame candy or lives, etc.).

CC

November 8th, 2013
10:23 am

Those children will not be permanently damaged. Even kids have to learn to laugh at themselves once in a while. One little guy had it right when he said it was not kind for them to do that but I’m sure none of them will have lasting issues.

PostingAnonforthis one

November 8th, 2013
10:34 am

Jarvis: I thought it was pretty funny. :p

jarvis

November 8th, 2013
10:47 am

You were wrong

jarvis

November 8th, 2013
10:49 am

@motherjanemagpie, How many times have you re-read it beaming with pride about your wit?

Grasshopper

November 8th, 2013
12:02 pm

Simple.

If you are a terrible parent raising insecure kids, pranks are harmful. Looks like we have some of those on this blog.

motherjanemagpie

November 8th, 2013
12:11 pm

TWG! I think Grasshopper is subtly trying to be mean to some of us who are parents of students who make STRAIGHT A’s! Please communicate privately with Grasshopper. I know I speak for so many of us who’ve been hanging around on this blog for years!

Grasshopper

November 8th, 2013
12:12 pm

Figures the only funny thing on the blog would be censored.

motherjanemagpie

November 8th, 2013
12:13 pm

Sorry, y’all! I meant to type … FOR YEARS!

Grasshopper

November 8th, 2013
12:13 pm

Bring the magpie’s posts back!

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
1:22 pm

I’m trying reconcile how one would say a halloween prank erodes trust but lying to you kids for up to a decade about santa clause…the easter bunny…and the tooth fairey doesnt have a simlar effect. And dont even get me started on god. Hypocrisy? Just a little?

shaggy

November 8th, 2013
1:24 pm

If you can’t laugh, and laugh often, YOU are the “damaged” one, whether you are an adult or a kid.

mom2alex&max

November 8th, 2013
1:34 pm

cpa: That came to mind. However, I guess I reconciled it (in my mind) with the fact that Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy etc bring joy to children’s lives. This just seemed mean and had no purpose other than to make kids cry for 15 seconds of fame.

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
1:42 pm

Fair enough mom…right until you have a kid who is really disappointed that it was all a big lie. Isn’t it really just saying we’ll lie to you as we see fit? I understand there is nuance to it….but there are a lot of folks here saying the kimmel parents are horrible for lying to their kids but their lies are ok. Santa is a prank…can we all agree on that? Elaborate…long running…meant to have fun with…socially acceptable…but a prank nonetheless, right?

HB

November 8th, 2013
1:51 pm

I think another difference with Santa, etc. is that it’s basically allowing them to believe in a harmless fairy tale while they’re young enough to believe in magic. I do think, though, that some parents go too far with Santa in ways that can erode trust. When kids are old enough to start to doubt, parents shouldn’t go to extreme measures to try to convince them to keep believing. I’ve seen parents do that with 10-to-12-year-olds, and I think at that point, it really is just lying and cruel. They know it can’t be true, but are afraid of the consequences of not believing. That’s not prolonging fun and innocence — it’s manipulating them using the trust they have in you. Allow them to figure out the truth without fear or guilt.

And these pranks are terrible. Yes, people need to be able to laugh, but finding humor at the expense of a child’s feelings? That’s just mean.

Young Lady

November 8th, 2013
1:59 pm

CPA- Santa’s not really a prank. There’s no joke there unless the parents are witholding presents and claiming Santa didn’t bring any.

It’s a make-believe story. If you want to call it a lie that’s fine but a lie isn’t a prank.

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
2:02 pm

Well said hb….i think most people would agree with you..once a kid starts to realize that something just isn’t plausible…feasible…or quite frankly physically possible the parents should come clean and tell them…i mean seriously…what kind of parent would stick to their guns that a fat guy in a sled could visit every kid in the world in a 24 hr period…or that a dude could walk on water….or part an entire ocean..or .or was lost all his herculean strength because his hair was short….or…well you get the picture.

jarvis

November 8th, 2013
2:03 pm

I lie all of the time.

Or do I?

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
2:05 pm

Young lady…..i think if you looked through SOME childrens eyes you might find they feel as if a sort of joke was perpetrated upon them.

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
2:08 pm

From dictionary.com
Prank- a trick of amusing, playful, sometimes malicious nature.

Or as a verb – to make an ostentatious showbor display

How again is saying ’santa left all these presents under the tree’ not applicable to those definitions?

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
2:09 pm

Show or display…sorry

HB

November 8th, 2013
2:13 pm

CPA, your additional examples don’t quite fit. You seem to be implying that people who believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible are lying to their kids. I’d argue that those parents are not lying because they believe those stories are factual.

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
2:24 pm

You’re absolutely right hb… i agree with you 100%….all i was trying to illustrate was that there is subjectivity to the things we believe vs the things we don’t. We believe it is ok to lie to our kids about things we know to not be true (i.e. santa clause) because we think the fun outweighs the betrayal of trust….we choose to summarily dismiss greek mythology as silly and fictional but cling to judeo christian parables as truth….but we’ll condemn parents who fool their kids into thinking their candy is gone as horrible mean people when we know nothing about them without giving them the benefit that maybe they aren’t irreparably dooming their kids to a lifetime of trust issues….and why is that…simply because we think WE know whats better for THEIR family dynamic.

Kat

November 8th, 2013
2:55 pm

Once kids stop “believing” in Santa Claus, you can stop bringing them as much stuff. A win-win situation! If a child does believe in God growing up, and then stops as an adult, do they get reimbursed that money they tithed to the church? Is interest payable upon withdrawal?

Kat

November 8th, 2013
2:57 pm

Why don’t the kids turn it around on the parents and send in videos of the parents’ reactions when they are (not really): 1) kicked out of school 2) pregnant 3) wrecked a car etc. Then post it on Facebook or youtube and see how funny it is then.

jarvis

November 8th, 2013
3:15 pm

@Kat, that would be funny.

cpa-in-co

November 8th, 2013
4:19 pm

Kat…that would be pretty funny! Especially the pregnant one!

Anton Chigurh

November 8th, 2013
4:46 pm

My mother did that, too. Playing dead. I cried. You see how I turned out.

gatorboy

November 8th, 2013
8:19 pm

I really don’t care of anyones opinion, especially the long winded ones. Turn the TV off if you don’t like it.

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Ann

November 9th, 2013
11:49 am

There are several issues here. Good natured humorous pranks are fine within family and freinds. In our family, it’s generally the child pranking the parents and not vice versa. But, we all have a sense of humor. We joke and laugh a lot.

Filming it for the televised or You Tube world is a whole different matter. My son doesn’t cry often, but when he does, he is embarrassed and doesn’t want others to see it. He hides his face. I am not talking about crying during pranks, but in general, when he is hurt or upset about something. It would be a horrible violation of his personal space to film his crying and post it for the external world. He has a right to privacy with his emotions, just as adults do. I think, in general, people should know when they are being filmed.

Personally, I don’t have any interest in watching videos of kids crying in these types of situations. I enjoy more natural humor that you see in every day life, as opposed to something “staged” for a specific reaction. We find things to laugh about every day.

Regarding doing pranks (without the filming), it is important for kids and adults to use some common sense and make adjustments with people who don’t like to be pranked. My husband, for example, hates being startled. It raises his blood pressure too much and he worries about that, having elevated blood pressure already. He is just very sensitive about it. Having an 8 year old boy, sometimes kids “jump out” at you, hide or try to surprise or startle you, in a good natured way. It doesn’t bother me. But, my son is having to learn that some people like it and some people don’t and it is wise to take those feelings into account. In this case, he can startle Mom, but has to “tone it down” somewhat with Dad. This is a lesson for him in respecting others’ feelings and concerns.

Ann

November 9th, 2013
11:51 am

@ gatorboy – If you don’t care about anyone’s opinion, why would you be reading a blog like this, along with the comments? And, why post your opinion, then, for others?

Ann

November 9th, 2013
11:56 am

@ cpa-in-co – Your comparison about Santa Clause and Greek mythology, and those instances being considered “okay” and condemning parents that do this prank filming is overlooking the underlying purpose or motive of the activity. Families that celebrate Santa Clause or the tooth fairy are trying to bring joy into their individual child’s life with a fun, childhood activity. Filming a “prank” for a television show or YouTube is not something done for the benefit of the child. It is someone trying to get on TV and have their moment of fame at the expense of their child. What is the child getting out of that? Your example are apples and oranges, as one is an activity within the family and the other is for the purpose of showing the video to millions of people.

Ann

November 9th, 2013
12:02 pm

@ Grasshopper – I didn’t see anyone on the blog saying pranks were harmful. The topic of the blog was about filming the pranks and the crying kids for You Tube and a television show. These are two very different things. I don’t recall one comment saying pranks, in general, were harmful.

Ann

November 9th, 2013
12:07 pm

@ cpa-in-co – Are you saying there is actually a kid out there in the world, who is so disappointed at learning that Santa doesn’t exist that they wished their parents had never played the Santa game when they were younger, with the fun gifts and surprises? They would want to have “missed” all that fun?