If your child is worried about clowns terrorizing her school, you're not alone. Let's stop the madness.
My daughter thinks that scary clowns are coming to get her. Or her teachers. Or her school. She's not alone. If your child hasn’t announced a fear that his or her school is on “the list,” a rumored hit-list of schools that these clowns intend to terrorize, consider yourself lucky to have not come face-to-face with this mass hysteria yet.
If you're not up-to-date on this whole creepy clown thing, let me give you the background: The root of the current creepy clown phenomenon stems from what Time magazine calls unsubstantiated reports of clowns trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina back in the summer. Those stories ballooned into other reported creepy clown incidents, both real and imagined. (The real ones, while few, are certainly scary. I don't mean to downplay that.)
Yet the rumors are continuing to snowball into more and more outlandish "threats," that our children are hearing and paying attention to, with the latest being a widespread fear that these creepy clowns are targeting schools. We've gotten to the point of people calling the police to report clown worries, and now police forces are watching out for creepy clowns. Even the New York Police Department has had to step back from talking about terrorism to address the so-called clown threat. People are being warned not to dress up as clowns or let their children dress up as clowns. With the current state of things, that seems like good advice. And of course (of course, of course) schools need to take any threats very seriously. But isn't this all getting a bit hysterical?
To be clear, there is no “list,” and no clown posse, other than idiots using these rumors to amuse themselves. Yes, some people have dressed up like clowns to be scary, and done bad things. But I just don't think creepy clowns are a widespread problem.
I have tried to explain to my daughter the concept of hysteria and Internet rumors, because her sources of information seem to be 1) Snapchat 2) Group chat and 3) Kids in her classroom. But kids believe other kids. And parents believe their own kids, which of course I support, except when it turns into Salem-witch-hunt-style terror.
Many of the editors here at Parents have been dealing with this with our own children, and none of us have a surefire solution for calming a kid’s anxiety. After all, if everyone around you is scared of something, it’s hard to not get caught up in that. Rumors get passed around as facts. Once three people have said, “Someone saw a clown at the football field!” then it becomes taken as truth.
The best I have come up with is to have both my children watch the news with me, so I can explain that if this were an actual thing then the grown-ups on the news would be talking about it, along with the hurricane and the presidential election. I think my kids believe me.
Also—just as every once in a while people predict the end of the world, and then the end doesn’t happen—I have to assume that the kids are going to get wise to the hoax when the clowns never, ever show up. The clowns were supposed to find my daughter’s school last Wednesday. Then it switched to today. I am sure she’ll come home and say they’re actually coming next week. Or on Halloween. Eventually, she’ll realize there are no clowns interested in her school.
In the meantime, let’s take a collective deep breath. And maybe refrain from giving these rumors credibility. Look your child in the eye and say, “I don’t think you have to worry about this” if there's truly no credible source behind the threat. Then marvel about how an entire country can get so caught up in a scary story.
Jessica Hartshorn is the Entertainment Editor of Parents magazine and never really loved clowns anyway.