Whether it’s shuddering through the latest horror film or delighting in the gory side of Halloween, many children seem to love being scared. What is it about being scared that lights up so many kids, tweens and teens?
Being Scared is an Easy Way to Take Risks
Children, particularly those in the late tween and teen years, tend to want to take risks. This occurs due to their cognitive development, which makes them feel invulnerable. They have few opportunities to take actual risks, however, like jumping from high places or traveling at high speeds. In other words, adult supervision, days filled by structured activities and their own self-control thwart their developmental desires. Therefore, it’s easiest to “take risks” by braving a haunted hayride, watching a scary Halloween movie, or going on a mind-bending roller coaster. They get the same sense of living on the edge, but in a forum that’s accessible and acceptable.
Being Scared Creates a Sense of Adventure
Tweens and teens also crave some unpredictability and adventure in their lives. A good portion of their days center around routines, including school, homework, mealtime and bedtime. While routines are important for healthy functioning, too much of the same thing can lead to boredom and even mood issues. Developmentally, tweens and teens are peaking in terms of physical abilities, energy and need for novelty. It makes sense, then, that they love being scared, because it “shakes things up” in their lives.
Being Scared Provides a Feeling of Success
Young tweens are developing a crucial part of their personality called industry. This means they want to feel like they can take on tasks and be successful at them. By putting themselves in scary situations, they get to actively test themselves. When they’ve made it through a whole horror flick, for example, their sense of industry is bolstered, as is their sense of self-esteem.
Being Scared Helps Children Understand Death
Children do not have an adult understanding of death until about thirteen years of age. As they struggle to understand the abstract concept of death, children often become fascinated by the topic. Since death is rather removed from everyday American lives, however, it is a difficult topic to explore. In addition, children find that if they discuss death or draw pictures involving death, teachers and parents tend to respond negatively. Therefore, a safe and culturally-acceptable way of exploring death is through horror movies and Halloween activities.
All in all, although being scared may overwhelm them at times, children find the feeling irresistible because it serves their ever-changing developmental needs.