Teenagers and Trick-or-treating: When Is It Time to Grow Up?Sarah Jackson | October 18, 2018
Wearing silly costumes. Racing to the doorbell. Picking out the tastiest candy.
Trick-or-treat is a necessary part of Halloween for children. Roaming the streets at night with friends, arguing about who has the best costume, and comparing treats with one another is an innocent way for kids to spend an evening out. But a few towns in Virginia have some limitations when it comes to trick-or-treating.
Several cities in Virginia have restrictions on trick-or-treating, including an age limit punishable by a fine or even prison time, according to an NBC4 article. The city code of Chesapeake states that any child over the age of 12 is ineligible for a costumed night of knocking on doors and getting free candy, though law enforcement does not actively seek out violators of this rule.
Multiple cities in Virginia and other states have similar rules for Halloween night, and many have $10 to $100 fines as the consequence for trick-or-treaters over the age limit.
Trick-or-treating on Halloween night is a fun, innocent activity for children. Saying that anyone over the age of 12 should not be trick-or-treating forces those kids to seek out other options on Halloween, many of which are not as innocent as collecting candy.
Attending parties is an easy alternative for kids who are not allowed to trick-or-treat, but many of the parties taking place on Halloween night are not kid-friendly. Halloween is a popular time for binge-drinking, according to the American Addiction Centers website, and much of that drinking occurs at college and high school parties.
The average 13-year-old in the United States is still in middle school. These kids are far from adults, but banning these just-turned teenagers from trick-or-treating compels them to look for more “grown-up” options for entertainment on the spookiest night of the year.
An article in the Chicago Tribune said after-school programs are a helpful way for kids to stay out of trouble and off the streets. Planned, constructive activities give children a positive environment to be in and keep them from looking for alternatives – the same rule applies to trick-or-treating.
Additionally, families with a wide age range of children can have a difficult time on Halloween night. The city of Chesapeake’s website says that “a thirteen year old safely trick or treating with a younger sibling is not going to have any issues”, but what about 14-year-olds? At what point do parents have to tell their kids to stay at home during Halloween because they are too old?
Chesapeake claims that police will mainly enforce the age policy on older kids who are being destructive, but kids – no matter their age – should be held accountable for their actions. An age policy on trick-or-treating should not change the way the police department handles vandalism.
What’s the harm in letting kids be kids a little bit longer? The world we live in today – active shooter drills, division in political parties, access to all kinds of media – forces kids to grow up too fast as it is. This process does not need to be helped along by telling someone they are “too old” to trick-or-treat.
As their attention shifts to more mature thoughts and activities, children will naturally drift away from trick-or-treating. Turning in their candy-collecting pillowcase is almost a rite of passage, the sign of a child wanting to appear more adult. But that decision should be made by choice, not force. Kids should be able to decide, on their own terms, when to grow up.