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Jimmy Kimmel’s Annual Halloween Exploitation of Children

I’m sure by now most people know about the famous talk show host who sends out a challenge every year for parents to record telling their children that they ate the children’s Halloween candy. This is done as a prank for fun. It seems kind of mean to me, but I will say it also shows that there are some truly gracious children out there, too. Some of the kids actually express forgiveness and love toward their parents, despite losing all the candy they worked so hard to acquire. 1106-14

This is an annual challenge by late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel to film your kids after telling them, “I TOLD MY KIDS I ATE ALL THEIR HALLOWEEN CANDY”.    I decided to not embed sample videos into this post in keeping with this site’s firm position against exploitation of children.

It’s a challenge just to watch these videos.   What we witness are parents deliberately lying to their children telling them a falsehood that all their candy that the child has accumulated through trick or treating has been consumed by one or both parents while the child slept and there is none left.   The reactions of the children are predictable and in the case of the younger children they respond as if the world has crashed on them.   At that age, a pile of candy is a rare treasure and a beloved parent has unjustly taken it all.  Jimmy Kimmel himself understands this, “You know, for kids, Halloween candy is a sacred thing.  For a lot of them it’s the first time they ever earn anything.”   The collection of videos records reactions of  shock, disbelief, anger, tears, screaming, tantrums, despair, rage at parents, declarations of hatred, threats of physical violence, loss, grief all displayed on unpretentious little faces.   There are rare examples of sad but gracious understanding by a few children but what harm is done when that precious quality is tested and exploited for a joke?  The audience finds these displays to be quite laughable.  In a 2013 montage, one little boy understands the moral depravity of the joke played on him when he cries, “Well, that wasn’t very kind.”    What parent does this?

Most of these children are pre-schoolers who lack the cognitive maturity to recognize the potential of a prank being played on them or to reason why a hungry parent didn’t eat a peanut butter sandwich or to handle this kind of news well.   This annual tradition is nothing more than an exploitation of vulnerable and gullible little children for the entertainment of adults.

For the chance of a youtube video to be featured on The Jimmy Kimmel Show after Halloween, pranking parents are willing to teach their children a host of undesirable truths that have the potential for negative consequences over time.   Truths such as…1) Mom and Dad will lie to you to get an emotional rise that they will film and disseminate to a worldwide audience.   2)  Mom and Dad will not respect your ownership of private property.   3) Mom and Dad will manipulate your emotions to amuse themselves.  4)  Parents cannot be trusted.   5) Blameshifting.   A surprising number of parents excuse their choice to prank the child by blameshifting to Jimmy Kimmel for “making” them pull this prank.   6)  Undermines the value of a sincere apology if Mom or Dad are willing to “apologize” for something that never really happened.   6)  Jerking people’s chains resulting in an emotional reaction is great fun!

If we were to reverse the roles, many parents would find this type of behavior by a child to be disrespectful and troubling.  It is therefore an abuse of the power inherent to being a parent to put one’s children through emotional hoops for the sake of a laugh or to become entertainment fodder for strangers.   Would we find it amusing if those same children, upon becoming adults caring for their aged parents, played a prank on mentally challenged senior citizens that manipulated emotions for the entertainment of others?   As a society we consider that abusive but for some odd reason, children are fair game.

EtiquetteHell has been consistent over the years that minor aged children should never be exploited on television and social media to provide entertainment for a audience that now can easily span around the globe.   Minor aged children lack the maturity to understand the consequences of losing their right to privacy and are therefore dependent on adults to protect them until they reach an age where they can make informed choices as to how they will be depicted.  It’s obvious that there are parents who have no qualms about exploiting their children if it means a moment of fame.

Just stop, Jimmy.


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  • Weaver October 29, 2015, 2:29 pm

    You know it’s weird, but I always disliked Jimmy Kimmel. I know that sounds horribly mean, but over here he tends to be considered the “nice” US chat show host. Oh so clever and oh so friendly, but I could never get behind his smug sense of superiority and his s***-eating grin.

    I’m pretty tired in general of the culture of attention that seems to have developed ever since social media came to the fore. Social media can be useful when getting in touch with friends, but I can’t stand this thing where people are so desperate for attention that they’ll post the most inappropriate things just to get likes.

    If someone cares about you and yours, they don’t need to be linked to a cute video. I’m not trying to disparage those who use social media to stay in touch with their family and friends. It’s a very handy tool. But I’d rather receive a genuine missive, whatever form that might take, than have to plough through two-hundred “important” notifications.

    If I’m your friend, I care about how your life is going. I don’t care what you had for lunch. If your dog or cat or child recently did something amazing, then by all means let me know. But let me know in a way that allows me to realise that I mean something to you.

    • Weaver October 29, 2015, 2:50 pm

      I just re-read my comment, and it read pretty horribly. I stand by what I said in my original comment, but I could’ve put it a lot more nicely. Sorry for my rather nasty phrasing.

      • CJ October 30, 2015, 1:07 pm

        Totally agree. And I don’t think you were nasty at all!

      • Anne November 15, 2015, 4:06 pm

        You’re spot on. I thought he was a tool on Saturday Night Live. This prank of his is cruel.

      • Anne November 15, 2015, 4:07 pm

        Just ignore me, I’m thinking of Jimmy Fallon.

    • just4kicks October 31, 2015, 11:07 am

      I’m sure many people disagree with me, but I much prefer Jimmy Fallon over Kimmel any day.

      I’m still clinging to the hope that David Letterman will come back….

    • Syn November 1, 2015, 1:13 pm

      I’m not American, but from what I’ve seen of his show, he doesn’t seem very nice :/ He seems pretty mean-spirited with his brand of humour. I much prefer Fallon.

      • AE November 2, 2015, 9:04 am

        Stephen Colbert for me. He makes me laugh and he doesn’t pick on kids.

  • Mrs.G October 29, 2015, 3:06 pm

    I still remember the year I took my little brothers trick-or-treating by myself. We went all over the neighborhood and racked up a lot of candy. They were still pretty little so our mom told them they could keep a few pieces to eat but the rest would be put up. It was compensation for “babysitting” and I kept it in my backpack. I went looking for the candy a few days later and couldn’t find it. I tore up the house looking for it, and my mom finally told me that she had sent all the candy to my older sister at college. So, I spent 3 hours dragging a 2, 3, and 4 year old around with nothing to show for it. She laughed and I waited for the joke to be over. Nope, the candy was really gone. She couldn’t understand why I was so angry with her! At least my brothers had their own mini-stashes out that ordeal. This year my brothers are 11, 12, and 13. I think I’ll go call them now to tell them to hide their loot under their beds.

    • Anonymous October 30, 2015, 7:28 am

      That is awful, but on an unrelated note, I’m impressed that a two, three, and four-year-old had enough stamina to trick-or-treat for three hours.

      • K November 9, 2015, 2:22 pm

        I’m not. Taking a 2 year old out for 3 hours to get sweets is appalling.

    • David October 30, 2015, 1:10 pm

      Please don’t tell them under the beds! That is the first place Halloween candy sneakers look. It’s where to hide the candy that you don’t care if it gets taken.

  • NostalgicGal October 29, 2015, 8:17 pm

    Now I was an only, and in a small town and other than the year of the candy muggers, you could get almost a pillowcase full. I was allowed to eat anything given by one or two (well trusted family friends) but that was it until I got home. It got dumped out on the kitchen table and gone through for strangeness, and there was usually one or two (end of candybar specially slashed open, and the home made cookies from that one young family that had what looked like syringe punctures, several (we weren’t the only ones to turn in the cookies from that place, never did hear what) and otherwise once it was sorted and approved, I got to grab four pieces, a glass of milk and go to bed. It got moved to the dining room table and was there for everyone until it died (which two to three weeks). The other rules were no more than two pieces at a time, only one right after school snack of two, and any meal could have dessert (even breakfast). TV hour you got four. And nobody got to take all chocolate unless that’s all that was left. That was three people eating on a pillowcase full!

  • just4kicks October 30, 2015, 6:53 am

    It’s really tough to “pull a fast one” on my husband.
    Every April Fools day, the kids and I try to come up with a prank that is funny to trick him with.
    When my kids were younger, and didn’t understand the ramifications of a mean spirited trick, would come up with the most heinous ideas….which of course were “vetoed” by me immediately.
    “No….It’s NOT funny to tell him Grandma got in a car crash!” or “I don’t think that people who really ARE suffering from cancer would find that amusing!”
    This past year, I trotted out a few suggestions from past years from them and they all said, “Oh, Jeez…what WERE we thinking?!?” …..Well, you were all pretty little…you weren’t thinking that it was a mean thing to do to your Dad.”

    The one that worked the best was at dinner on one April first, where we all looked at my daughter, who was 7 or 8 at the time, and said “Go on….tell your father what you did at school today, and WHY Daddy and I have a meeting with the teacher next week!”
    Of course my husband was like, “Honey!!! You’re such a good girl!!! What did you DO?!?”
    “I was chasing all the boys around the classroom so they would kiss me, and I got in trouble!!!”
    Of course that wasn’t true, but we got her dad GOOD!!!

  • ddwwylm October 30, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I remember listening to a radio station 1x where they had a young girl call up her mom and tell her that she had wrecked her mom’s brand new car. I think she was trying to win tickets or something, I don’t really remember the point. I remember at the time thinking that it was in poor taste. The mom had a pretty upset reaction, but nothing horrible, no screaming or anything. Then the DJ got on and actually started shaming the mom for being upset about the car and not being worried about her daughter who had “gotten in a wreck”.

  • LadyStormwing October 30, 2015, 10:50 pm

    There are pranks you can play, and pranks you don’t. Anything that makes a child cry for no good reason other than your perverted amusement is a big No. Another great example of this is from when I worked at an amusement park that always did a big thing at Halloween, but during training emphasized that children were off limits. “There’s no pride in a cheap scare,” we’d say. We’d hand out glow-in-the-dark rings as “monster repellant” and the various spooks, ghosts, and ghouls would make a huge deal of being afraid of the kids in those cases.

    The pranks you can play? My dad’s birthday is on April Fool’s Day, and he has the disposition to go with it. A few years ago I made him a beautiful sponge cake for after dinner, frosted it with a nice buttercream icing, and just to be difficult, put those trick candles on the cake. Imagine his surprise when the knife bounced off the cake because I neglected to mention I made it out of real kitchen sponges. (I made a real cake too, of course!) Or the time I put a giant vegetable in the bathtub and told him, “Come quick! There’s water all over the bath!” I’d put a few small cups of water on the sink and pointed to the tub. “There’s a leek in the tub!” He looked at me, shook his head, and just said, “You’re my kid, alright.”

    • Michelle C Young October 31, 2015, 11:12 pm

      The leek in the tub is definitely my favorite! LOVE it!

      • just4kicks November 3, 2015, 12:10 pm

        One of my son’s LOVES Oreos.
        One year, we took two or three of them out and scooped out the filling and replaced it with Colgate toothpaste. We got him GOOD!
        Of course, we were all just dying until he found them and ate them.
        We scattered the toothpaste ones all through the package, and when he ate the first one, thought that was the only one we put the toothpaste in.
        A few days later, we were all upstairs getting ready to turn in for the night, and heard from my son’s room “oh….COME ON!!! Bleeeeechhhhh!!!”
        My other kids laughed themselves silly saying “he found the other one!”

        • NostalgicGal November 3, 2015, 5:36 pm

          This one is truly evil, mostly harmless, and if you’re going to pull one, the vote of the one I’d do.

          • NostalgicGal November 3, 2015, 5:47 pm

            Met spouse when I got tried of college first pass and he was a lot closer to degree. After a few months one of his old roomies, whom I was friends with needed about 6 months flop. He was supposed to pay rent. He didn’t. However he and DH were same major and it was a good thing for DH to have friend there so I waitressed night shift to support them BOTH. They would prank each other, and it mostly wasn’t too bad, just minor glurp like coloring the orange juice green…. then one night after getting off a 16 hour shift, it was about 6 am and I look in fridge to see nice cold pitcher of cherry koolaid. Pour glass and start in, it’s colored salted water. Which makes me gag anyways. That scream woke the dead, I broke the pitcher when I threw it in the sink, I spewed some words at both of them and found a place to sleep. When I woke up it was all cleaned up and ALL the pranking stopped. I heard some years later the friend asked DH if he thought I was going to toss him out when I woke up and he said they’d better both pray I didn’t toss them BOTH out when I woke up.

          • just4kicks November 4, 2015, 8:09 am

            @NostalgicGal: I did that to my sister once when she had a very bad cold and asked me to fetch her a cold glass of water.
            Me, being the bratty little sister, grumbling “you have a COLD…you’re not DYING!”, went and got her a very cold glass of salt water.
            She downed it in one gulp, and threw up all over the couch, herself, and the coffee table.
            Boy oh boy, did I get SCREAMED at!!!!
            Still totally worth it…… 🙂

          • NostalgicGal November 5, 2015, 1:36 am

            Yes, Just4Kicks I can understand that one. However their rules had been to only mess with each other, I was left out of the loop. I worked 14-16 hour night shift (supper to breakfast) and I was often just come home, have something because I was thirsty then die until I had to get up, shower, and go back to work. Salted water (not broth) tends to make me gag bad, the only ‘salt water’ I found I can stand is sea water. That’s it. So a nice cold red tinted glass of salt water that looked like cherry koolaid when I had just gotten off 16 hours, it’s after 6 am, I want a drink and a shower and bed; and they gag me with their glarp…. it massively didn’t go over. When I got up to go hit shower, braid hair and get in uniform that afternoon, kitchen was spotless, trash was gone and they were both somewhere else. Smart men. It did stop every bit of pranking though.

          • klb4n6 November 15, 2015, 11:38 am

            @just4kicks – that reminds me of something I did to my younger brother when we were kids. We’d come home from school (latchkey kids – I was probably 12, he was 9 or 10, we may have been younger) and he wanted some chocolate milk. Looked in the fridge and there was no milk. He went off to his room to play with something, and I decided to take a glass and put the Nestle Quik powder into a full glass of water. Then I went to his room and told him I’d ‘found’ some milk and gave him the glass. He drank it without question and then spit it out. I LMAO. I know it was mean. I am pretty sure I thought it was mean even when I did it. But, siblings. It was mean and hilarious and I still laugh.

        • K November 9, 2015, 2:28 pm

          Wow. So you set up a nasty surprise for your son, enjoyed yourself waiting for him to find it, then had the whole family laughing at him.

          Yeah, hilarious. Maybe next time pick on one of the adults rather than encourage everyone to mock one of your kids?

          • just4kicks November 15, 2015, 2:28 pm

            @K: Well, yes we did.
            We enjoy playing little pranks on each other from time to time.
            It was toothpaste in a cookie, not rat poison for God’s sake!
            The whole family didn’t “mock” him, it was a harmless prank, and the son we played the trick on admitted we “got him good”….And laughed himself saying “just you wait, you guys!!!”
            If my son thought it was funny himself, there is no problem in my eyes….And, respectfully, no need for a lecture from you….but thanks for commenting!

  • Yarnspinner November 2, 2015, 3:01 pm

    To those waiting for Letterman to come back…I would love it if someone could just resurrect Johnny Carson and let all the others go back to whatever they were doing before….

  • Lizajane November 2, 2015, 6:44 pm

    Late to this, but I think the humor in this, or any other prank, depends on how long the prankster lets it go on. Obviously, the younger the prankee, the sooner one should come clean. I don’t see anything wrong with a little teasing, but things like looks, intelligence, etc. are off limits. Candy? I don’t know…if you can’t take a joke, how will you ever have a sense of humor?

    • Anonymous November 3, 2015, 5:40 pm

      I think it stops being a “harmless prank” when you film it and put it on national television.

      • Lizajane November 4, 2015, 7:48 pm

        I’m not sure who you’re quoting, but I didn’t use the word “harmless”. With that said, I was merely pointing out that not all children will lose all faith in parents, authority figures and humanity if someone kids them about candy for 5 minutes and then puts it on a comedy show meant for adults.
        Humor is subjective, but I asked a rather sensitive 7-year-old what she thought and showed her some clips. She said it was a dirty trick to play on the “little kids” (not like her), but as long as the candy wasn’t really gone, it was funny.
        “Know your audience” is often written here and accepted.

  • KrissyN November 4, 2015, 8:37 am

    I’ve always found this prank so upsetting and could never imagine why people would do it. For me, a good prank results in surprise and then laughter. I don’t know a single kid that would find it funny that all their Halloween candy was gone. A prank should be fun in design, not mean spirited. These parents are first class jerks in my opinion.

  • just4kicks November 5, 2015, 7:25 am

    @NostalgicGal: there was no “reply” under your comment, this is for the “kool aid ” prank.
    VERY smart men to clean up and be GONE when you got up…too bad that mind set didn’t apply to doing that to you in the first place!

    • NostalgicGal November 8, 2015, 1:35 am

      I don’t think I was intended to be the target but I ended up to BE the target. I was the breadwinner, every bit of that stacked up together into I was ready to hide both their bodies. They figured out the best apology was clean everything up and just not be there when I got up and find out what mood I was still in.