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Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination

October 30, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination | A teenage girl poses for a camera while dressed up for Halloween.

This story was originally published on A Platform For Good, a project of the Family Online Safety Institute that seeks to empower parents to raise engaged kids and good digital citizens.

If you’ve been in a grocery or super store lately, you know that Halloween is right around the corner. While younger kids tend to choose the most popular Halloween costume (think Minecraft this year), teenagers try to be more original. Regardless of the costume your teen chooses, its impact might be stronger after the Halloween party when photos are posted on social media. Help your teen consider both the implications of certain costumes and the importance of a positive digital reputation.

People love taking photos at costume parties. Your teen will likely take selfies and pose for photos and videos with friends that will end up on social media sites like Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. As long as he or she has an appropriate costume and engages in responsible behavior, those posts should be fine.

But let’s say your teen decides to dress up in an Ebola containment suit costume for Halloween. Maybe he or she intended that costume to be an ironic take on a horrible outbreak, but the general public is already so offended by this particular costume that they are petitioning to remove it from stores. If someone posts a photo of your teen online, how do you think these people will react when they see him or her wearing the costume?

Last year, a woman dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, posting a photo of herself on social media. Not only did her photo go viral, but also she was fired from her job and she and her parents received death threats from strangers who found their information online.

These days, a misguided costume choice isn’t just something your teen could regret for a couple days. Your family could be threatened and your teen’s reputation destroyed. Talk to him or her about costume choices and behavior to prevent digital regret. And while you’re at it, remind your teen of the importance of establishing a positive digital reputation and using privacy settings to his or her advantage. Before heading to the Halloween (or any) party, encourage your teen to consider:

  • Who can see his or her photos and those that friends post
  • What would happen if a teacher or administrator saw these photos
  • What would happen if a college admissions counselor or a boss saw these photos
  • What information your teen should be posting online to project the image he or she wants others to see

If you have never spoken to your teenager about his or her digital reputation before, that’s okay. Halloween is a great opportunity to start that conversation. Let your teen know that you trust his or her judgment, but good behavior on and offline is the best way to avoid digital regret and having his or her reputation damaged from inappropriate photos.


1 responses to 'Halloween Costumes + Social Media: A Scary Combination'
I knew a person who went to a party dressed as the twin towers with people falling out of his stomach aka the building. It was so disgusting. Why can't people just have fun silly costumes anymore?

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