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Creepy clown pranks result in arrests

The US and UK have seen a recent rash of "creepy clown" incidents which have set social media ablaze. Most of the incidents are simply reports of sightings, in which people have spotted clowns in the woods, on playgrounds, and on school property, like the recent one in Newburgh.

It is unnerving (to say the least) to see an adult wearing a made-for-adults mask and accompanying orange wig, holding what appeared to be a real firearm, standing atop a bridge and watching the traffic below. Local police have investigated the incident and say it was a prank that didn't result in a real threat to public safety.

Some incidents have resulted in injury... to the clowns

Several of the sightings have been accompanied by threats made by fake accounts on Facebook. Citizens are understandably fearful, and the clown epidemic has led to what some law enforcement officials are referring to as "mass hysteria." In Ohio, for example, a school district was temporarily shut down following clown-related threats.

While a few of the people dressed as clowns have committed acts of violence, most of the sightings are attributed to teenagers and young adults just looking to scare folks and get a reaction. Police are trying to control the panic, reassuring citizens that there is no credible threat behind the clown sightings. Paranoia has spiraled out of control, leading to some grave consequences.

· In the UK, a 13-year-old boy was hit by a car while attempting a clown prank, leaving him with serious head injuries.

· An online video of unknown origin recently surfaced, showing a clown who attempted to scare drivers at night and instead was beaten with a baseball bat.

· In Pennsylvania, a 16-year-old boy was fatally stabbed in what appears to be a case of self-defense when he was trespassing while dressed as a clown.

Is your teen aware of the safety - and criminal - risks these pranks pose?

Teens often don't realize that their behavior has real-world consequences. There's a scientific reason behind this: the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with things like judgment and risk analysis, is not fully developed until we reach our mid-20s.

Unfortunately, a prank that seems like harmless fun to a youngster can have serious consequences, especially in a situation already complicated by mass panic.

Police have to take threats and reports seriously, and the clown incidents are placing a heavy burden on law enforcement resources that could be better spent elsewhere. As a result, police are cracking down on people found to be making false threats or caught in a clown prank.

Many teens don't realize that their night of big laughs could end in arrest. Already, more than a dozen clown-related arrests have been made with criminal charges such as trespassing, making false threats, and chasing. These pranksters may end up with criminal records that will haunt them for life.

The clown craze is only the most recent iteration of childish pranks gone too far. Whether it's smashing mailboxes, graffiti tagging, egging houses, or other forms of vandalism, talk to your teen and make sure he or she understands that these gags can have serious consequences, including criminal charges for property damage.

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