ABC's late-night host conducted what's becoming an annual prank during the past week, encouraging parents to tell their children they had eaten all of their Halloween candy, film the response and upload the video so he could show it on his TV show and on YouTube.
Predictably, many of the fooled children were quite upset.
"Pranking your own children is not harmless fun, but is cruel and potentially damaging," said Mark Barnett, a professor and graduate program coordinator at Kansas State University's department of psychological sciences. A child's trust in his parents shouldn't be trifled with, he said.
"A parent who would violate this trust for a big laugh or 15 minutes of fame is, in my opinion, acting irresponsibly and not looking out for the best interests of the child," Barnett said.
No one from Kimmel's show, broadcast on a network owned by the traditionally kid-friendly Walt Disney Co., was available to comment, representatives said Wednesday. A YouTube posting of Kimmel's on-air highlights was viewed more than 7 million times through late Wednesday, with more than 45,000 giving it a "thumbs up" and 2,191 offering a "thumbs down."
Since starting the feature in 2011, Kimmel's show said the post-Halloween videos have been viewed more than 106 million times online.
Kimmel said this year he received an "avalanche" of great responses and it took much of last weekend to work through them all.
This year's videos include two blond boys who break out in uncontrolled tears when their father tells them, "it's all gone." An empty candy wrapper is on the table in front of them.
One girl, still in costume, tells her mother that "you ruined my whole day."
Children throw stomping tantrums, one so vigorous the toddler's pants fall down. One angry girl throws an envelope at her parents. Another bawling child is hardly mollified by news that it's a prank: "Well, that's not very kind," the boy said.
Kimmel's studio audience laughs at most of the reactions.
Jane Annunziata, a McLean, Va.-based psychologist who deals with family issues and is the author of the book, "Sometimes I'm Scared...," said she thought the prank was inappropriate parental behavior.
"Parents should always serve as role models for their children, role modeling most appropriate behaviors and the most constructive ways to express feelings," Annunziata said.
Kimmel, 46, said on the air two years ago when introducing the first round of stolen candy videos that "I guess I didn't expect so much crying" in response.
"To the children whose fears are about to be immortalized on television, I apologize in advance," he said.