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Child Safety

Cyber-Security, Kids… and Slender Man?


Awhile back, I wrote a Child Safety post about detergent soap pods, and my friend Monica said disgustedly, “Oh, now I have something else to worry about!?” We agreed that we never thought that soap pods that look like candy would ever even be placed on the market for moms to bring home–the sight of them in a jar confusing children who promptly accessed them and tried to bite, eat and swallow them with horrific results. But here we have another assault on kids, and this, from the Internet and apparently it’s a myth that has been circulated and its character idolized… it’s “Slender Man.”

As near as I can understand what I have read about what occurred in Wisconsin in 2014, two young girls age 12, lured one of their friends into the woods, where they stabbed her multiple times. The victim was found along a roadside and taken to the hospital. (Daily News Record, July 28, 2016, “Wisconsin Girls to be Tried As Adults in Slender Man Attack”, Associated Press). The two girls have said this was a kind of “tribute to Slender Man”, a fictional Internet, counter-culture, mythical character. A deviant character called Slender Man created by Erik Knudsen in an Internet forum inspired this “planned out and violent” attempted murder. The only good news is that despite the odds, the young victim survived. Whether the girls will be tried as adults is still being determined. Both young girls’ who apparently committed this crime have been analyzed by physicians, and one has been diagnosed with mental illness(es). But my question is: Where were the parents? How did these girls learn about Slender Man and why did they do obeisance to a fictional character? Obviously, the young girls had unfettered access to everything on the Internet–otherwise they would not know about Slender Man. This is definitely a case of morbidly inspirational fiction gone wrong.

And impressionable persons, such as these young girls, having access to things deviant on the Internet is just plain wrong. I really don’t understand–and I wonder if these young girls have parents who care or parents who grasp at all what has happened here–or are they like the mother who shepherded her erring child to south of the border after he had committed murder? Not to be in a position to prevent things like this is wrong. This is not free-speech, people! There is something wrong with our understanding of what Internet freedom is if we allow our children to be assaulted by negatively inspirational images, stories, streamed movies that hypnotize, characters mythical or otherwise who do violent and egregious things, and websites on the Internet that inspire hatred, violence and murder. And I believe firmly that people who post such things ought to be held accountable.

Sensible people who live by common sense rules seem to have left “the buliding” and left what goes on the Internet up to the criminal element in Society and, as such I feel we are teetering on the edge, folks, between sanity and un-reality. It’s midnight, do you know what websites your children are surfing, do you know with whom they are chatting? I think I understand what inspired that other mythical character Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz to bewilderedly state, “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!”

Author: Marianne Halterman

Marianne is a member of the SafeKids Coalition of the Central Shenandoah Valley.

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