|Slenderman drawn by K (when she probably should've been working.)|
By now I am sure that you've heard of the genuinely scary story of the two girls that lured their friend into the woods and attempted to murder her. I'm sure you've heard the name of Slenderman bandied around on the news shows as the bizarre reason for their horrifying actions. You may have even seen some of these news shows interviewing concerned parents expressing shock that children as young as Kindergarten age know who Slenderman is (well, duh!) and telling parents they should outright ban their child from ever visiting the website Creepy Pasta and websites like it.
This may shock some of you but I am not going to do that. But let me back up a bit.
A couple of months ago I got a phone call from the school guidance counselor regarding K. A disturbing drawing had been found on the floor in the hall at school. This drawing was of a goth-ish, manga-ish character who liked knives or blood or both --the details are somewhat sketchy (yeah, pun intended) because I never saw the actual drawing. I do know there were no knives or blood in the drawing itself. She told me the drawing had been created by an un-named artist and K had told the teacher who had drawn it. The school never wants to tell you who else is involved when your kid's behavior is being scrutinized, but I knew immediately who the artist was. K and her best friend, Josie* are both artists are always collaborating and comparing their work. K wasn't being a tattle tale or trying to get her friend into trouble. She is quite proud of her friend's art skills and saw no reason not to give credit where it was due.
In interviewing both K and her friend, the counselor discovered that the idea for this artwork had come from visiting Creepy Pasta. She said I should check out this site. She said it had a dark theme, a scary vibe and she found it disturbing. I want to make it clear that I appreciate the guidance counselor's concern and attention to this. I'm glad she wanted me to be aware of K's activity online (which I was and am.) I didn't take her phone call lightly and I take it even more seriously after hearing this news story. I thanked her and I made good on my promise to speak to K about it.
With all of that being said, I am not concerned about Creepy Pasta or its influence on K. I didn't then, nor am I now banning her from visiting Creepy Pasta. I spoke with Josie's Mom and she was on the same page (yeah, another art pun, sorry) as I am. Yes, I know, 'knives and blood' sounds creepy. But is it any worse than creepy stories we used to tell each other at sleepovers like "The Hook" or playing with Ouija Boards? The reason I'm not concerned is this: I know my kid. This is a girl who cries when her brother kills a bug instead of taking it outside. This is a girl who conducts funerals for dead goldfish and hermit crabs and insists on custom made
The lesson to be learned from this cautionary tale is not that we should ban our children from creepy-story websites. This is the same old argument that "violent video games cause violence" wrapped up in a newer package. The lesson to be learned is to be vigilant, be nosy, be aware, be up in their business. Ask questions about their interests. Ask questions about their friends. Ask questions about what they believe, even silly things like belief in ghosts and monsters. Don't stop asking questions even when you're getting eye rolls and sighs. Be willing to immediately drop everything (and I mean immediately, like even if your hands are full of raw chicken juice or whatever) and listen when your kid wants to talk about something. I really mean that last one, it really pays off.
I won't be so arrogant to say that I have perfect insight into everything K thinks or does but I know her heart. I know she can separate fiction and reality. As important I know her friends. I know her friends' parents and what sort of people they are. I would be interested to know what these girls' parents, either the perpetrator's or the victim's, saw any signs, got any vibes, discounted any off feelings. I am not judging them. Who would ever predict their 11 year old daughters to be into a thrill-kill? Who would expect their child to barely make it back alive from a sleepover? No one could guess at such a thing. I think that their hindsight could be beneficial to other parents but I would understand if they are too shocked to share it.
I talked to K about this news story, not surprisingly she'd already heard about it at school when it came out. I accurately predicted that she would call those girls totally crazy and not very smart to believe in a made up character like Slenderman.
*Name changed to protect privacy