Social Media Dad: Why Slenderman isn't the problem in Wisconsin tragedy
Posted June 9, 2014
The danger of a culture being prisoners of the moment is that we jump to conclusions based on recent events rather than paying attention to historical precedents.
Sports arguments at bars and in online forums are perfect examples of this. Is LeBron James the best ever? You could certainly jump to that conclusion if you never saw Michael Jordan or Bill Russell play. How many times have we already seen the game of the century played, and here it is only 15 years old?
We begin speaking in hyperbole when it comes to current events, but forget that many of these same issues have manifested themselves previously.
When it comes to Slenderman and the case of the two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin who sought a way to honor the fictional character by trying to kill another girl, the immediate response for many is to blame the Internet, fiction horror writers, creepypasta or the parents.
Should parents be aware of what their kids are doing, seeing and reading online? Absolutely, but not just for the reason of playing police officer. Paying attention means:
• Engaging in conversation about what their interests are
• Making good parenting decisions about content
• Helping our children learn good decision making by talking about what is age appropriate content
• Watching for changes in behavior that might indicate something is wrong
In my teenage years, I recall a made-for-TV movie called "Mazes and Monsters." It was about kids who got lost in a fictional role playing game based on Dungeons and Dragons.
Parent fears were rampant about who could get hurt, how their kids could become members of a Satanic cult, or whether they'd lose their sense of self in the midst of playing this game. Rather than demonizing the game, a better public discussion then should have centered on teenagers and their sense of self, and/or one on adolescent mental health.
Rather than jumping to conclusions and judgement towards the parents, creepypasta, fiction writers or the declining moral compass of our society, perhaps we should be having a conversation about what causes some teens to lose their way between reality and fantasy. After all, every generation does this.
Adolescence and parenting have always been difficult. Social media and the Internet add a new layer to it, just as the automobile and television did in recent generations.
Parents need access to resources that help them raise healthy kids, not just hyperbole that tells them all the things kids are doing wrong.
Parents can reach out to local resources that offer parent coaching and family therapy. And they can seek advise from clergy and trusted friends and family who have navigated through this time in life.
Imagine if we had written a young Tom Hanks off as a poor actor after "Mazes and Monsters." Going to the movies would be a less enjoyable experience!
Brian Foreman, a Raleigh dad of two, is a social media educator. Go to his website for more information about his book "How to be Social Media Parents." Find him here monthly on Go Ask Mom.