A little over a month ago, two 12-year-old girls tried to kill their friend in attempt to pay homage to the fictional character Slender Man. In the weeks that followed, I had some of my friends and others in parenting groups ask how something like this could happen. They started questioning whether or not their child should play games like Minecraft because of the Endermen, which are loosely based on Slender Man.
While my children and I had a talk about the character Slender Man, and my 11-year-old son hadn’t even heard of the character, they were both appalled to learn that two girls not much older than them had committed such a heinous crime. My children never even saw the connection between Endermen and Slender Man. However, one of the things my son said in our discussion hit the nail on the head perfectly: It’s a video game; it’s not real.
Most children, as well as most people, know the difference between fiction and reality. Yet when tragedy strikes like this, it is easy to point the finger at video games, music, and other things rather than looking at the issue at hand. I mean, how many of us have seen Friday the 13th or Scream or some other horror film? I am willing to bet that you don’t plan on going on a killing spree because of them.
My take from these kinds of tragedies is that, as parents, we need to make sure our kids know the difference between fiction and reality. If they don’t, we need to find out why. The girls who committed this crime were not mentally stable. As parents, we also need to educate our children. We need to know our children’s friends and where our children are. We need to make sure that our kids know that if they feel something is amiss or they find themselves in a situation where they suddenly feel uncomfortable that they need to remove themselves. I am not saying we need to scare them, but we need to teach them to be aware.
To hear video games being blamed when a tragedy happens makes me sad that we are not looking at the real issue at hand, which often involves the criminal suffering from mental illness. We need to start facing the real problem instead of looking at something else to blame.