In May of 2014, two young teenage girls took a third girl, their friend, into the woods in Waukesha, Wisconsin. They then stabbed her repeatedly and left her to die. The perpetrators took off to find and report to an urban legend known only as “Slender Man.” Fortunately, the victim was found near death and miraculously survived.
Her family has been amazing in helping her cope. One would assume they are very attentive to her mental condition. The two perpetrators go to trial in March of this year. I imagine all three girls are dealing with huge wake-up calls. I find myself wondering if these parents ever checked their teens’ bedrooms, computers or cell phones. Did they listen to them? Did they have rules? Why didn’t an adult notice the mutilated Barbie dolls or hear the Slender Man conversations? Why didn’t one of those parents overhear the other world reality that these girls were involved in?
This is horrifying, but also for me, has meaning. I love (always have) scary movies. I still go to the good ones with my son. But, when my kids were teens all three of us would go. We loved the good ones and hated the stupid ones. I was, for most of their teen years, a stay-at-home mom. I regularly straightened their rooms and always knew where they were. Believe me, they did on occasion break a rule and pay the price. Their lives, however, were grounded in reality and considerate treatment of their peers. This doesn’t mean that my son didn’t sneak out of the house when grounded, or that my daughter always dated with my approval. But, they listened and learned and took what fury I unleashed on them.
They were basically kind, well-meaning and didn’t try too hard to get things by their parents. They survived several moves that made me grit my teeth. These were done in the name of jobs undertaken by their dad. When they had to leave one school for another, I watched like a hawk for any trouble that might ensue. It did happen with my son and was dealt with. Today, he is smart, creative and has his mother’s zest for life. My children are grounded and realistic; and I am still protective.
Back to Slender Man – I don’t know what these parents did or did not do. They are probably guilty of that major sin…omission; not being aware of the ages, not overstepping borders for the good of all. Normal pressures such as feelings, emotions, attitudes, physical desirability all of these stream through social media to impressionable young minds. If one cannot stand reality, then it is all too easy to invent a new reality. This is aided and abetted by social media. The only thing that anyone can do that has a chance of changing this, is to monitor these “extras.”
Children are not ready for this stuff and parents, it would seem, cannot take the time to offer substitutes in the form of therapy, counsel, attention, and plain old love. Instead of risking that your child might pour their heart out to an inappropriate listener, why not encourage prayer? And, do it with them. Keep up steady contact with the teacher, the school, and pay attention to friends and conversations. If you find you are in over your head, consult a doctor. Discuss the signs that concern you – it’s not a silly thing to do. If you as parents both work, then divide up the watchfulness.
Above all, children, especially teens need to be grounded and real. Pull their heads out of computer games and social media. Take an interest in their school activities, sports, and hobbies. God gives you only one go-around.