by Ben Russell, Education Correspondent ("The Independent", April 22, 2000) Children are at risk from satanic and occult material posted on the internet, a teachers' union warned yesterday.
"Buffy 'prompting pupils to access the occult'"
The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said the popularity of children's programmes and books featuring witchcraft could encourage children to search for sinister material on the internet. Researchers for the union found websites promoting satanism, blood-letting and wicca (witch) magic after a poll found more than half of secondary schoolpupils are interested in the occult.
The union said interest had been heightened by the huge popularity of television programmes such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which is based on a teenage girl who has violent battles with satanic forces.
One website found by the union describes in detail how to carry out blood-letting and blood drinking, although it does carry a health warning and advises adults to use blocking software to prevent children from accessing the material. Another site advises how to become a witch, while other websites sell books of spells and herbs for occult rituals.
A union-commissioned Mori poll of 2,600 children aged between 11 and 16 found 54 per cent were interested in the occult and the supernatural. Nearly one-quarter said they were "very interested".
One in six said they were worried about what they had discovered about the supernatural. Girls in particular were worried, with 20 per cent expressing concern. The union said the findings were worrying because children were often more skilled at using the internet than adults. The survey found two out of five children felt they knew more about the internet than their teachers.
Peter Smith, the general secretary of the ATL, said: "Youngsters can easily visit a choice of hundreds of websites on witchcraft, wicca magic, casting hexes and bloodletting techniques, without any adults having any control as to what they read.
"This goes beyond the case of reading a Harry Potter story. This represents an extremely worrying trend among young people. Parents and teachers will want to educate children and young people about the dangers of dabbling in the occult before they become too deeply involved."
Even the hugely popular Harry Potter books, which feature a boy who trains as a wizard, have been criticised. Last month they were banned from the library of St Mary's Island Church of England School in Chatham, Kent, on the basis that they conflicted with Christian teaching.
Concern over children's access to inappropriate websites has increased and many schools now have monitoring systems to keep check on what pupils access.
Most schools also have filter software to ensure pornography is kept out of bounds.
by Ben Russell, Education Correspondent ("The Independent", April 22, 2000)
Children are at risk from satanic and occult material posted on the internet, a teachers' union warned yesterday.
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