When one thinks of deadly murderous duos, names that may come to the mind include: Leopold and Loeb; Lucas and Toole; Bianchi and Buono; and Lake and Ng. It’s no surprise to most that these notorious and sadistic male killers were accomplices who acted out their fantasies on their victims. Rarely do we hear of female killer duos like Gwen Graham and Catherine May, two nurses who smothered six patients in their care; Delfina and Maria Gonzales, who lured unsuspecting women into a deadly cult of prostitution; Christine and Lea Papin, French maids who gruesomely murdered their employers and their daughter with a hammer; and Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme, two obsessed and devoted teenagers who murdered Parker’s mother. While these women were from an era that predated the internet, one wonders if their exposure to violent images in television media and video games would have driven many more to commit such heinous acts.
With the arrival of the World Wide Web and internet video games, young children and teenagers were exposed to an onslaught of video content that has become increasingly realistic and violent. Research conducted in the 1980s by Huesmann and Eron (1986) as cited by the American Psychology Association (APA, 2013), determined that elementary students who watched excessive amounts of television violence displayed higher levels of aggression as teenagers. Recently, two 12-year- old girls from Wisconsin attributed their violent attack and attempted murder of their best friend to an online video game called “Slenderman.” The girls stated they desired to earn favor with the mythical character by luring their friend to the woods near their home and stabbing her 19 times. Prior to the attack, the girls repeatedly played the video game and planned the attack for months. When asked by authorities their motivation for such a violent act, the girls reported they wanted to prove Slenderman was real.
According to Traister (2014), belief in a mythical fantasy world can intensify the connection between young women and can potentially lead to violent behavior. Traister further added, “The two Wisconsin preteens aren’t the first to confuse socially-crafted fiction into reality.” Unsurprisingly, this will not be the last. Virtual reality internet video games on our youth can be something that will continue to worry parents and may perhaps become the focus of significant future psychological research.
Huesmann, L. R., & Eron, L. D. (1986). Television and the aggressive child: A cross-national comparison. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Traister, R. (2014). The slender man stabbing shows girls will be girls too. Retrieved from http://www.newrepublic.com/article/118005/slenderman-stabbing-shows-youth-crime-isnt-exclusive-boys
Violence in the Media (2013). Psychologist study tv and video game violence for potential harmful effects. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/research/action/protect.aspx
David J. Wright, MA., MSW
WKPIC Doctoral Intern