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Hooked on the net.

IF THE Buffy brigade spark interest in the occult, then the internet makes it all too easy to go one step beyond.

Research by a teaching union has found that 60 per cent of Midland teenagers are interested in the occult and supernatural.

Of 2,600 pupils interviewed by Mori on behalf of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, a quarter expressed a very strong interest and 20 per cent said they were worried by what they'd discovered.

As Midland libraries have not experienced an upsurge in demand, it seems highly likely that youngsters are instead getting their information from the internet.

The Association is concerned that teenagers' sophisticated IT skills have enabled them to gain access to sites which could be frightening, or even damaging to them.

'Youngsters can very easily visit a choice of hundreds of websites on witchcraft, Wicca, magic, casting hexes and bloodletting techniques, without adults having any control as to what they read,' warns General Secretary Peter Smith.

'This goes far beyond a case of reading a Harry Potter story. This represents an extremely worrying trend among young people. 'Parents and teachers should educate children about the dangers of dabbling in the occult before they become too deeply involved.'

Gwen Evans, deputy general secretary of the Association adds: 'We decided to carry out this research after hearing anecdotal evidence from many of our members.

'Their pupils had admitted feeling uncomfortable about some of the things they had discovered about the occult and witchcraft especially on the internet.

'We felt that what we were hearing might be the tip of the iceberg.

'After studying the findings, we have advised our members to be aware of this when supervising within school. We have also encouraged them to get parents to think about moving the computer into the living room so they can keep an eye on what their kids are looking up.

'Programmes like Buffy are on at a prime time for young viewers - when they've just got back from school.

'It's in the tradition of Dracula and all that kind of stuff - but presented in a more glamorous way.

'There is a kind of frisson of excitement surrounding this genre. It can be a source of jokey pleasure but it can also go deeper than that. For some it's perfectly okay, but for others it becomes frightening.'
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 1, 2000
Words:391
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