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Saturday, 22 April, 2000, 00:41 GMT 01:41 UK
Occult sites 'lure' teenagers
Tarot cards
In the cards: Survey said 54% of teenagers had interest in occult

By BBC News Online's Gary Eason

Teachers say they are worried about teenagers using websites about the occult, a subject which a survey says a quarter of secondary school pupils are "very interested" in.

The survey of pupils in 115 middle and secondary schools in England and Wales found 54% of the 2,600 who responded were "interested" in the occult and the supernatural and 26% were "very interested".

This goes far beyond a case of reading a Harry Potter story. This represents an extremely worrying trend among young people

Association of Teachers and Lecturers
Boys were a little more likely than girls to have expressed an interest.

But girls were more likely than boys to have uncovered things which worried them. Younger pupils - the 11-year-olds - expressed the most concern.

More than twice as many black and ethnic minority pupils than white pupils were "very worried" by things they had come across.

But the union has been criticised for presenting a misleading and naive image of alternative beliefs.


The findings are part of a larger survey of schoolchildren's attitudes carried out by market researchers Mori for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Many had found worrying material on the net
The children were not specifically asked whether they had used the internet to pursue their interest in things supernatural.

But as a result of the findings, the ATL has added its voice to the widespread unease that unsupervised access to the internet could mean young people could find it easier to visit websites devoted to "unsavoury" subjects.

It reinforces official warnings about the need for parents and schools to take steps to ensure children are not wandering freely on the net.

In the survey, pupils were also asked how they rated their knowledge of computers and the internet against that of their teachers.

Thirty-nine per cent felt they knew more than their teachers did.


Commenting on the findings, the ATL's general secretary, Peter Smith, said: "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.

"This goes far beyond a 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."

The ATL has given some examples of the sort of websites it is worried about.


One, dealing with bloodletting, bears the warning: "This site is here to provide needed technical and safety information for people with a need, craving, or ongoing desire to drink blood (from consenting sources). If this topic offends you, please don't continue on inside.

"By continuing on inside to view this site further, you are certifying that either you are at least 18 years of age, or you have the permission of a parent or legal guardian to view this site. (Note: This site does not contain porno.)"

Among those who contacted BBC News Online to complain about the ATL's views was Andrew McKay.

"I'm not am member or spokesperson for any paticular group or organisation except my own beliefs and freedom of belief, religion and practice," he says.

"I do however as a young 20-year-old pagan and occultist feel qualified to speak out on the pagan and occultist comminity in general.

"The use of such a medium of free speech and equality as the internet by children should be carefuly monitored because there are a lot of sites out there unsuitable for young children.

"However, suggesting ... that all occult sites and practitioners along with such passive natural and old religions as paganism and modern Wicca are equal to those of blood drinking and body mutilation etc. is misleading to the general public and disrespectful to the majority of good-natured and good-intentioned occultists and pagans in England and abroad who are constantly given a bad name and bundled in with dangerous cults and "devil" worshipers."

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See also:

28 Mar 00 | Education
School bans Harry Potter
11 Oct 99 | Education
Net porn warning for pupils
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