Teenage Cults: Blood and Gore on the Web

Article excerpt

If you are worried by sex on the internet (see Richard Reeves, page 30, and Johann Hari in NS, 7 March), maybe you should be even more worried by the violent imagery available. Just by typing words such as "murder" and "blood" into Google, today's teenagers can access footage ranging from animated Tarantino-style bunny massacres to actual al-Qaeda beheadings.

One website, called www.ogrish.com, has attained cult status among teenagers. Totally legal under US law, it makes users confirm that they are at least 18 before they go beyond the home page. But though younger users are threatened with perjury, it takes no more than the click of a mouse to get through to "beheading videos, execution images, accident pictures, gruesome scenes from Iraq etc".

Ogrish is probably the most hard-core of a range of bloodthirsty websites that have become popular with schoolchildren and students. A survey by Sonia Livingstone, professor of social psychology at the London

School of Economics, found that 31 per cent of children aged from nine to 19 have accessed such gory websites. "There has always been a point in adolescence when teenagers search out this kind of material," she says, "But on the internet there's no context to the way they experience it. Horror movies, for example, are made with some eye to their audience--and there's some kind of resolution to what happens. On the web, there isn't that kind of control--it just brings increased availability, variety, and convenience. …