Last Updated on 2nd February 2022

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We’ve received recent reports of children as young as six discussing an online horror character called ‘Slender Man’. Our online safety experts have taken a deeper look at Slender Man to address any risks or red flags, as well as our top tips for parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals.

What is Slender Man?

Slender Man was created in 2009 by artist Eric Knudsen as a challenge to create a paranormal image. It then became part of a ‘creepypasta’, a widely shared internet horror story. Slender Man is depicted as a supernaturally thin, tall, faceless man wearing a black suit. The story rose in online popularity over the last decade and has become a widespread urban myth.

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By LuxAmber – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

We’ve received recent reports of children as young as six discussing an online horror character called ‘Slender Man’. Our online safety experts have taken a deeper look at Slender Man to address any risks or red flags, as well as our top tips for parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals.

What is Slender Man?

Slender Man was created in 2009 by artist Eric Knudsen as a challenge to create a paranormal image. It then became part of a ‘creepypasta’, a widely shared internet horror story. Slender Man is depicted as a supernaturally thin, tall, faceless man wearing a black suit. The story rose in online popularity over the last decade and has become a widespread urban myth.

We’ve received recent reports of children as young as six discussing an online horror character called ‘Slender Man’. Our online safety experts have taken a deeper look at Slender Man to address any risks or red flags, as well as our top tips for parents, carers, and safeguarding professionals.

What is Slender Man?

Slender Man was created in 2009 by artist Eric Knudsen as a challenge to create a paranormal image. It then became part of a ‘creepypasta’, a widely shared internet horror story. Slender Man is depicted as a supernaturally thin, tall, faceless man wearing a black suit. The story rose in online popularity over the last decade and has become a widespread urban myth.

Slender Man character

By LuxAmber – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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By LuxAmber – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,


Urban myth:
A story or statement that is not true but is often repeated and believed by many to be true.

– Cambridge Dictionary

While there are multiple interpretations, the reoccurring narrative is that Slender Man haunts abandoned places (such as buildings, playgrounds, and forests) and abducts unsuspecting humans – especially children. There have been multiple horror video games and films made using his image. He is a popular horror character on Roblox, YouTube, and TikTok (with over 1.2 billion views on the hashtag #Slenderman).

Slender Man hashtags on TikTok

What are the risks?

Slender Man is not a current hoax or challenge. He is a fictional creation, like Huggy Wuggy, Jeff the Killer, Siren Head, and numerous others specifically created to frighten. These characters have an online life that is often made up of rumours and tall tales which resurface every few years for new generations.

As Slender Man is a popular character, it is extremely easy to find related content on Google, YouTube, and most online platforms – even with parental controls switched on. This content can be disturbing if a child is not expecting it or if they are more vulnerable to this genre.  There are multiple risks that may arise from children and young people being exposed to frightening content before they are prepared.

  • Disturbing content – Much of the online content surrounding Slender Man could be considered disturbing or unsettling, especially for younger children. There are popular investigative videos on YouTube that discuss a violent incident tied to Slender Man from 2014 that are available even with Restricted Mode switched on. This story has been heavily sensationalised by media outlets.

In 2014, two twelve-year-old girls in the United States stabbed their friend and left her for dead as a “sacrifice to Slender Man.” Both girls were diagnosed with mental illnesses, one of them claiming that Slender Man (alongside other fictional characters like Harry Potter) watches her, can read minds, and could teleport. This has been treated as an isolated event that highlights the damaging effect online content can have on vulnerable children.
  • Added anxiety and stress – Children and young people are still growing and learning. They may not be at a level of emotional maturity that would be able to process frightening content, even if they view it intentionally. They may also struggle to differentiate between fact and fiction.
  • Intrusive or unsettling thoughts – Everyone has the ‘thing that goes bump in the night.’ If children decide to look up Slender Man online, he could easily become a Bogeyman-like character. This could cause children to lose focus or sleep and could interrupt family sleep patterns.
  • Developing new fears – The manipulation of everyday places (i.e. playgrounds, forests) into haunting grounds for horror characters threatens the sense of security a child feels. They may suddenly be terrified of something that had never been a worry before.

Red flags to look for

Every child is different. Some may genuinely enjoy the horror genre and not struggle with any lasting feelings of fear or panic in response. Slender Man has even become a popular Halloween costume choice for children. However, if a child is worried or anxious after learning about a horror character, they may:

  • Find it hard to focus or concentrate
  • Appear withdrawn
  • Have a change in appetite
  • Experience sleep disturbances (i.e. bed wetting, restlessness) or nightmares
  • Appear suddenly angry, irritable, or teary
  • Be worried or anxious, which can physically manifest in fidgeting or tummy aches
  • Have new fears of places or situations

If the child in your care comes across something scary or disturbing online, encourage them to:

STOP

what they are doing and turn off their screen/switch off device 

PAUSE

to take a breath and try to stay calm 

THINK

about something else that makes them happy

TALK

to an adult they trust about what they saw and how it made them feel

Our Top Tips for helping the child or young person in your care

  • Reassure your child that they are safe. Repeating that reassurance in different environments may be necessary if your child seems fixated on their fear. It may be helpful to remind them that horror characters like Slender Man are simply stories intended to frighten. Remind them that it’s okay to be afraid, and that they are not alone.
  • It’s important your child knows they can come and speak to you without fear of judgement or consequence. If necessary, ask them to show or tell you what they have found, and follow appropriate reporting procedures if you are concerned.
  • Ask them about the content they are watching online, and if anything they’ve seen has ever made them or their friends upset or scared. Try not to mention anything by name.
  • Use our Trusted Adult Resources to teach children and young people about the importance of seeking help from trusted people if something worries or upset them.
  • If your child is having nightmares or is anxious about something they’ve watched, have a conversation with them about how they can healthily express their feelings. You can use our emotions journal to help your child express complex emotions such as fear or worry.

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