For children, and for that matter, for teenagers, the Internet is not a harmless toy. In fact, like many other features of modern life, people need to exercise a degree of spiritual discernment and maturity when the access the Net. Since all children, most teenagers, and many adults do not possess the requisite maturity, the Internet can become a pathway to trouble.
Gambling is the number one cash transfer business on the Internet, out-pacing pornography by about two and one-half to one. Both gambling and pornography can seduce people to ever higher levels of involvement to the point of addiction and to the point of emotional, financial, and other forms of harm.
Young people are particularly susceptible to new youth websites like MySpace.com or Facebook.com. Not that there is anything especially wrong with these sites in themselves. But young people often naively post personal details that attract pedophiles, perverts, and pornographers.
Sometimes the danger is a relational one. This week, a 16 year old Saginaw, Michigan girl lied to her Mother about why she needed a passport, then ran away from home, caught a flight to the Middle East, and finally was detained in Amman, Jordan. She was on her way to meet a 25 year old man she met through her MySpace.com account. Thanks to U.S. government customs officials, she is apparently well and will be returned to her home in the States.
Young people have posted nude pictures of their friends, not realizing they could be committing a crime. Youth have been accosted by sexual deviants because of what the adult learned from the teen’s website. Students at a Michigan high school posted party pictures of friends involved in underage drinking and were later suspended from high school and barred from attending the senior prom.
Unfortunately, we are probably going to hear more of this. Access to the Internet is too extensive and too easy to think otherwise. At the very least if we are responsible for young people we need to warn them about the danger of unfettered expression on the Internet. We should not teach them to “live scared,” but we do need to make our youth aware of the evil that lurks within and around any human endeavor. Learning this and learning to identify it when they see it is one step toward maturity.
© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006
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