Here's a few others not from the KM.
*** g97 7/22 pp. 10-13 The Internet—Why Be Cautious? ***
The Internet—Why Be Cautious?
THE Internet certainly has potential for educational use and day-to-day communication. Yet, stripped of its high-tech gloss, the Internet is beset with some of the same problems that have long afflicted television, telephones, newspapers, and libraries. Thus, an appropriate question may be, Is the content of the Internet suitable for my family and me?
Numerous reports have commented on the availability of pornographic material on the Internet. Does this suggest, though, that the Internet is merely a cesspool full of sexually perverted deviants? Some contend that this is a gross exaggeration. They argue that one must make a conscious and deliberate effort to locate objectionable material.
It is true that one must make an intentional effort to find unwholesome material, but others argue that it can be located with much greater ease on the Internet than elsewhere. With a few keystrokes, a user can locate erotic material, such as sexually explicit photos including audio and video clips.
The issue of how much pornography is available on the Internet is currently a hotly debated subject. Some feel that reports suggesting a pervasive problem may be exaggerated. Yet, if you learned that there were not 100 poisonous snakes in your backyard but only a few, would you be any less concerned for your family’s safety? Those who have access to the Internet would be wise to exercise caution.
Beware of Those Who Prey on Children!
Recent news coverage has shown that some pedophiles join on-line interactive chat discussions with young people. Posing as young children, these adults have slyly extracted names and addresses from unsuspecting youngsters.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has documented some of this activity. For example, in 1996, police found two South Carolina, U.S.A., girls, ages 13 and 15, who had been missing for a week. They had gone to another state with an 18-year-old male they met on the Internet. A 35-year-old man was charged with luring a 14-year-old boy into an illicit sexual encounter when his parents were not home. Both cases began with dialogue in an Internet chat room. Another adult, in 1995, met a 15-year-old boy on-line and boldly went to his school to meet him. Still another adult admitted to having sex with a 14-year-old girl. She had used her father’s computer to communicate with teenagers via on-line bulletin boards. She too met this adult on-line. All these youngsters had eventually been persuaded to reveal their identities.
Need for Parental Guidance
While cases such as the above are relatively infrequent, parents must nevertheless examine this matter carefully. What resources are available to parents to protect their children from being targets of crime and exploitation?
Companies are beginning to offer tools that range from rating systems similar to those for movies, to word-detection software that filters out undesirable content, to proof-of-age systems. Some approaches block material even before it reaches the family’s computer. Most of these approaches are not foolproof, however, and can be circumvented by various methods. Remember, the original design of the Internet was to make it resistant to disruptions, so censorship is difficult.
In an interview with Awake!, a police sergeant who supervises a child exploitation investigation group in California offered this advice: “There is no substitute for parental guidance. I have a 12-year-old child myself. My wife and I have allowed him to use the Internet, but we make it a family affair and place careful safeguards on the amount of time we’ll spend.” This father is especially cautious regarding chat rooms, and he places firm restrictions on their use. He adds: “The personal computer is not in my son’s room but in an open area of the home.”
Parents need to take an active interest in deciding what use of the Internet, if any, they will permit for their children. What practical and reasonable precautions should be considered?
Staff writer David Plotnikoff of the San Jose Mercury News offers some useful tips to parents who decide to have Internet access at home.
• Your youngsters’ experience is most positive when they work with you, as they learn the value of your judgment and guidance. Without your direction, he warns, “all the information on the Net is just like water without a glass.” The rules you insist on are “an extension of the common-sense things you’ve told your kids all along.” An example would be your rules regarding speaking to strangers.
• The Internet is a public place and should not be used as a baby-sitting service. “After all, you wouldn’t just drop your 10-year-old off in a big city and tell him or her to go have fun for a few hours, would you?”
• Learn to recognize the difference between Internet locations for playing games or chatting and places for getting help with homework.
The NCMEC pamphlet Child Safety on the Information Highway offers several guidelines to young people:
• Don’t reveal personal information such as your address, your home telephone number, or the name and location of your school. Don’t send photos without your parents’ permission.
• Inform your parents immediately if you receive information that makes you feel uncomfortable. Never respond to messages that are mean or aggressive. Tell your parents right away so that they can contact the on-line service.
• Cooperate with your parents in setting up rules for going on-line, including the time of day and length of time to be on-line and the appropriate areas to visit; stick to their decisions.
Bear in mind that precautions are also beneficial for adults. Some adults have already become ensnared in unwanted relationships and serious problems because of their carelessness. The mystique of chat rooms—the lack of eye contact and the anonymity of aliases—has lowered the inhibitions of some and created a false sense of security. Adults, take note!
Keeping a Balanced View
Some of the material and many of the services found on the Internet have educational value and can serve a useful purpose. Growing numbers of corporations are storing internal documentation on their internal networks, or intranets. Emerging Internet-based video and audio conferencing have the potential for permanently changing our travel and business-meeting patterns. Companies use the Internet to distribute their computer software, thus reducing costs. Many services that currently use personnel to handle business transactions, such as travel and stock-brokerage services, will likely be affected as users of the Internet are empowered to handle some or all of their own arrangements. Yes, the effect of the Internet has been profound, and it will likely continue as an important medium for sharing information, conducting business, and communicating.
Like most tools, the Internet has beneficial uses. Yet, there exists the potential for misuse. Some may choose to explore the positive aspects of the Internet further, while others may not. A Christian is not authorized to judge another’s decisions on personal matters.—Romans 14:4.
Using the Internet can be like traveling to a new country, with many new things to see and hear. Travel requires that you display good manners and take sensible precautions. No less is needed if you should decide to get on the Internet—the information superhighway.
[Blurb on page 12]
“The personal computer is not in my son’s room but in an open area of the home”
[Blurb on page 13]
The Internet is a public place and should not be used as a baby-sitting service
[Box/Picture on page 11]
The Need for Courtesy and Caution
Learn the rules of courtesy and protocol. Most Internet service providers publish thoughtful and acceptable guidelines for conduct. Other users will appreciate your sensitivity and good manners.
Some discussion groups debate religious or controversial matters. Be careful about posting comments to such discussions; likely your E-mail address and name will be broadcast to all in the group. This often results in time-consuming and unwanted correspondence. Indeed, there are some newsgroups that are unfit to read, let alone interact with.
What about creating a discussion group, or newsgroup, for fellow Christians? This may present greater problems and dangers than initially expected. For example, individuals with ulterior motives have been known to misrepresent themselves on the Internet. Currently, the Internet itself does not enable individuals appearing on it to confirm identities. Furthermore, such a group can be compared in some ways to a large, ongoing social gathering, taxing the time and ability of its host to provide necessary and responsible supervision.—Compare Proverbs 27:12.
[Box/Picture on page 13]
How Valuable Is Your Time?
In this 20th century, life has progressively become more complicated. Inventions that have worked to the advantage of some have often turned out to be time wasters for many. Further, immoral and violent TV programs, pornographic books, degrading music recordings, and the like are examples of technologies that have been misused. They not only eat up precious time but also damage people spiritually.
Of course, a Christian’s first priorities are spiritual matters, such as reading the Bible daily and getting well acquainted with priceless Scriptural truths discussed in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and other publications of the Watch Tower Society. Everlasting benefits come, not from surfing the Internet, but from using your time to take in knowledge of the only true God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to apply it zealously.—John 17:3; see also Ephesians 5:15-17.
*** g 3/07 p. 3 Youths Online! ***
Imagine your child wandering the streets alone at night.
Imagine your teen organizing a party in your home that you know nothing about.
Imagine your son or daughter making copies of the keys to your house and distributing these to total strangers.
IF YOUR child has access to the Internet, the above situations may not be as far-fetched as they seem. “The Internet provides an unprecedented number and variety of meeting places, from message boards to instant messaging to so-called social networking sites,” says Science News magazine.
Young people have quickly adjusted to life online. Indeed, in 2004 nearly 9 of every 10 people in the United States between the ages of 12 and 17 used the Internet, which is accessible in virtually every corner of the globe.
Few people would deny the usefulness of the Internet. But no one should be oblivious to the dangers it poses. For instance, many youths are wandering alone in the online neighborhood, and some are creating social networks with people whom you—and even your child—would never invite into the home.
Some naive young ones even post inappropriately personal details, thoughts, and images on the Internet. According to Professor Zheng Yan of the State University of New York, youths “often don’t realize how many people have access to that information, including sexual predators.”
Let us take a closer look at what many young people are doing online. This will enable us to see potential problems, to determine just what our children are looking for, and to see how we can help them satisfy their legitimate needs. It will also help Christian young people meet the challenge of remaining faithful to God during these difficult times.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
*** g 3/07 pp. 4-7 Helping Youths Meet the Challenge ***
Helping Youths Meet the Challenge
THE world, its lifestyles, and its fads have always undergone change. Largely because of modern technology, changes are even more pronounced today. What was in yesterday is out today, and what is popular today will be obsolete tomorrow. These rapid changes have a marked impact on young people.
A Social Revolution
In recent years, technology has sparked a revolution that has had a profound effect on youths. For example, in many lands the cell phone and the computer have become a lifeline of the adolescent social world. Social networking sites have opened up a whole new world of possibilities. “You can be relatively friendless in real life and then suddenly have hundreds of friends online,” says a 19-year-old girl in Australia.
Few would deny that the cell phone and the Internet have numerous benefits. For many people, however, these tools seem to have become addictive. University Professor Donald Roberts notes that some students “can’t go the few minutes between their 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock classes without talking on their cell phones.” He says: “It seems to me that there’s almost a discomfort with not being stimulated—a kind of ‘I can’t stand the silence.’”
Some youths even admit that they feel hooked. “I’m totally addicted to instant messaging and my cell phone, because they’re how I keep up with my friends,” says 16-year-old Stephanie. “When I get home, I go online immediately and stay on . . . sometimes till 3 A.M.” Stephanie’s monthly phone bill is anywhere from $100 to $500. “By now,” she says, “I owe my parents more than $2,000 in excess charges. But I’m so used to having my cell with me all the time that I can’t live normally without it.”
The problems can be more than financial. While doing a study on family life, anthropologist Elinor Ochs found that when a working parent came home, the spouse and kids were often so absorbed in what they were doing that 2 out of 3 times they did not even say a greeting! They just kept on monitoring their electronic gadgets. “We also saw how difficult it was for parents to penetrate the child’s universe,” says Ochs. She adds that during the study parents were observed actually backing away, retreating from kids who were absorbed in whatever they were doing.
Online Social Networks—Harmless?
Many parents and educators are concerned about the amount of time youths spend visiting what are called online social networks. These are Internet sites that allow members to create a Web page and enhance it with pictures, videos, and diaries, called blogs.
One attraction of such sites is that they enable members to keep in touch with friends. Another is that setting up a Web page allows a youth to express his identity, to “make a statement.” The appeal is understandable, for adolescence is a time of learning about oneself and revealing one’s feelings in a way that reaches and moves others.
One problem that arises, though, is that some individuals create a Web-site persona that reflects who they want to be rather than who they are. “There’s a kid in one of my classes who says he’s 21 and lives in Las Vegas,” states a 15-year-old boy. Both youths live about a thousand miles [1,600 km] from that U.S. city.
Such deception is quite common. “You can do anything on the Net,” confides an 18-year-old Australian girl. “You can become a whole different person because no one really knows you. You feel confident. You can make up things so that you seem to be more interesting. You can put pictures of yourself wearing things or doing things that you would never wear or do in real life. You can write things you would never say in person. You feel as if you can get away with anything because you’re hidden. No one knows who you really are.”
As with any mode of communication, online social networks can have legitimate uses as well as potential abuses. As a parent, do you know what your children are doing online? Are you making sure that your children are using their time wisely? (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Furthermore, misuse of the Internet can expose a youth to a number of serious dangers. What are some of these?
The Darker Side of Cyberspace
The anonymity of the Internet makes it a hunting ground for child predators. Youths can unwittingly become ensnared if they give out personal information online or agree to meet a person with whom they have been corresponding. Some people argue that “children face more serious threats of violence or abuse in their own homes or on the playground,” says the book Parenting 911. “Yet there is something insidious for most parents about sexual provocateurs being able to reach into their homes through a screen and tamper with the innocence of their children.”
There are other ways communication technology has been exploited. Some youths have engaged in “cyberbullying”—relentless online teasing, ostracizing, harassing, or threatening. Web sites have been set up purely to humiliate someone, while e-mail, chat rooms, and the like have become conduits for slander. The director of an online safety group believes that up to 80 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 14 have been directly or indirectly affected by cyberbullying.
Granted, bullying is not new. But now rumors, gossip, and slander can travel much farther and infinitely faster. It often gets far nastier too. In some cases, cell phones with a built-in camera have been used to take rude and potentially embarrassing photographs and videos, perhaps in a school locker room or shower. These images have then been placed on the Internet and sent to any number of eager recipients.
Growing Public Concern
Such matters prompted the Department of Law and Public Safety in New Jersey, U.S.A., to send a letter to parents and guardians, urging them to “help us respond to an emerging concern regarding the inappropriate use of the Internet among children, both in and out of school.” The letter expressed particular apprehension over the posting online of personal information and photos. Sites divulging such details are often magnets for unscrupulous youths and adults. “As a parent,” the letter stated, “you need to know that concerns over these issues are very real, and that you can play an important role in keeping your children safe by getting more informed and involved in your children’s use of the Internet.”
Yet, some parents know surprisingly little about what their children are doing online. One mother, who closely monitors her 16-year-old daughter’s online activities, states: “Parents would be absolutely horrified and embarrassed if they knew what their children were posting and discussing.” According to an Internet safety expert, some young people are posting photos that are sexually very suggestive.
Is all this alarm merely the paranoia of overconcerned adults who have forgotten what it is like to be a teenager? The statistics suggest otherwise. Consider: In some areas, nearly a third of boys and girls between 15 and 17 years of age have had sexual intercourse. More than half of teens between 13 and 19 say that they have had oral sex.
Has technology contributed to these sobering statistics? Undoubtedly. “Cellphones and the Internet, which offer teenagers an unparalleled level of privacy, make hooking up that much easier,” says a New York Times Magazine report. Indeed, setting up a clandestine meeting with a member of the opposite sex takes little more than a few keystrokes on the computer. In one survey, more than 4 out of 5 girls admitted that they are not as careful as they should be while online.
Some who are looking online for a date or a hookup get more than they bargained for. ‘We have seen an increase in sexual assaults,’ states Jennifer Welch of the Novato Police Department in California. She says that many victims first contact their future assailant online and then agree to meet in person.
Beware of the “Wisdom of the World”!
Teen advice columns in newspapers and magazines tend to take a soft stance when it comes to young people and sex. Although they give a nod of approval to abstinence or moral purity, their main goal is to encourage “safe” sex rather than no sex. ‘We can’t stop them,’ the reasoning seems to be, ‘so at least we can teach them to be responsible.’
In an article posted on one respected Web site for teens, the issue of whether to have sex or not boiled down to three factors: (1) the risk of pregnancy, (2) the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, and (3) the importance of deciding if both parties are emotionally ready for the experience. “In the end, it’s your decision to make,” the site says. Only a passing reference is made to discussing the matter with a parent. And there was not even a mention as to whether such sex is right or wrong.
If you are a parent, surely you want something better than the fickle and foolish “wisdom of the world” to guide your children. (1 Corinthians 1:20) How can you help them to navigate their way through adolescence and avoid the dangers discussed in this article? The answer may not be as simple as unplugging the computer or taking away the phone. Surface solutions rarely reach the heart. (Proverbs 4:23) Consider, too, that your children may be using such devices as the cell phone and the Internet to address certain needs that you as a parent may be able to address far more effectively. What are some of these needs?
Rather than simply condemn the Internet, parents would do well to familiarize themselves with the sites that their children frequent. In this way, children can be helped to ‘train their perceptive powers to distinguish right and wrong.’ (Hebrews 5:14) Such parental lessons will serve the children well as they enter adulthood.
The term “hooking up” can mean anything from spending time together to having intercourse. In this context, it refers to having sex for physical gratification with no emotional attachment.
[Blurb on page 4]
“When I get home, I go online immediately and stay on . . . sometimes till 3 A.M.”
[Blurb on page 5]
“You can do anything on the Net. You can become a whole different person because no one really knows you”
[Blurb on page 7]
“Parents would be absolutely horrified and embarrassed if they knew what their children were posting and discussing”
[Box/Picture on page 6]
Social Networking—One Girl’s Story
“I began to use our school Web page to interact with fellow students and teachers. I started with one hour a week. Soon I was on every day. I felt so addicted that when I wasn’t on the Internet, I was thinking about it. I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. I got behind in my schoolwork, I wasn’t listening at Christian meetings, and I even ignored my real friends. My parents finally realized what was going on and limited my use of the Internet. That was hard for me. I was very mad. But now I’m happy that things worked out this way, and I have adjusted very well. I never want to feel addicted again!”—Bianca.
*** g05 5/22 pp. 12-14 Can Internet Dating Really Be Dangerous? ***
Young People Ask . . .
Can Internet Dating Really Be Dangerous?
“On the Internet, you may not actually know who the other person is.”—Dan, 17.
“People can lie on the Internet. It’s easy to put on a front.”—George, 26.
INTERNET dating continues to grow in popularity worldwide. As the preceding article in this series discussed, Internet romances may blossom quickly, but they often wither when reality sets in. Still, there is a greater cause for concern than mere disappointment. Dating in this fashion may put you in serious danger—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.
How can something that looks so innocent and safe—a computer terminal right in your own home—actually present a danger to you? Some of the dangers are related to an important Bible principle. The apostle Paul wrote: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Now, this is not to suggest that it is dishonest to use the Internet or even that using the Internet will make you dishonest. However, we must recognize that other people often are not honest and that as the quotations at the outset of this article illustrate, the Internet seems to make certain kinds of dishonesty easier to practice and harder to detect. And when it comes to romantic attachments, dishonesty presents terrible dangers.
For example, note the kind of dishonesty described in this Bible verse: “I have not sat with men of untruth; and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.” (Psalm 26:4) What is meant by “those who hide what they are”? Some Bible translations here read “hypocrites.” As one reference work notes, this expression can be applied to “those who hide their purposes or designs from others, or who conceal their real character and intentions.” How is such dishonesty practiced on the Internet? And what dangers does this present to those who are looking for romance?
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
A father named Michael was alarmed to learn at a seminar that a large proportion of children disobey parental rules against visiting dangerous Web sites. “What troubled me even more,” he says, “was the shocking realization that pedophiles can use the Internet to lure minors into debased sexual activities.” When youths use the Internet to meet new people, they can be in far more danger than they realize.
Indeed, there have been news reports of adult sexual predators who pretend to be youths as they prowl the Internet seeking to prey on young ones. According to one study, “one-in-five kids who uses the Internet has been solicited for sex.” One newspaper also stated that 1 child in 33 between ages 10 and 17 were “aggressively stalked” through computer conversations.
Some young people have found, to their surprise, that the “youth” with whom they shared a budding romance over the Internet was actually an adult prison inmate. Other young ones have unwittingly become involved with sexual predators. These vile people first “groom” a prospective victim, building trust through friendly on-line chat. In time, though, they seek to meet in person in order to carry out their perverted desires. Tragically, young people have been beaten, raped, and even murdered as a result.
Wicked people do, indeed, “hide what they are” in order to find victims on the Internet. Such predators might remind you of Jesus’ illustration about false prophets who “come to you in sheep’s covering” but in truth are like “ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Anonymous communication through the Internet can make it almost impossible to see through such deception. “When you talk with someone in person,” says George, quoted earlier, “you may learn something from his facial expressions and the tone of his voice. But on the Internet you don’t get any of that. It’s easy to be fooled.”
Wise, indeed, is the Bible’s advice: “Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself, but the inexperienced have passed along and must suffer the penalty.” (Proverbs 22:3) Granted, not everyone you meet over the Internet is a dangerous predator. However, there are additional ways in which people “hide what they are.”
The Dangers of Deception and Secrecy
Not surprisingly, a common practice among those seeking romance on the Internet is to exaggerate or invent good traits and to minimize or conceal serious faults. Further, The Washington Post quoted an author as saying: “Internet dating can be bad because people get deceived.” It adds: “People often switch sexes. . . . Income levels, . . . race, criminal records, mental health histories and marital status often remain secret long into relationships.” To warn others, many people have reported painful experiences of being misled by Internet dates.
Will people lie about something as important as their own spiritual side? Sadly, yes—some claim to be true Christians when they are not. Why all the deception? Again, one factor is that the Internet makes it easy. A young man from Ireland named Sean admits: “It’s very easy to pretend to be something you’re not when you’re typing onto a computer screen.”
Many people take all this deception lightly, rationalizing that it is only natural to lie a little bit when embarking on a romance. Remember, though, that God hates lying. (Proverbs 6:16-19) And for good reason. Much of the pain and misery in this world stems from lying. (John 8:44) Dishonesty is the worst possible basis for any relationship, especially one that is intended to lead to a lifelong union. Worse, dishonesty is a spiritual danger; it damages the liar’s relationship with Jehovah God.
Sadly, some young people have fallen into another sort of dishonesty. They have pursued relationships using the Internet and have hidden the fact from their parents. For example, the parents of a teenage son were startled one day when a young woman who did not share the family’s Christian beliefs arrived unexpectedly at their home after traveling over 1,000 miles [1,500 km]. Their son had been dating her on-line for six months, but they knew nothing about her existence until that moment!
“How could this happen?” the parents asked. They thought, ‘Our son could not possibly have fallen for someone whom he had never met in person.’ In fact, their son had been deceiving them—in effect, hiding what he really was. Would you not agree that such deceptions are a poor foundation for a courtship?
Choosing the Real Over the Virtual
Internet dating may present other dangers. In some cases, an on-line friend can become more real than the people whom you see each day. Family, friends, and responsibilities become secondary. A young woman named Monika, in Austria, says: “I started to neglect important relationships because I spent much time on the computer with people I met on-line.” Troubled by this insight, she decided to quit using the Internet that way.
Of course, many are able to make balanced use of the Internet. Communication by E-mail can be a very helpful way to stay in touch with friends and loved ones. Surely you would agree, though, that nothing is quite the same as face-to-face contact. If you are “past the bloom of youth”—the time when sexual desires are at their peak—and are interested in marriage, you are facing one of the most important choices you will make in your life. (1 Corinthians 7:36) By all means, make a responsible decision.
The Bible advises: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) Rather than believing all that is written to you by someone you have never met, consider your steps carefully. It is far wiser to initiate meeting and making friends in person. Find out if you are truly compatible, especially when it comes to your spiritual goals and values. Such a courtship can lead to a truly happy marriage.
Some of the names have been changed.
See the article “Young People Ask . . . ‘Should I Try Internet Dating?’” in the April 22, 2005, issue of Awake!
[Pictures on page 12]
Do you really know who is typing messages on the Internet?
[Picture on page 14]
When it comes to courtship, there is no substitute for meeting face-to-face
Young People Ask . . .
Chat Rooms—What Should I Know About Them?
“Being shy, I can go into a chat room online and talk with people I normally would not talk to. They have no idea who I am.”—Peter.
“In a chat room, you have the feeling that you can say whatever you want.”—Abigail.
CHAT ROOMS are “areas” on the Internet where users can have live, two-way conversations via text messages. Chat rooms can accommodate large numbers of people, who can read and respond to each other’s messages.
Some chat rooms are particularly appealing to youthful Internet users. Millions of young people from a variety of cultures exchange opinions daily on almost any subject. Some schools now tap this global resource. For example, with their teacher’s supervision, students in the United States might discuss social issues with fellow students in Spain, England, or elsewhere. Students may even chat about their class project with a qualified engineer, chemist, or another expert.
Many people who visit chat rooms, though, are not there to discuss academic subjects. If you have access to the Internet, what dangers should you be aware of?
A Hunting Ground for Sexual Predators
“I was talking with some people in a chat room,” says Abigail, “when a man asked me if I knew any 14-year-olds. He wanted to have sex with them. He said that he was willing to give them money for sex.”
Abigail’s experience is not an isolated one. The problem of online predators is so widespread that some governments have produced guides on how youths can be protected. For example, a publication of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States warns of individuals who immediately engage in sexually explicit talk. It also warns of those who “gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts.”
Describing the specific methods used by some of these predators, the FBI guide says: “They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to lower children’s inhibitions gradually by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.”
It is not just perverted adults who pose a danger. You also need to beware of youths who are ignorant of or who deride the Bible’s moral standards. Consider the experience of a young man named Cody. He was chatting with other youths online when a girl invited him into a private chat area. She then asked him a sexually suggestive question. Cody had the self-control to terminate the conversation immediately.
Because of a natural interest in sex, you may find it extremely difficult to react the way Cody did. Peter, mentioned earlier, admits: “I thought I had enough self-control to terminate a chat session if the subject turned to sex. But time and again, I found myself hanging on and chatting about sexual subjects. I felt bad later.” You may wonder, though, ‘If I hide who I am in a chat room, is there really any harm in talking about sex online?’
Are Online Sex Discussions Harmful?
The Bible talks openly about sex. (Proverbs 5:18, 19) Admittedly, humans have an increased interest in sex during youth. So you should talk about sex. You need answers to your questions on this important subject. However, the way you satisfy your curiosity about sexual matters will have a profound impact on your happiness, both present and future.
If you choose to chat online about sex, even if it is with people who say they are your friends, your experience could well end up being like that of a young man described in the Bible. Out of curiosity, he wandered near the house of a prostitute. At first, she just talked to him. Once his desire was aroused, though, talk was not enough. “All of a sudden he is going after her, like a bull that comes even to the slaughter, . . . just as a bird hastens into the trap.”—Proverbs 7:22, 23.
Similarly, talking about sex online could easily lead to your going after greater gratification. “I was chatting online with someone,” recalls a teen named Philip, “when an immoral picture popped up on my screen. The person I was chatting with had sent it to my computer.” Once your desire to consider sexually explicit material has been aroused, you may be tempted to pursue your interest further, such as in an adult chat room. Many who fall into the trap of viewing pornography go on to commit immorality and suffer the inevitable consequences.—Galatians 6:7, 8.
People who want to talk about sex with you online do not have your best interests at heart. These strangers want to lure you into immoral talk—and possibly actions—to gratify their own desires. In an attempt to protect his son from a sexually exploitive person, King Solomon wrote: “Keep your way far off from alongside her, and do not get near to the entrance of her house, that you may not give to others your dignity, . . . that strangers may not satisfy themselves with your power.” (Proverbs 5:8-10) The principle behind this advice might be applied this way: Do not get near chat rooms where sexual topics are discussed so that you do not give your dignity to strangers who just want to satisfy themselves at your expense.
“Those Who Hide What They Are”
You may say, though, that you do not want to talk about sex online. Like Peter and Abigail, mentioned previously, you might see a chat room as a place where you can express yourself anonymously, without fear of embarrassment. Even so, there is another danger that you should be aware of.
The anonymous nature of chat rooms could tempt you into becoming deceitful. Abigail says: “I would start conversations with people and then take on a personality to fit the conversation.” Like Abigail, you may be tempted to assume a different personality to fit in with a certain chat room group. You might conform to their standards of language or adopt their interests in an attempt to make new friends. Conversely, you may see a chat room as a place to express ideas and feelings that you think your parents or friends would disapprove of. Either way, you end up deceiving one group or the other. By pretending online to be someone you are not, you are deceiving your chat room contacts. On the other hand, if you do not express your real feelings and ideas to your family and friends, you are deceiving them.
While chat rooms are a relatively recent phenomenon, the tendency for humans to lie and deceive is as old as history itself. The Bible reveals that the original liar, Satan the Devil, pioneered the tactic used by some chat room visitors. He disguised his real identity before telling his first lie. (Genesis 3:1-5; Revelation 12:9, 10) You can avoid being duped by liars by following King David’s example. “I have not sat with men of untruth,” he wrote, “and with those who hide what they are I do not come in.”—Psalm 26:4.
As noted earlier, some chat rooms may serve a useful purpose. Nevertheless, youths who want to please Jehovah must exercise extreme caution in their use of this modern communication method. If you need to access one, such as for a school project, ask your parents or perhaps another mature adult to sit in on your session. A future article will highlight two additional reasons why you should be cautious about logging on to chat rooms. It will also discuss how you can deal with specific problems that might arise even if you are cautious about their use.
Some names have been changed.
The book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work contains sound, Bible-based advice regarding sex before marriage, masturbation, and other similar topics.
Some chat rooms classed as adult theoretically limit access to those over a certain age. This is usually because the topics discussed and the pictures shared are pornographic. However, surveys reveal that youths as young as nine lie about their age to gain access to adult chat rooms.
Since you cannot verify whom you are conversing with in a chat room, the person you are talking to may be pretending to be of the opposite sex, though actually being the same sex as you are.
A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety recommends that users never reveal their name, address, or phone number to strangers they meet in a chat room!
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Online discussions can be dangerous