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The Internet How to Avoid the Dangers

Sunday, July 29, 2012


IN A remote village in India, a farmer checks the price of soybeans in Chicago, U.S.A., to determine the best time to sell his crop. At the same moment, a pensioner smiles as she reads an E-mail from her grandson, a traveler sees the weather forecast at his destination, and a mother finds helpful material for her child’s homework—all through the Internet. With an estimated 600 million people connected worldwide, the Internet revolution has transformed the way the world communicates and does business.
Especially has the younger generation, sometimes called the Cyber Generation, embraced the Internet. Increasingly, students use it to replace the library as a primary source of news and research. “In a nutshell, these students are . . . virtually 100 percent connected,” said Deanna L. Tillisch, director of a study involving college seniors in the United States. Yes, the Internet is a valuable tool in our modern society.
Generally, the more powerful a tool is, the more dangerous it can be. A gas-powered chain saw can accomplish far more than a handsaw; yet, it must be used carefully. The Internet is likewise extremely powerful and useful, but we must exercise caution when using it, as it also poses serious dangers. Concern about these dangers has caused more than 40 member nations of the Council of Europe to draft an international treaty aimed at the protection of society against cybercrime.
Why all the concern? What are some of the dangers that are of particular concern to Christians? Should they cause you to avoid using the Internet? What guidance does the Bible provide?

Need for Caution

Centuries ago, the Bible warned of dangers posed by evil men described as “master[s] at evil ideas” and “scheming to do bad.” (Proverbs 24:8) The prophet Jeremiah described them as “wicked men” whose “houses are full of deception.” Like birdcatchers, they “set a ruinous trap” to catch men and “gain riches.” (Jeremiah 5:26, 27) Technology has provided modern-day “wicked men” with deceptive traps of new dimensions. Let us consider some schemes that can present grave dangers for Christians.
Internet pornography is a 2.5-billion-dollar-a-year industry. The number of pornographic Web pages has grown at the explosive rate of nearly 1,800 percent over the past five years. It is estimated that there are currently over 260 million of such pages, and the number continues to grow at an unprecedented rate. “Pornography is becoming so prevalent on the Internet that it is now difficult to avoid unwanted exposure, and this makes cybersex addiction more likely,” said Dr. Kimberly S. Young, executive director of the Center for On-Line Addiction.
The Bible tells us that “each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire.” (James 1:14) Viewing anyone with a computer as a potential victim, peddlers of pornography employ a variety of tactics to appeal to each one’s “own desire,” that is, “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16) Their intent is to entice—or as Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words explains, “to lure by a bait”—unsuspecting Internet users whom they “try to seduce.”—Proverbs 1:10.
Computer buttons

STAY CLEAR OF PORNOGRAPHY!

“Let fornication and uncleanness of every sort or greediness not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people.”—Ephesians 5:3.
“Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness.”—Colossians 3:5.
“This is what God wills, . . . that each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite such as also those nations have which do not know God.”—1 Thessalonians 4:3-5.
Like wicked men in Bible times, pornographers frequently employ deception. It is estimated that as part of an aggressive effort to attract new customers, some two billion pornographic E-mails are sent each day. Often the unsolicited E-mails have subject lines that make them appear harmless. However, opening one can launch a barrage of immoral images that is difficult to stop. Requests to be removed from the mailing list may result in a deluge of further unsolicited pornographic messages.
A birdcatcher carefully places seeds along a path. An unsuspecting bird pecks at one tasty seed after another until snap! the trap is sprung. Similarly, curiosity leads some to nibble at sexually stimulating imagery. And the viewers hope that no one is watching them. Finding it arousing, some return to this exciting and powerful imagery with increasing frequency. Shame and guilt may plague them. In time, what was once shocking becomes ordinary. For those inclined to view pornography, the Internet is like fertilizer that causes desires rapidly to grow into sinful actions. (James 1:15) Eventually such individuals may develop “a ‘dark side’ whose core is anti-social lust devoid of most values,” reports Dr. Victor Cline, a clinical psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients who were caught in this snare.

The Dangers of Chat Rooms

Internet chat rooms can be time wasters and are increasingly associated with relationship breakdowns. Expressing frustration over the amount of time his wife spends on-line, one man wrote: “When she gets in from work, the PC goes on and it can be five or more hours before she logs off. Our marriage is suffering as a result.” Yes, time spent on the Internet is time spent away from your mate and family.
Angela Sibson, chief executive of the marriage guidance service Relate, says that the Internet “is a gateway to other relationships. They can be very potent and break up existing relationships.” What starts as a friendly on-line conversation in a chat room can quickly become something more serious. Intent on engaging in immoral relations, those “cunning of heart” use “smoothness of the tongue” to tell potential victims what they want to hear. (Proverbs 6:24; 7:10) Nicola, a 26-year-old victim from the United Kingdom, explains: “It was like a love bombardment. He kept saying how wonderful I was and I fell for it.” Dr. Al Cooper, editor of Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians, says that we need to “warn people about the slippery slope that starts with online flirting and too often ends in divorce.”
Children are even more vulnerable to exploitation and harm by “computer-sex offenders.” Using “crookedness of speech” and “deviousness of lips,” pedophiles target inexperienced children. (Proverbs 4:24; 7:7) Engaging in a practice known as grooming, they shower the child with attention, affection, and kindness to make the youngster feel special. They seem to know everything a child is interested in, including that one’s favorite music and hobbies. Minor problems at home are accentuated in order to drive a wedge between the child and his or her family. To fulfill their evil desires, predators may even send their target victim a ticket to travel cross-country. The results are frightening.

Bible Principles Can Safeguard You

After assessing the dangers, some people have concluded that it is better for them to avoid using the Internet altogether. However, it must be acknowledged that only a small percentage of sites on the Internet pose a danger and that most users have not experienced serious problems.
Thankfully, the Scriptures provide guidance to “safeguard” us from danger. We are encouraged to acquire knowledge, wisdom, and thinking ability. Such qualities will ‘keep guard over us’ to ‘deliver us from the bad way.’ (Proverbs 2:10-12) “But wisdom itself—from where does it come?” asked God’s ancient servant Job. The answer? “The fear of Jehovah—that is wisdom.”—Job 28:2028.
“The fear of Jehovah,” which “means the hating of bad,” is the basis for developing godly attributes. (Proverbs 1:7; 8:13; 9:10) Love and reverence for God, along with a healthy respect for his power and authority, result in our hating and avoiding the bad things he hates. Clear thinking ability, coupled with godly knowledge, helps us recognize dangers that can poison our mind, heart, and spirituality. We come to abhor selfish and greedy attitudes that can wreck our family and destroy our relationship with Jehovah.
So if you use the Internet, be aware of the dangers. Be resolved to keep God’s commandments, and avoid flirting with trouble. (1 Chronicles 28:7) Then, if Internet dangers confront you, you will wisely flee from them.—1 Corinthians 6:18.
 
   
Computer buttons

BEWARE OF INTERNET CHAT ROOMS!

A young girl visiting a chat room on the Internet A female police detective specializing in Internet crime invited Awake! to see the dangers of Internet chat rooms. She entered a chat room, posing as a 14-year-old girl. After just a few seconds, a number of individuals made contact. The strangers asked such questions as: “Where are you from?” “Are you a girl or a boy?” “Can we talk?” Several responses were from suspected sexual predators whom the police were tracking. That shows how easily a pedophile can get into a chat room with your child!
Some parents think that children are safe when using chat rooms because their conversations are accessible by everyone in the chat room while the discussion is taking place. However, once in a chat room, you can be invited to have a one-on-one conversation. Referring to this practice, sometimes called whispering, the United Kingdom’s Internet Taskforce on Child Protection warns: “This is like stepping out of a party full of people into a private room and having a separate conversation with a stranger.”
It is also important for parents to understand that most pedophiles want to do more than chat with a child. A paper prepared by the Internet Crime Forum reports: “Contact initiated in chat rooms may well be developed through other media, such as email and (mobile) phone.” A report from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation states: “While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in ‘phone sex’ with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.”
To accomplish this, computer-sex offenders will give out their phone number. Should your child call them, caller ID will reveal the child’s phone number. Other predators have toll-free numbers or tell the child to call collect. Some have even sent the child a cell phone. Offenders may also send letters, photographs, and gifts.
Children are not the only ones succumbing to the dangers of chat rooms. Using smooth speech to tell women what they wanted to hear, one man recently made six women in the United Kingdom fall in love with him at the same time. One of the victims, Cheryl, an attractive 27-year-old postgraduate student, said: “I just can’t explain it now. It became so intense it took over my whole life.”
“Women find cyberspace comforting because they are not being judged by their looks,” said Jenny Madden, the founder of Women in Cyberspace. “But they also leave themselves very open to manipulation because there is a tendency, in chat rooms particularly, to give away a lot about yourself very quickly.”
A man typing on a computer “All I have to do is turn on my computer and I have thousands of women to choose from,” said one man questioned for a University of Florida research study conducted by Beatriz Avila Mileham. She stated: “The internet will soon become the most common form of infidelity, if it isn’t already.” “We are hearing from therapists around the country reporting online sexual activity to be a major cause of marital problems,” said Dr. Al Cooper, editor of the book Sex and the Internet: A Guidebook for Clinicians.
In view of these sobering facts, it is wise to take sensible precautions when using the Internet. Talk to your children, and teach them how to protect themselves from danger. Equipped with proper knowledge, you can avoid the dangers of the Internet.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.

CHILDREN ONLINE What Parents Can Do

AS A parent, which situation would make you more nervous—knowing that your son or daughter had the keys to the family car or knowing that he or she had unrestricted access to the Internet? Both activities involve a measure of danger. And both require a level of responsibility. Parents cannot forever restrict their children from operating a vehicle, but they can make sure that their children are taught to drive safely. Many parents take a similar approach to use of the Internet. The following Bible principles will help.
“Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge.” (Proverbs 13:16) Parents whose children have Internet access need to have a basic understanding of how the Internet works and what their children are doing when instant messaging, browsing Web pages, or engaging in other online activities. “Don’t conclude that you are too old or uneducated to learn,” says Marshay, a mother of two. “Keep up with the technology.”
Experts believe that up to 750,000 predators may be online on a daily basis, trolling Internet chat rooms and dating services
“You shall put a railing around your [flat] roof, so that no one may fall from there.” (Deuteronomy 22:8, The Amplified Bible) Internet service providers and software programs may offer parental controls that act as “railings” to block inappropriate pop-ups and access to harmful sites. Some programs can even help prevent children from revealing personal information, such as their name or address. It should be realized, however, that such parental controls are not foolproof. Also, many older children who are computer literate learn how to bypass them.
“One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) A study in the United Kingdom revealed that nearly 1 in 5 youths between the ages of 9 and 19 had Internet access in their bedroom. Having the computer in a busy area helps parents to keep tabs on what their children are doing online and may encourage the children to avoid undesirable sites.
In the United Kingdom, 57 percent of youths between the ages of 9 and 19 who use the Internet weekly have come into contact with pornography; however, only 16 percent of parents believe that their child has seen pornography on the Internet
“Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Decide when children can use the Internet, the length of time they can be online, and the type of sites they can and cannot visit. Discuss your guidelines with your children, and make sure that they understand them.
Of course, you cannot monitor your children when they are outside the home. It is important, therefore, to instill proper values in your children so that they will make wise decisions when they are not in your presence.* (Philippians 2:12) Spell out clearly what the consequences will be if your rules regarding the Internet are broken. Then enforce those rules.
“[A good mother] is watching over the goings-on of her household.” (Proverbs 31:27) Monitor your children’s use of the Internet, and let them know that you will be doing so. This is not an invasion of privacy. Remember, the Internet is a public forum. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States recommends that parents maintain access to their children’s online accounts and randomly check their e-mail and the Web sites that they have visited.
A mother and her son using the Internet
Can you teach your child how to use the Internet responsibly?
“Thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things.” (Proverbs 2:11, 12) Monitoring and tracking will go only so far. The values you teach—and the example you set—will go much further in protecting your children. So take time to discuss with your children what can happen on the Internet. An open line of communication with your children is your best defense against online dangers. “We talked to both of our boys about ‘bad’ people on the Net,” says Tom, a Christian father. “We also explained what pornography is, why it should be avoided, and why they should never communicate with strangers.”
In the United States, 93 percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet

You Can Protect Your Children

Protecting your children from online dangers takes effort, and electronic access to media is constantly changing. New technologies may bring unique advantages and unprecedented risks to children. How can parents prepare their children for future dangers? “Wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection,” says the Bible.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
Help your children to become wise. Also help them to understand how to avoid online dangers and use the Internet responsibly. Thus, the Internet can be a tool that will not threaten the safety of your children.

*  Parents should remember that many youths can gain access to the Internet via cell phones, other handheld devices, and even some video-game consoles.

CHILDREN ONLINE What Parents Should Know

CHILDREN ONLINE
What Parents Should Know

FOR a time, it seemed that Internet safety was simply a matter of computer location. Keep the computer in a public area, it was thought, and your children will be less likely to veer toward the dark side of cyberspace. While that notion is still valid—common sense dictates against giving children Internet access in the privacy of their bedroom—it is not the final word in safety. These days wireless connections make it possible for youngsters to take the Internet with them wherever they go. Even many cell phones are equipped with online access. Then there are Internet caf├ęs, Internet kiosks, libraries, and the old standby, a friend’s house. With so many options, it is easy to see how a youth’s online escapades can slip past a parent’s radar.
Consider some of the online activities that many youths are attracted to and their potential dangers.

E-MAILS

What are they? Written messages that are sent electronically.
An E-mail message What is the appeal? E-mail is a fast and inexpensive way to correspond with friends and family.
What you should know. Unsolicited e-mails, often called spam, can be more than just a nuisance. Often they contain suggestive or blatantly obscene content. Links inside messages may prompt the user—including an unsuspecting child—to volunteer personal information, which can lead to identity theft. Replying to such e-mails—even with the firm request to stop sending e-mails—will confirm that the user has an active e-mail address, which may lead to further unsolicited e-mails.
In India the sharp rise in the number of Internet users—up 54 percent in just one year—is largely attributed to youths

WEB SITES

A web site What are they? Collections of electronic pages created and maintained by organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and individuals.
What is the appeal? Millions of sites are available, providing youths with endless opportunities to shop, do research, connect with friends, and play or download games and music.
What you should know. The Web has been exploited by all manner of unscrupulous individuals. Many Web sites feature explicit sex, and these are easy for the unwary to stumble upon. In the United States, for example, 90 percent of youths surveyed between the ages of 8 and 16 said that they had unintentionally encountered pornography online—in most cases while doing homework!
The Web also provides easy access to sites that promote teen gambling. In Canada, nearly 1 in 4 males surveyed in grades 10 and 11 admitted to having visited such sites, and experts are understandably concerned because of the highly addictive nature of online gambling. Then there are so-called pro-ana Web sites that glorify “the anorectic lifestyle.”* Meanwhile, hatemongering sites target minority religious and ethnic groups. Some sites teach how to make bombs, concoct poisons, and conduct terrorist operations. Depictions of extreme violence and bloody gore are prevalent in online games.

*  Many pro-ana sites and organizations claim that they do not promote anorexia. Some of these, however, present anorexia as a lifestyle choice rather than as a disorder. Forums on such sites provide information on how to conceal one’s actual body weight and how to hide irregular eating habits from parents.

CHAT ROOMS

What are they? Electronic spaces for live text conversation, usually centered around a specific topic or interest.
What is the appeal? Your child can communicate with a number of individuals whom he or she may never have met but who share a common interest.
What you should know. Predators commonly frequent chat rooms hoping to lure a child into an online or even a face-to-face sexual encounter. Consider what happened when one of the authors of the book What in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online? was researching Internet safety. As part of her research, she posed online as a 12-year-old. “Almost immediately,” reports the book, “she was invited by someone into a private chat room. She claimed she didn’t know how to get into it, and her helpful new friend walked her through the process. Then he wanted to know if she wanted to have [online] sex.”

INSTANT MESSAGES

What are they? Live text conversations between two or more individuals.
What is the appeal? With instant messaging, a user can choose which of his friends he will converse with, selecting from a contact list he has created. Not surprisingly, a Canadian study reports that 84 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds instant message their friends and that they do this for more than an hour a day.
What you should know. Instant-message conversations can be distracting if your child is supposed to be studying or engaging in another activity that requires concentration. In addition, how can you be sure with whom your son or daughter is communicating? After all, you cannot hear the conversation.
An instant message

BLOGS

What are they? Online diaries.
A blog What is the appeal? Blogging gives youths the opportunity to write about their thoughts, passions, and activities. Most blogs allow space for readers to leave comments, and many kids are thrilled to know that someone has responded to their writing.
What you should know. A blog is open to the public. Some youths carelessly reveal information that can be used to identify their family, school, or home address. Another factor: Blogs can harm reputations, including the blogger’s own. For instance, some employers consult an applicant’s blog when considering whether to hire that person.
“A parent may see a Web cam as an easy and inexpensive way for a child to communicate with friends or relatives, but a predator sees it as an open window into a child’s bedroom.”
—Robert S. Mueller III, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

ONLINE SOCIAL NETWORKS

A web site What are they? Sites that allow youths to create a Web page and enhance it with pictures, videos, and blogs.
What is the appeal? Creating and enhancing a Web page enables a young person to express his or her identity. Online social networks allow young ones to meet many new “friends.”
What you should know. “A social networking site is like an online party,” says a girl named Joanna. “Some very scary people can show up.” The personal information posted on social networks can be exploited by unscrupulous youths and adults. Thus, Internet safety expert Parry Aftab calls such sites “one stop shopping for sexual predators.”
Furthermore, Internet friendships tend to be superficial. On their Web pages, some youths accumulate a number of online contacts whom they have never met face-to-face, simply to appear popular to others who visit their site. In her book Generation MySpace, Candice Kelsey writes that it really comes down to “judging a person’s social stock value merely by how many other people like him or her.” She adds: “This commodities-trading style of relating reduces our children to nonhuman entities and places an inordinate amount of pressure to represent themselves in whatever way will gain them more friends.” Thus, What in the World Are Your Kids Doing Online? asks a valid question: “How do you make it clear that children need to develop empathy and compassion when the electronic world allows them to meet and discard people at the drop of a hat?”

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