“Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.” US Department of Justice
The new millennium was ushered in by a dramatic technological revolution. We now live in an increasingly diverse, globalized and complex media saturated society. At any given moment kids of all ages are experiencing various aspects of what technology and the internet have to offer. Technology and the internet have made the computer, phones and other handheld technology the main vein to information. Kids today are connected and technology is a huge part of their lives, but it’s not just technology, its information. More importantly, relationships. They now take in the world via computing devices. Countless kids are multitasking; listening to music while surfing the web or IM’ing friends or playing a video game, and so on. The computer and other hand held technologies represent intellectual appendages to the emergent culture. They are the hands and feet which carry kids of all ages to exciting new experiences.
Today’s tweens are wired for relationships. As children they had playmates but as they get older, they want friends. This means their peer group now soars to “major play” status. While we adults often see the Internet as an information gathering tool, teens use it to build a network of friends which often spans the globe. This is what file sharing websites are all about.
There are many file sharing websites popping up, but all are unparalleled to MySpace. Kids want others to know and understand them and desperately want to express their identity to whoever will look or listen. Social networking sites like MySpace have quickly become a part of daily life for teenagers and young adults nationwide. In less than two years it has emerged as one of the hottest sites on the Web and has more page views than Google. With over 60,000,000 members and an average growth rate of 250,000 new registrations per day since Jan of 2007, it stands to rival MSN, Yahoo!, and AOL as one of the major destinations on the Web.
Unfortunately, there are many dangers which come along with the devices kids are using today. They use them to filter information, find friends, and communicate to their peers.
MySpace has no filters and no protection. If kids are playing, using, surfing, or experiencing MySpace they are, without a doubt, experiencing mind bending images and information. When Dateline surfed MySpace they found scenes of binge drinking, apparent drug use, teens posing in underwear, members simulating sex and in some cases even having it. They also found less provocative pages but potentially even more dangerous. Teens routinely listed not only their names and addresses, but cell phone numbers and after school schedules. The numbers change often but it is thought over 20,000 kids under age 14 create a new account every week. MySpace is not the only threat! YouTube and other sites have direct links to pornography in just a click of a button. The Internet is a dangerous place and it is threatening the purity of thousands of children each day. Society has made it very easy for kids to access it, sometimes even accidently.
iPhone, Wii gaming system and a large percentage of other new mobile phones have web access. This makes it possible for young people to access content from the internet from wherever they are, many times without parental or teacher supervision.
“Teens have become so candid in not only sharing their phone numbers and personal information, but in sharing their intimate images online that many parents and lawmakers are concerned.” [Alex Williams, “Here I am taking my own picture”, NY TIMES]
“Cell phones have become portable computers. And that has opened up a whole new set of concerns.” [Bob Sullivan, Technology Correspondent MSNBC]
The way to become an effective pastor to this generation of kids is to have the ability and commitment to not only understand the technology kids are using, but to talk openly about the many dangers this media saturated, technology driven world brings with it. If we are going to set out to give kids solid information and a proactive approach to staying safe on the internet, we must comprehend not only how it works but the many facets, statistics, and dangers which come along with it.
STATISTICS ON INTERNET USE
– 4,000,000 children are posting content to the Web everyday. [www.netlingo.com]
– Many kids use the Internet at home or school by the time they are 6 years old. [www.microsoft.com/protect/family/guidelines/faq.mspx]
– 1 out of every four 5-year-olds uses the Internet. [www.redorbit.com]
– 93% percent of all Americans between 12 and 17 years old use the Internet. [temptationofageneration.com]
– 15,000,000 youth use Instant Messaging. [www.netlingo.com]
– 76% of parents don’t have rules about what their kids can do on the computer. [www.netlingo.com]
– 1 out of 17 kids have been harassed, threatened, or bullied online. [www.netlingo.com]
– 9 out of 10 parents will never know that any inappropriate contact has occurred online. [www.netlingo.com]
– 61% of 13-17 yr olds have a personal profile on social networking sites. [www.netlingo.com]
– 60,000 Myspace videos are being uploaded everyday. [Fox Interactive Media, Oct 2005]
STATISTICS ON PORNOGRAPHY
– Average age of first Internet exposure to pornography: 11 years old. (internet-filter-review.com).
– 9 out of 10 children aged between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet, in most cases unintentionally. (London School of Economics]
– Adult industry says traffic is 20-30% children. (NRC Report 2002, 3.3)
– There are 4.2 million pornographic websites, 420 million pornographic web pages and 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests. [internet filter review, 2006]
– 26 popular children’s characters, such as Pokemon, My Little Pony and Action Man, revealed thousands of links to porn sites. 30% were hard-core. [HealthLife24, 2007]
– Pornographers disguise their sites (i.e. “stealth” sites) with common brand names, including Disney, Barbie, ESPN, etc., to entrap children. [Cyveillance Study, March 1999]
– 1 in 5 children (10 to 17 years old) receives unwanted sexual solicitations online. (Youth Internet Safety Survey, U.S. Department of Justice).
STATISTICS ON INTERNET PREDATORS
– Federal authorities believe that at least 500,000 to 750,000 predators are online on a daily basis. [Clint Van Zandt MSNBC analyst and former FBI profiler]
– 2 in 5 abductions of children ages 15-17 are due to Internet contact. (San Diego Police Dept.)
– 76% of victims in Net-initiated sexual exploitation cases were 13-15, 75% were girls. “Most cases progressed to sexual encounters” – 93% of the face-to-face meetings involved illegal sex. (Journal of Adolescent Health, November 2004).
– God wants to use his people to prepare, protect, educate, and inform kids today. With pornography, MySpace, child predators, cyber bullies, and the degree of injustice online being so great, it is sometimes easy to get overwhelmed. What can we do to help kids today face the insurmountable pressures of this culture and come out unscathed? The answerâ€¦ no one knows exactly. But one thing is sure; if we do nothing, nothing will be done.
Check back next month for part two, which will include the do’s and don’ts in talking to kids about the internet.
Tracy Carpenter is currently the Chief Creative Officer for Kidsworld Studios Inc. a missional minded organization committed to creating spiritually kid focused projects, programs, support, resources, and ministry. She is the Director of Creative development for theporntalk.com which is a great website on how to talk to kids about pornography and internet dangers. She has been published multiple times in national magazines and is known as a kids “futurist”. She has dedicated her ministry to the emergent culture and growing ministries both internally and externally. For more information on this and other subjects which are affecting the futuristic generation, feel free to contact Pastor. Tracy Carpenter, PhD at www.kidsworldstudios.com.