When the Internet becomes too much of a good thing.

By April Jones

The Internet is without a doubt a double-edged sword. It is a highway of technology that has expedited our ability to explore and expound knowledge. It can not only be an incredible resource, but also a tool of mass destruction.

As most children are more savvy with modern technology than their parents, they are learning to navigate this global realm with ease and efficiency. They can find what they are looking for at lightening speed, but also what they aren’t looking for. It is disturbing to learn of the many dangerous sights that come up in the most innocent of searches. Information is invaluable, but let’s face it, sometimes, it is simply “TMI.” (That’s text-talk, old-timers…too much info!)

My eyes were first opened to some of the daunting links and images that many of our children stumble across when I attended a Girl Spring forum this past fall. The forum’s intent was to hear the voice of the community as the organization sought to implement programs to serve a generation of youth that are inundated with negative self-talk, limited positive influence in modern media, and heavily saturated sexuality.

But the forum’s direction quickly shifted when we were all enlightened to the discoveries made regarding typical kid searches.

I should not have found myself so surprised to learn the bulk of today’s youth gain their knowledge of current events through social media sites and Google. It was an eye-opening reality that our children are fully exposed to the threat of child pornography, highly graphic images, and solicitations for sexual forums when entering something as innocent as a curious search of “girls kissing boys.” If you’ve not taken a moment to search as if a child or teen on a mission, I would highly recommend you do so. Brace yourselves, for the results are not only disturbing, but sickening.

I did a little research on sex laws due to my own personal experiences which were a little too close for comfort involving my teenage daughter. I was shocked to learn some of the things currently protected by our first amendment, and the entitlement allotted to those posing as “harmless depictions,” by way of cartoons and “art.”

Again, if you’ve not read up on some of the federal and state laws, I cannot recommend it enough. I am all about freedom of speech. But be assured, the Internet is not looking out for the best interest or safety of your children and has taken great liberty with said freedoms. Because it is world wide, we need not forget that creeps come from everywhere in the world and seek to prey upon the innocence and susceptibility of our children.

Any opportunity granted to slip into their lives, catch them in their youth, and have them hooked for life, is fully exploited. Predators do not care about their age, economic status, or family of origin. They care not for your belief systems, church attendance, or philanthropy. What they seek is the delicacy of a tender and impressionable heart, a probing mind, and the hungry spirit in search of something — anything. And even if you have the most amazing, intelligent, articulate and responsible child, he/she is not  exempt from the threat.

As cautious and resistant to the advancement of technology, and as protective and mindful as I felt I was to monitor my own with the luxury of technology, I found myself fighting for the safety of my daughter from someone she developed a private relationship with online.

This wasn’t a stranger, mind you, but someone she had met through a friend. Depsite being told that this was someone she could not see, she continued the relationship anyway, creating tear in the fabric of our own parent/ child bond. This tear was not seen by her father and I until someone else chose to rip open the seams. Threats do not come from “strangers” alone. They can come from all corners of our lives and they find the cracks in which they will cram themselves through to gain a foothold in your life.  I say this to you that you might learn from my lessons. If you have internet at your home, put protective barriers and firewalls that cannot be penetrated or accessed by one simple password.

Research multiple options on programs, and allow the entire family to be in on the discussion of why they are there. Express your expectations of media responsibility and awareness. If your children have smart phones, consider blocking their ability to get online. What child needs the World Wide Web at their fingertips, 24 hours? Honestly? If  your children engage in social media forums, know their passwords, monitor their accounts, and check them regularly.

We allow our children greater freedom than they are often capable of exercising or in need of. Privacy is a privilege, and let’s face it, until they are of legal age, something that should respectively be limited.

Don’t ever assume you know what your child is doing online. Don’t assume you know what they are viewing, who they are talking to, and how they are spending their time.

Youth is a treasured and short-lived moment that should be full of curiosity and exploration, but within the healthy boundaries and perimeters set by discerning and caring adults.

Be well, friends, and be protective. The enemy is great which seeks to devour our youth, and it grows stronger daily through the unseen airwaves of time and technology.

Guard yourselves and your loved ones by educating, discussing, and doing whatever you can to protect yourselves from the dangers of too much information.

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