Parents everywhere are justifiably concerned with the safety and well-being of their families. They purchase every sort of insurance so that their homes, lives and incomes are covered; make sure that there are good locks on the door; ensure that those doors are locked at nights; and install home security systems, safes and security cameras to protect their families against crime.
Unfortunately, parents have not yet come to grips with the fact that the greatest dangers facing their families are from online pornography, cyber bullying and sexting.
The rate of Internet-based extortion scams are increasing at a rate of almost 10 percent per year, while the rate of violent crime is at historically low levels. There is a real link between the explosion of Internet pornography and the increase in cyber crime. Just one visit to a porn site on any device makes your family highly susceptible to other cyber crimes such as identity theft and online extortion.
We would not leave our doors and windows unlocked, our keys in our cars or our wallets on the front porch. Yet with the growing dangers of the Internet and other electronic media, just 2 percent of all Americans have adequate protection in place for their Internet-capable electronic devices. Today, with the enormous impact of technology in our day-to-day lives, the ready availability of pornography on those devices should be a growing concern for every Christian family.
In my role as a permanent deacon and as an executive in the technology industry, I have been struck by just how unaware the general population is concerning the dangers and risks of their online lives. I have been told by more than one Catholic priest that online immorality, particularly that of Internet pornography, has become the greatest issue in the confessional.
The time has come to ring the alarm bell and raise the awareness of parents everywhere.
Child predators no longer need to hang out at schools and playgrounds to identify their victims. They can readily get everything they need to attack your family from social media and other websites. Your children can be physically tracked by the pictures you post online.
Teens at high risk
A recent CBS study finds that 1 in 4 teens admits to sexting, which is defined as the sending sexually explicit messages or photographs via cell phone. That’s 1 in 4 admitting to it. The non-partisan, non-profit organization Enough is Enough – whose mission is to make the Internet safer for families by confronting online pornography, child stalking, sexual predation and other forms of online victimization – reports these startling and frightening statistics:
➤ There are more than 68 million searches a day in the U.S. involving pornographic terms.
➤ Only 3 percent of teen boys (and 17 percent of teen girls) have never seen porn.
➤ One-third of porn viewers in the U.S. are female.
➤ 68 percent of divorces in the U.S. have involved the use of Internet porn.
The pornographic content that our children are seeing online is well beyond what was considered pornography a generation or a decade ago. The material is graphic, explicit, deviant and aberrant. They are seeing things that no young person is morally, mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with. Medical studies have shown that regular viewing of pornographic images is physically and psychologically addictive and makes physical changes to the structure of a child’s brain.
Even if they are not looking for it, children can become victims through an innocent Google search or by mistyping by one character the name of a legitimate web site. Pornographers are among the best Internet marketers and will attempt to deceive your family in any way to get your family addicted. They give away “free samples” to get them hooked, much like the dealers in illegal narcotics might do to develop a new set of junkies.
The problem is staggering. Families need the ability to know what tools are available to keep their families safe from porn, online predators, cyber-bullies and other criminal Internet activity. Because of this, I have decided to initiate a free series of workshops designed just for this purpose.
The first of these, an overview entitled “Theology Meets Technology: Safe Surfing – How To Protect Your Family In Cyberspace,” provides a five-step approach to better safety. This workshop provides an explanation of the threats and dangers in easy-to-understand terms. I review some simple rules that will dramatically improve safety and review some no-cost and low-cost tools that every family should have in their online arsenal.
The workshops, while aimed primarily at Christian parents and grandparents, are free and open to the public. Due to the mature subject matter, registration is restricted to those 18 years of age and older. A version aimed specifically at teens is in the works. Donations to the Good Samaritan Ministry, which serves the poor and emergency-stricken, will be accepted at all workshops.
The first of these workshops, sponsored by the St. Luke Theology of the Body ministry, will be offered at St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Slidell on Jan. 25. Doors will open 5:30 p.m., and the workshop begins at 6. Please RSVP to StLukeTOB@gmail.com or call the St. Luke Theology of the Body Ministry at (985) 285-2222.
Deacon Paul Augustin can be reached via email at email@example.com.