Sunday, March 13, 2011

On A Positive Note.....

Today we had a great combined YM/YW lesson on the dangers- both physically and spiritually- of the Internet and more specifically social media. It is a topic that has weighed heavily on my mind over the last few months, but especially in the last week as we have been dealing with Tay's harassment at school. The Internet is such a powerful tool, for good and bad, and it's so important that children know how to use is correctly and wisely. We had a police detective from our ward speak to the youth about the criminal dangers, and he spoke a lot to the fact that you never really know who you are connecting with when you open yourself up to "friends" on places like Facebook. He showed a picture of a popular male singer, and explained that just this week they caught a 78 year old man was posing as the pop star and messaging teenage girls on FB. He also talked about how kids think that when they post or text inappropriate content or pictures they can just erase it and it's gone. He said that in 24 hours he could pull everything they'd ever done or sent off their phones or computers, and that there was no way to "erase" once you send something out. I think the kids were very shocked, and even scared. He asked them if they would feel comfortable having him go through their phones and computers today. If not, they need to make drastic changes to what they are doing and sharing.

Next James spoke to them about the spiritual dangers of technology. They discussed very briefly the problem of pornography as it is covered a lot. He asked them about the time they spent on the internet, and how it changed the dynamics of their family when they were on. Did they eat dinner together without texting interruptions? What activities have they stopped doing becuase they are on FB all the time? Social media can become a huge time sucker and time waster if not regulated and kept under control. He also talked to them about the importance of remembering that what they say and do on FB represents who they are. For instance, when you "like" something on FB what you are saying is "I approve of this" or "I like this". Should we really be "liking" a song with inappropriate lyrics, or a friend's comment that is off color, or a group/activity that conflicts with our beliefs? I thought this was a most poignant point. So often we forget that what we say and do on the Internet allows the world to interpret and make assumptions about who we are. I closed by reminding the kids that even if they aren't texting right now or aren't on FB, they will be someday and the world revolves more and more around social media outlets. So even if it doesn't apply today, it will someday and they need to be prepared. I challenged them to spend a "negative free" week on the Internet and their phones- that every day this week they would only send out positive messages, texts and comments. If they aren't texting or FBing, they can be positive in the interactions with their friends, avoiding gossip and contention.

All in all, I think it went really well. The kids were very reverent but offered up lots of comments. When youth do that you know something is sticking :) I'd love it if the adult groups did their own lesson or meeting on the subject, but geared to how parents can teach their children to use technology in a responsible way. The biggest thing they can do is be aware. Be aware of what their kids are texting and posting. Be aware of what their peers are saying, especially to them. Know their passwords and control their access to the internet. It is so, so important and, in my opinion, the greatest challenge to the youth of today is the free and unsolicited access to everything the world has to offered at the touch of a button. Where they are stronger, more valiant and more prepares, Satan only has to become craftier and more subtle in his attempts to drag them down. He's using the same tools that the Church uses to spread the message of the Gospel and love, but to drag us down and tempt us into sinful acts and behaviors.

We're going to try to tie this lesson into our upcoming Youth Conference this summer. One of the girls suggested taping videos to submit to the Mormon Messages channel on YouTube. Hopefully we can find some fun ways to incorporate the lesson into our weekly activities as well.

1 comment:

  1. what a great idea for a combined meeting. I'm glad it went well. I can just see you and James up there teaching it up! You two are so awesome