Headline after headline tells us about the dangers involved with teens posting too much information about themselves on the Internet, and the recent climb of MySpace.com to the top of the dot-com mountain has once again made it clear, teens are not getting the message.
A few weeks ago I spent an entire day just surfing through MySpace.com personal pages. What I found literally made my head whirl with disappointment. In my entire life, I have never seen such prideful and self-glorifying attitudes put on display.
Teens lie about their ages on their MySpace pages. They use profanity like it’s mandatory. Some of them even post pictures of their illegal activities (e.g. underage drinking, vandalism, and drug use). What disturbs me most is that I actually know some of the teens using profanity and provocative pictures on the web pages, and these teens do not have the reputation or the attitude they like to portray on the Internet. Image is everything on MySpace.
The biggest problem with MySpace.com and its individual homepages is that teens are competing against each other for attention on the Internet. No teen wants to be the person with no visitors or postings on their site, so in order to guarantee traffic and edge-of-your-seat postings, the more radical the pictures and commentary must become. When the competition becomes fierce, the pictures and the language become even more intense. “Come look at me,” they demand, “no one is as interesting as I am.”
Now please don’t think I did not discover some teens with web pages completely devoid of profanity and other such debauchery. I actually found quite a few sites where the teens expressed themselves in a very professional manner, and they managed to avoid giving out their real name or the name of the city they call home. These teens are to be commended for their commitment to character and civility. Hopefully, one day their peers will follow suit and clean up their act.
It is often difficult to fight against the rising tide of a popular fad or movement. During my teen years, illegal drugs were all the rage, and if you didn’t do drugs, you at least were friends with someone who did. There was pressure to try drugs, use drugs, and talk about drugs in a positive manner. I rejected all three by focusing on other hobbies: weightlifting, martial arts, and writing. And as my walk with Christ became more and more sincere, charting a different course than my peers became even less difficult.
Teens need to know that it is okay to swim against the current, to not cave in to the peer pressure for fear of not fitting in. Parents must discuss the dangers of the Internet with their children and teenagers. And MySpace.com needs to find a better way to ensure that when a child creates a website claiming he is over the age of eighteen, and he is not, an alarm is sounded. If MySpace.com required a valid credit card number in order to create an over eighteen (easily visited site), it would go a long way toward solving underage children from being stalked by child molesters surfing the web.
But in the end, no matter how much I am saddened by what I saw looking through the many web pages created by America’s teens, I still see hope. Hope that like a waves crashing in on the beach from the rising tide, this fad, this delinquent cancer that has permeated cyberspace will soon begin to recede the way the ocean does after it has finished its assault on the sand. And maybe, quite possibly, the end result will be a more awakened generation, where the sin of pride and conceit exposed for the alert to witness and react.
I thank God for places like EzraWeb.com and FaithWriters.com, places where my entire family can enjoy the Internet without the negative input of those who believe pushing the boundaries of decency is the only true form of expression. I pray that God and his people find more avenues to use the Internet as a weapon in support of His kingdom and His love.