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Ottawa to tighten up national sex offender registry, DNA database
Monday, June 1, 2009 | 3:23 PM ET
Jim Stephenson, looks on as Minister of Public Safety Peter Van Loan makes an announcement about changes to sex offender legislation on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Monday. Stephenson's 11-year-old son was abducted and murdered in 1988. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
Sweeping changes to the national sex offender registry and the national DNA database are intended to make them more effective tools for police in tracking and preventing sex crimes, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan said Monday.
"The government is delivering another aspect of our commitment to get tough on crime and protect the safety and security of our communities," Van Loan told reporters at a press conference in Ottawa.
"Police and victims groups have requested these changes for some time and our government is delivering on them."
Those advocacy and law enforcement groups had argued the registry, in place since 2004, hasn't been responsible for solving a single sex crime.
Among the proposed changes:
- All sex offenders will automatically be added to the registry upon conviction. Currently such offenders are included only after a formal request is made by the Crown and a judge orders it — which happens 58 per cent of the time.
- Convicted sex offenders will also automatically be required to provide a DNA sample to be entered into the national database.
- Police will have access to the sex offender registry to prevent sex crimes. "If police see an individual behaving suspiciously near a school ground, for example, they will be able to request information from the database," said Van Loan. "They will be able to obtain additional information to assist them in their prevention work." Currently police can use the sex registry to investigate a crime only after it has happened.
- Those who are convicted and jailed for sex crimes in another country and are returned to Canada to serve the remainder of their sentence will now be registered with the registry.
- Canadians convicted abroad of sex crimes and returning to Canada at the end of sentence must report their conviction to police within seven days of arriving back in the country or face criminal prosecution. "No longer will Canada be a safe haven from which travelling sex offenders can operate safely," said Van Loan.
- Sex offenders must report the name of their employer, the type of employment as well as any volunteer organizations they are associated with. They will also be required to provide notice in advance of absences from their residence of seven days or more.
- Police will be allowed to notify other Canadian and foreign law enforcement jurisdictions when registered sex offenders are travelling to another area.
- Federal and provincial correctional services will be allowed to notify registry officials if a registered sex offender is either released into the community or re-admitted to custody.
Among those welcoming the changes was Deputy Chief Murray Stooke of the Calgary police. "We know from the patterns of offending that sex offenders are likely to have offended more than once. And in a case that we now have a conviction on somebody, in the past we weren't getting their DNA to compare against historical offences, and so I think that's a very positive aspect of this bill," he said.
The proposed changes were to be tabled in the House of Commons Monday, though it was unclear when they would take effect.
The following are forum posts regarding the above article:
- I think the point is that "the registry, in place since 2004, hasn't been responsible for solving a single sex crime" as only 10% of offences EVER get reported. Thus, if they are not reported, or go unreported the offender will NOT go on the registry, never be brought to justice, and most likely re-offend. Not to mention the 10% that are reported are typically acts committed by strangers to the victims; thus, this new 'law' will only be aiding that 10%, not the other 86% plus attacks typically (70% plus) committed by "intimates, other relatives, friends or acquaintances" that go unreported. As some have said on this forum, this will not be money well spent. Other issues must be addressed and thus, new solutions be made. For example, current police responses to crisis phone calls and victim reports calls should be handled differently, in terms of seriousness. Not to mention a thorough look as to where the nature of this violence stems from, not constantly mending and fixing the result, but rather discovering its origin and working on its prevention. For example, since 98% of sex offenders are male, and 82% of survivors are women and girls, perhaps a serious look at why men are prime offenders and a movement towards the end to male violence against women and children is necessary. I believe the work of youth and women crisis workers and shelters workers is of great importance, however, it is only through a thorough examining and reflection of our persons and culture will we be able to cut to the root of the violence once and for all.
- Are you sure you want to play follow the leader on this issue? I should rephrase that. It has been a very long time since the U.S. has behaved like any kind of leader. Our own Government statistics prove that 95% of all new sex crimes will be committed by someone not on any registry yes people are lulled into this false sense of security. What was wrong with the old system where a Judge decided who was dangerous and who was not? Is that not their job? Canada is on its way down the slippery slope now as once this law hits the books who will dare stand against it in the name of sanity later. Say one word and you will lose the next election after being branded "pro sex offender". Again, not a single case of abuse has ever been prevented in America due to this registry. Thousands of children and young people have been hurt because of it. Do a Google search on the "Julia Tuttle Causeway" and you can see for yourself the results these laws have had. Does Canada want its own leper colony? This started in my country with the best of intentions during the sex hysteria of the 1980's. The Mcmartin pre-school trials that later ended with the cases being dropped. The child molestation witch hunts in Fresno California; then there was the Wetterling case where a child was abducted. Patty Wetterling pushed for legislation that would allow law enforcement to create very similar to what Canada has just approved. Then the Kanka case in New Jersey where a little girl was raped and killed by a repeat sex offender spurred calls for a public registry. Things have now snowballed to the point where Patty Wetterling has now come out against these laws. The statistics and evidence are in that these laws do absolutely nothing to prevent further crimes.
- What will the government start to do about women that make false rape allegations? That’s the biggest form of misandry a woman can commit! False rape accusers should also be on a registry so we can protect innocent men. All a woman has to do is say 3 words; "HE RAPED ME" and a man's life is over. Maybe we need to ask ourselves how we can prove sex was consentual. With all these false rape allegations these days I believe the only way a man can prove it was consentual is by video recording the session. the government should charge woman who make up false rape stories and destroy innocent men, and also tell us how we can prove consent without having to blow $200,000 on a lawyer, being in custody till trial, losing our jobs and family.
- I hear a lot of stories about how Canadians are better educated then we in the United States and I agreed until I read this story. The SO Registry in my country has yet to prevent a single case of abuse despite spending billions of dollars and the inclusion of over 650,000 people on a public registry. It seems the Canadian politicians have looked South with envy over the years that their American counterpart's have used this issue as a political goldmine. I would not want anyone to take my word for it, do your own research. Please Google rickyslife.com, SOSEN, Sex offender Issues, Human Rights Watch "no easy answers", sexting, Romeo and Juliet laws, or just look up your own Canadian studies on sex offenders. Politicians love to scare people into a frenzy and pretend that "they" can protect Canadian children from abuse to appear "tough on crime" and get votes. Once this mass hysteria starts it is awfully hard to stop any law however ridiculous just sails right threw as no one wants to appear "soft" on sex crimes. The American system has been in place for 15 years and has not prevented a single case of abuse. It cost's BILLIONS of dollars a year and even our congress is starting to take another look at these laws as they held hearings in March on the Adam Walsh act. There are 10 y.o. children in America that will spend the rest of their lives on this registry. People convicted of public streaking or urination have ended up on this registry. Teens with a 2-3 year age difference are branded as lifetime sex offenders in America.
- Are you sure you want to play follow the leader on this issue? I have a few concerns with this legislation. Will "offenders" later found to be innocent be removed from the list? Will teens "sexting" or having sex with each other be placed on the list? In England if you get pulled over for speeding or jaywalking the police are allowed to take a DNA sample and keep it indefinitely. This is the beginning of a slippery slope. I know of an individual who was 18 and had sex with a 15 year old. The 15 year old told her parents about the incident due to the fact that the 18 year old wanted to break up with her. He was then charged with statutory rape. Should this type of individual be placed on a list for the rest of his life because he made one mistake once? The only person harmed in this incident was the 18 year old male. With many employers nowadays asking for criminal checks this guy will never be able to get a job. So what does this mean? It means he will have to either be on welfare the rest of his life, live off of friends and relatives or resort to a life of crime. Something here just doesn't make sense to me. What would happen to a guy who taps a lady's bottom and she decides to press charges? Would he be on this list forever? According to the knee-jerk reactionists sexual assault is sexual assault right? There are no gray areas here, only black and white, yes and no. Is this hypothetical man the same as a repeat child molester? I think not.
How many women are in this database? How many female teachers who sleep with underage male students will be placed on this list? Guaranteed, male teachers sleeping with underage female students will end up on this list.
What a human rights catastrophe!
ARE OFFENDERS ON THE REGISTRY A THREAT?
Mr. Hudak would have Canadians believe that individuals on the registry represent a constant threat to society and they need to be monitored.
How dangerous are individuals on the registry?
Without a doubt there are high-risk offenders, including some who have offended sexually, who should never be released back into the community. Fortunately, these individuals are unlikely to achieve release from prison or supervision due to the influence of a number of existing processes. First, many of these offenders are screened out through the imposition of life sentences or a dangerous offender designation. Under the Dangerous Offender provision, an offender who is believed to constitute a danger to the life, safety, or mental/physical well-being of others may be subject to the classification. Under this designation, the offender could remain in prison indefinitely if considered to pose a significant risk if released (see R v. Jones). Once declared a dangerous offender, even if they are paroled, the offender will be under supervision for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, parole can be revoked at any time. To further community safety, there exists the designation of Long Term Offender, as well as a new Long Term Supervision Order. This designation was intended for individuals who do not fall under the dangerous offender provisions, yet still present a substantial risk to re-offend.
What about those who are released back into the community, who have completed their sentence, their probation, their treatment and are now on the registry?
Let's take a look at a few of them.
With the recent passing of Bill S-2 by the Federal Conservatives inclusion in the Sex Offender Registry will be automatic. Judges will no longer have the discretion to not place an individual on the registry. Inclusion will not be based solely on the nature of the offense, regardless of the factual circumstances, regardless of severity or risk of re-offense, nor will it differentiate between violent or nonviolent offenses. Here are examples of some of the individuals that will automatically be added to the registry:
What does established research tell us about former sex-offenders like those above?
- Contrary to popular belief, former sex offenders are significantly less likely than other criminals to be rearrested, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics and of those few former sex offenders who do re-offend, the majority are convicted of non-sexual offenses.
- Most sex crimes are the work of first-time offenders, against who background checks, registries, and GPS offer no protection.
- Registries are designed to deal with situations where the victim does not know the offender, e.g. child abductions. However, such abductions are extremely rare. The Conservatives are enhancing the perception of sexual predators lurking in the bushes by the playground (Hudak: “If a convicted sex offender or child predator steps foot on a playground or near a school, I want the police to know.” (Perhaps the former offender is at the school meeting with their own child's teacher??)) . In fact most perpetrators of sexual crimes are family members or other acquaintances of victims. Since offences most often occur in the home, gps will, once again, not be an effective deterrent.
The sources for the above statements are located in the Media Responses/Sources Section below.
PROPOSAL FOR AN ONLINE OFFENDER REGISTRY IN ONTARIO
Would it surprise you to hear that politicians are aware that the Canadian sex offender registry is ineffective; that online registries have resulted in the murder of former offenders; that they have reduced compliance rates and have likely increased recidivism? Of course, you're unlikely to hear any of these facts from their lips. In fact, regardless of the research, Mr. Hudak proposes that the information contained in the Ontario sex offender registry be made public and accessible online; a situation which may actually undermine community safety.
Here is what Mr. Hudak is not telling you:
THE CANADIAN REGISTRIES ARE INEFFECTIVE:
Although Canada's sex offender registries have one of the highest compliance of any registry in the world (c. 97%), in 2007, the Ontario Auditor General observed, “there is little evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of registries [in operation now for over a decade
] in reducing sexual crimes or helping investigators to solve them and the Ministry has yet to establish performance measures for its Registry.” [http://www.priv.gc.ca/parl/2010/parl_20100415_e.cfm
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada recommended, in 2010, a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of the legislation and the Registry by an independent third party. This has not happened; rather, the Conservative federal government has simply proposed an expansion of the existing regime.
Why has the registry been ineffective? One simple reason is that most individuals on the registry do not re-offend:
In a 2000 report, Public Safety Canadaconcluded:
"Very few sex offenders were granted a pardon and the vast majority who are pardoned did not re-offend sexually. Thus, automatic denial of pardons to sex offenders would unnecessarily curtail the liberties of the many ex-offenders who remain crime-free."
The low recidivism rate of those having received a pardon supports the research conducted by psychologist R. Karl Hanson, PhD, Senior Research Officer with Public Safety Canada:
"Most sexual offenders do not re-offend sexually over time. This may be the most important finding of this study as this finding is contrary to some strongly held beliefs. After 15 years, 73% of sexual offenders had not been charged with, or convicted of, another sexual offence. The decreasing rate of offending with age suggests that the rates observed after 15 to 20 years are likely to approximate the rates that would be observed if offenders were followed for the rest of their lives."
In the United States, officials havereached the same conclusion:
"... if we are to believe even half of the research that has been conducted across this nation in this field, then we can only conclude that, in general, sex offender registration… have little or no discernible effect on recidivism or public safety. The most prevalent threat to the public comes from those who have not yet offended or have not yet been identified and caught."
Canadian politicians are certainly not ignorant of the research; much of it having been established by its own departments. Rather, some politicians have chosen to simply disregard the evidence in their bid to appear tough on crime and they do so by exacerbating society’s fears and misconceptions.
THE REGISTRY DISTRACTS US FROM THE REAL THREATS:
It has been said by some that the registry will help police investigations. This argument has been rebutted by critics. In 2004, Richard Zubrycki, then special adviser to the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada, had advised the government against this type of sex offender registry. He has been researching international sex offender registries for 10 years, and uses the example of the case of 10-year-old Holly Jones, who was abducted and murdered in Torontoin 2003.
"In the Holly Jones case, you had a couple of hundred former sexual offenders in that neighbourhood," Zubrycki says. "The perpetrator ended up being someone who wasn't on Ontario's registry. Going through the registry takes police resources that would otherwise be spent investigating clues and tips and going door to door."
Four weeks after the disappearance of Holly Jones the Ontario government announced that itwould give Toronto police an extra $700,000 to monitor sex offenders. Security Minister Bob Runciman says Holly's murder was the catalyst for the additional resources. Unfortunately, these resources would have been wasted even if they were distributed a year before the disappearance of Holly Jones- Michael Briere, the individual responsible for the murder of Holly Jones, never had a criminal conviction and so would never have been on the sex offender registry.
When a seven-year-old American girl named Somer Thompson vanished in 2009 police immediately questioned registered sex offenders living in the area. Eventually a man named Jarred Harrell was charged with her murder.
Predictably, Harrell is not a convicted sex offender. Why “predictably”? Because most people who abduct, molest, and kill children have no previous criminal records for crimes against children.
According to Department of Justice studies and professor David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, sex offenders have a lower recidivism (re-offense) rate than people convicted of other crimes (the idea that sex offenders can’t be cured, or often commit further sex offenses, is a common myth).
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the fact is that a convicted sex offender is far less likely to assault a child than a person who has never been convicted of a sex crime. The vast majority of crimes against children are committed by the child’s parents, family, or friends—not a stranger.
When looking for a suspect in a child abduction or molestation, it’s natural for the police and public to focus first on convicted sex offenders. But more often than not the concern about sex offenders only distracts from the more likely suspects. Children need to be protected, and that means understanding where the real dangers lie.
Here is something else most readers didn't know. In 1995 it was reported that 8 out of 10 female students in Ontario said they had been sexually harassed. Was it the registered sex offenders acting up again? No. Eight out of ten were sexually harassed in school.(“The Joke’s Over – Student to Student Sexual Harassment in Secondary Schools”, published by The Ontario Women’s Directorate, The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation and the Ministry of Education, (1995)).
More than 10 years later it’s evident that our government has done nothing to keep these children safe:
In 2008, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)'s Dr. David Wolfe, released new research on school violence, sexual harassment and bullying conducted at 23 schools in south western Ontario. CAMH's Centre for Prevention Science surveyed 1819 Grade 9 and 11 students in both rural and city schools between 2004 and 2007 to measure both the victimization and perpetration of harassment and bullying and overall school safety. The data collected and released in a report today shows cause for concern:
- When surveyed on sexual pressures, four percent of males in grade 11 admitted trying to force someone to have sex with them, while 10 percent of males and 27 percent of females admitted being pressured into doing something sexual that they did not want to.
- Twenty-nine percent of grade nine girls and 33 percent of grade nine boys reported feeling unsafe at school in the past month. "Going to high school today is like running the gauntlet," said David Wolfe, principal investigator and Director of CAMH's Centre for Prevention Science in London, Ontario. "Yet the high school years are some of the most important in terms of development."
- According to the survey, 16 percent of girls and 32 percent of boys reported being physically harmed (on or off school property), while ten percent of girls and 25 percent of boys admit to being the perpetrators of such violence.
Dr. Wolfe cautions that the effect of what happens in high school today can take a significant toll. "All these behaviours, from physical violence to verbal harassment, can be harmful and have serious effects on their well-being. Bullying and harassment are well known to affect an individual's health and adjustment, including problems such as depression, substance use, anxiety and academic failure," he said.
Does it surprise you know that it's not registered sex offenders harassing your children on a daily basis, it is other children. You may be shocked at how common this is:
- Nationally, between 15% and 33% of all sex offences in Canada are committed by persons under 21 years of age.
- In Ontario, between 1979 and 1984, nearly 1,400 persons between the ages of 16 and 19 were convicted of one or more sexual offences
- A population survey done for the Badgley Commission on sexual offences against children found that almost one third of suspected or known offenders against children was under the age of 21
These individuals are not strangers- they're not the monsters everyone wants to believe offenders are, and they are not on a registry. These offenders are our children. Sadly, this situation has remained unchanged for the past 15 years. It's happening today. I'm certain that most readers are shocked to know these statistics; after all, when these reports were released we never heard the Canadians politicians publicly announce that something had to be done about this deplorable situation.
No, it's better, for them, to concentrate on the few offenders who have served their time and have less chance of re-offending when compared to any other group of offenders. Simply put, it's far easier for politicians to punish after the fact than it is to concentrate on the source of these continuing, prevalent problems; by doing so the government will look tough on crime without having to do any real work.
AN ONLINE REGISTRY: OPPOSED BY THE EXPERTS
Those individuals most knowledgeable about the issue, and thus best able to judge its efficiency, don't support a publicly accessible registry. Unfortunately, their views don't receive as much media attention as Mr. Hudak's:
- Even Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, whose job it is to steer much of the Conservative government's get-tough-on-crime agenda, won't even consider public access.
Toews said he's satisfied with the existing system whereby police will issue a public alert when a high-risk offender who hasn't sought rehabilitation or treatment moves into a community.
"It's our responsibility to not only protect society but to create the conditions for all individuals to rehabilitate themselves. Rather than have offenders trying to stay ahead of information on the Internet, I'm satisfied we've found the appropriate balance."
- “If you disclose where these individuals are living in the community, it is not unusual that they become harassed and that may cause them to move underground, so we would not be able to have any control of these guys,” said Sgt. Sue Crone, head of the Toronto Police Sex Offender Registry Enforcement Unit.
Police issue an arrest warrant when an offender fails to register but Crone says the noncompliance rate is “minimal.” Sgt. Crone also said that [Hudak's proposed legislation] is “not appropriate” for the sex offender registry. “Some of these people may have committed one act and they will never re-offend again,’ she said.
- Liberal candidate Lori Holloway said Jim Stephenson, who led efforts to create it after his 11-year-old son Christopher was murdered by a convicted sex offender, is opposed the idea and calls it “poorly researched.”
As well, she said the Ontario Provincial Police opposes the idea. “Sex offenders will be driven underground and out of contact with police,” she suggested, citing information from the Correctional Service of Canada, which found GPS technology is not completely reliable.
- "I do not support public disclosure of the registry. If we look to the U.S. to make comparisons...by making the registries public, they make them ineffective. It is difficult to look at their studies and say they are effective or they help reduce crime when they might increase crime in some situations. By focusing on offenders and telling the population where offenders live, they might drive offenders underground and away from their families. ... It is not a good model to look toward for effectiveness".
Steve Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, Office of the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime
- "I think it serves several symbolic purposes, but it's not proven that it affects public safety," said Martin Horn, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and former commissioner of the city's Department of Corrections.
"I think there's a logical argument to be made that it might, but I don't think that it's been demonstrated statistically that it does."
AN ONLINE REGISTRY: RESULTS IN MURDER AND HARASSMENT
Why would the experts not support a public registry? One reason is the certainty of vigilantism perpetrated against former offenders. Gary Ellis, a Progressive Conservative candidate, naively rejected any suggestion that a public database would lead to instances of vigilantism against sex offenders. "Good people will not break the law," he said. Obviously, Mr. Ellis did not research the effects of posting personal offender information online; if he had Mr. Ellis would have been quite aware of the brutal slayings of two convicted sex offenders from Maine,by a Canadian, in 2006.
Twenty-year-old Stephen Marshall of Nova Scotia, Canada, killed himself aboard a Boston-bound bus after allegedly murdering two convicted sex offenders in Maine, whom he'd found on the state's sex offender Web site.
One of the victims, 24-year-old William Elliott, was convicted four years ago of having sex with a girlfriend who was only days away from her 16th birthday. Elliott served four months in jail.
Marshall had earlier gone online and obtained personal information on both Elliott and Joseph L. Gray, 57, another convicted sex offender, whom Marshall is also suspected of murdering earlier that day.
Investigators also revealed that Marshall obtained the addresses and other information of 34 people from Maine'sonline sex offender registry.
This was not the first murder of former offenders which have been directly contributed to information derived from publicly accessible registries:
- 2004: the state of New Hampshire sent 57-year-old Lawrence Trant to jail for 10 to 30 years after he pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder on two convicted sex offenders whose names and addresses he'd located on the state's sex offender registry.
- 2005: In Washington State a man posed as an FBI agent to enter the home of two sex offenders, warning them that they were on a “hit list” on the internet. Then he killed them. The murderer said he targeted the pair after finding them on the online Whatcom County, Wash., sex offender list.
- 2009: Michael A. Mullen of Bellingham, Wash., was charged with the murders of two convicted sex offenders after he admitted to police that he wanted to kill them after he saw the information listed on the state's online sex offender Web site.
- 2009: When 67-year-old convicted sex offender Michael Dodele moved to the northern California town of Lakeport, he might have thought he could leave his past behind. But that didn't happen. Sheriff's deputies found him dead from stab wounds last month in his mobile home. They quickly arrested his neighbour, 29-year-old construction worker Ivan Garcia Oliver, who made "incriminating comments, essentially admitting to his attacking Dodele," police said. A neighbour of Oliver's said that two days before the killing, he "told every house" in the trailer park that he found Dodele's name listed on the Web site of convicted sexual offenders, and was uncomfortable living near him.
- 2010: a 19-year-old Virginia man is accused of using the state's sex offender registry to harass a registered sex offender, chase him down, and then strike him with his vehicle.
- 2011: A Washington state man who shot another man in the head because the shooter mistakenly thought the victim was a sex offender has been sentenced to more than 15 years in prison on assault and gun convictions.
Don't think this could happen in Ontario? Just take a moment to look at the comments section of any online article related to the proposed registry and you'll see the following:
"Solve the problem, executepedophiles".
"Public shaming should be mandatory - they're lucky they don't have to walk around with a brand on their foreheads".
"She says making names and addresses public could lead to some unintended consequences — such as retaliation and vigilante action." ...she's saying that as if it would be a bad thing".
"I have NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER if people use this registry to mete out the justice that our so-called "justice" system was too cowardly todo".
These murders, the ones we were able to directly link to the online registry (how many others are we not aware of?), served as "a stark reminder that there's no evidence that online sex offender registries increase public safety. In fact, they might just do the opposite," said Allen Gilbert, executive director of the Vermont ACLU. "They should not be making any changes to the online registry unless they can determine that, indeed, the registry increases public safety. We think they never should have created it."
AN ONLINE REGISTRY: REDUCES COMPLIANCE RATES | INCREASES RECIDIVISM (Re-offendism)
Human Rights Watch investigated sex offender registries. They say the severity of the offense is not taken into account nor is the change in behaviour of the individual. Approximately three quarters of sex offenders never offend again, contrary to widespread mythology. Yet someone who has acted responsibly for decades can still be listed. They also noted that being listed on the registry can be devastating for individuals.
Their privacy is shattered. Many cannot get or keep jobs or find affordable housing. Registrants’ children have been harassed at school; registrants’ spouses have also been forced to leave their jobs. Former offenders included on online registries have been hounded from their homes, had rocks thrown through windows, and feces left on their doorsteps. They have been beaten, burned, stabbed, and had their homes set on fire. Other registrants have been driven to suicide.
The scenario presented by Human Rights Watch is the primary reason why the online registry makes it much harder to track sex offenders. If offenders were registered with the police alone it would be much easier to track them because there would be little reason for the offenders to not comply-thus the high compliance rate enjoyed by Canadian registries:
"Today, we have a premier sex offender registry in Ontario, with a 97% compliance rate, one of the highest rates of any sex offender registry in all of North America. The OSOR is not accessible to the public, and this contributes to the high offender compliance rate."
-Ron Gentle: Chief Superintendent with the Ontario Provincial Police
When the information is made public the offenders and their families are often forced from one residency to another in order to avoid harassment. One police official in the United States said: “You’ve got sex offenders getting evicted every other week, moving, coming into to make changes and by the time we’ve forwarded the data to Austin,they’ve moved again.”
As a result of posting registry information online, California has lost track of 44% of the sex offenders on its list, 40% in Iowa, Wisconsin says they lost track of 29% of their list and Minnesota says that in excess of 20% from their list are missing.
In Iowa, one police official said that they used to be able to track 95 percent of offenders. But as offenders are publicly listed more and more of them are dropping their registrations. Now he says they can find only 70- to 75% of these people. The rest have disappeared from the listing. Contrast this to the compliance rates in
Canada, which make our registries very reliable sources of information for police.
Individuals who work with sex offenders to deal with their problems say the result of these laws is actually to encourage more offending. Psychologist Richard Hamill helps treat sex offenders and he says:
The risk of re-offense is much lower if (an offender) is employed, has safe housing, is in treatment and has a support system like a 12-step program or the support of families and friends.... What has happened is that ... some folks are now losing their jobs or being ostracized from their communities
Jill Levenson, of LynnUniversity in Florida, says half of registered sex offenders have trouble finding jobs. From 20% to 40% say they have had to move house because a landlord or neighbour realized they were sex offenders. And most report feeling depressed, hopeless or afraid.
Kent Willis, Executive Director for the Virginia ACLU says he understands why you would want to know if a sex offender lives in your neighbourhood, but doesn't think that information should be made public online. "When we put them on a website, we make them targets. If we marginalize them, the tendency is for them to make the same crimes again", says Willis.
In one study performed in the United States,
offenders subject to community notification were rearrested for new crimes twice as quickly as comparable sex offenders released without notification
(Lieb,1996, p. 298).
GPS for Offenders
Mr Hudak said he will 'protect families' by putting GPS tracking on those 'dangerous offenders', by which he means all of the over 14,000 currently registered sex offenders living in Ontario. How well did Mr. Hudak do his research? Obviously he did very little, or none at all.
PROPOSED GPS: EFFECTIVENESS
Mr. Hudak stated that "three Canadian provinces use this technology along with 40 American states". True enough. What he did not tell you was that, within most of those provinces and states, only those individuals considered high-risk to re-offend, and are usually on parole or on probation (due to the fact that two-thirds of recidivists re-offended within 3 years of release), are ordered to wear a GPS (California is one of only two states that mandates that all registered sex offenders be monitored for life).
Mr. Hudak, on the other hand would make no distinction between habitual offenders at high risk of striking again, worth having their every move tracked electronically once they're out of prison, and the ex-offenders who have served their time, completed their probation/parole, and present no apparent threat to public safety. Just put a GPS device on all of them, Mr. Hudak says, forever.
"We're finding ways to use technology to create what is a permanent deprivation of liberty," says Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It raises some very important issues about what the state may do to an essentially free person."
Dr. Howard E. Barbaree, clinical director of the Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Law and Mental Health Program
, said that kind of electronic tracking is actually not necessary for most offenders and should only be done with "very high risk" individuals. http://ca.news.yahoo.com/sex-offender-plan-panned-054000063.html
Jim Bradley, the Minister of Community Safety and Corrections, said of Mr. Hudak's proposal: "It doesn't seem thought through," noting the federal government tested some monitoring devices recently and found the technology unreliable.” They had so many malfunctions, police found that they were just running around in circles," he said.
Keeping electronic tabs on convicted sex offenders will do virtually nothing for public safety, lawyer Dan Brodsky said.” You won't know who's with them and you won't know what they're doing with who he's with, but you'll know that person is living down the street from you," Brodsky said. "What information does that give you?" It just provides you with a lot of information that the police already know," he added.
PROPOSED GPS: COST:
Mr. Hudak has estimated that the cost of the GPS monitoring program would be about $50 million. Let's look at a real-world example to allow us to estimate cost. California is currently utilizing GPS to monitor 6,788 sex offender parolees; this is less than half of the number of registrants Mr. Hudak proposes be tracked by GPS in Ontario. It is conservatively estimated that the use of GPS in the state of California is presently costing approximately $65,000,000.00 per year.
If Mr. Hudak did his research he would have known that is cost projection was way off. It would appear that Solicitor General Jim Bradley may be correct when he said that, in order to use effective GPS technology. The price tag would actually be “quadruple” that of Mr. Hudak's estimate. So, we're now looking at approximately $200 million dollars per year.
What happens when the number of registrants begins to soar in the next few years? Mr. Hudak's estimation is based on the fact that that there are currently fourteen thousand individuals on the Ontario registry. What he did not tell you is that, with the recent passing of Bill S-2 by the federal Conservatives, inclusion in the Sex Offender Registry will be automatic.
Judges will no longer have the discretion to not place an individual on the registry. Inclusion will be based solely on the nature of the offense, regardless of the factual circumstances, regardless of severity or risk of re-offense, nor will it differentiate between violent or nonviolent offenses. It's probable that within the next ten years the number of registrants in Ontario will double. Estimated projected cost: $400 million dollars per year.
THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE WITH GPS:
In 1944, California became the first state to compel the registration of convicted sex offenders. On November 7, 2006 California passed Proposition 83, known as Jessica’s Law. This proposition required, among other things, that all registered sex offenders released on parole be monitored for life, by using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology in the form of a satellite-tracked ankle bracelet. The law was passed with little information about how it would be implemented or evidence of whether GPS technology would protect Californians from sex offenders.
The passage of Proposition 83 has led to over 6,788 sex offender parolees being placed on GPS monitoring. This is by far the largest use of GPS monitoring anywhere in the world. However, it's evident that “The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of widespread use of GPS with sex offenders in Californiahas not been evaluated" (CASOMB, 2010).
The California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) was created to provide the Governor and the State Legislature as well as relevant state and local agencies with an assessment of current sex offender management practices and recommended areas of improvement. In 2010, CSOMB submitted its final report. Contained within that report were the following information and recommendations:
Although many states are now reporting the use of GPS technology to monitor sex offenders, there are still very few evaluations of their usefulness in providing public safety and lowering of recidivism rates. There seems to be some anecdotal sentiment that is supportive of the usage of GPS monitoring, but very little statistical data to support its effectiveness in preventing re-offense. Individual state evaluations have shown mixed results In terms of the ultimate efficacy of GPS on recidivism and criminal behaviour. The consensus of the GPS evaluations seem to be that this tool is most effective when utilized as part of an overall containment model” of supervision and when used with high risk offenders.
GPS MONITORING RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Utilize GPS monitoring only in conjunction with some form of community supervision, with the understanding that some high-risk offenders may need to be subject to extended supervision (including lifetime supervision for exceptionally high-risk offenders)
- Prioritize the use of GPS monitoring primarily for serious and high risk sex offenders
- Allow GPS monitoring to be minimized or eliminated after a defined period of time if there have been no new offenses and there has been satisfactory compliance with all terms of registration and parole conditions
In the United States, other recent assessments portray a system that ignores much of the data captured by GPS monitors and parole agents overwhelmed with responsibilities:
“We are just drowning in dots,” said Robert Coombs, chair of the state Sex Offender Management Board, referring to the way parolees’ tracks appear on agents’ mapping software. “What happens is the more broadly we use it, the more difficult it becomes in identifying the meaningful data.”
Every time a bracelet’s battery charge is low or a parolee enters into an off-limits zone, agents receive cell phone and e-mail alerts—regardless of whether the action requires an immediate response.
The state’s 274 parole agents on GPS caseloads received almost a million of these alerts last year, according to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. What that means for North Bay parole agent Donovan Lewis is that his workday never ends. “With GPS, it makes it 24-7 because we get alerts,” he said.
Critics in the United States scoff at the notion that a criminal who will not register voluntarily with the state once a year will keep wearing a GPS ankle bracelet, much less diligently recharge the battery every night. "It's a felony for them not to register, so if they're going to commit a felony, why would they leave their GPS unit on?" says Robert Coombs, director of public affairs for the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, a state wide coalition of 66 rape crisis centers. "It's really naive to think that this is going to solve the problems." Attorney Stein agrees. "GPS devices can be easily removed," he says. "They're not encased in kryptonite."
In 2006 Minnesota lawmakers considered spending millions of dollars to electronically monitor sex offenders. At the time about 20 sex offenders, considered the most dangerous, wore the GPS monitors in Minnesota. Some legislators wanted to put the monitors on all of their hundreds of offenders. Mike Fall, Supervisor of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, argued that putting a GPS monitor on all sex offenders is a bad idea.
"We feel the way we are currently doing it -- putting what we consider to be the highest risk, the most dangerous, on GPS at this point in time -- has been very effective," says Fall. "When you widen that net and put people on that GPS system, in most cases it (GPS) probably isn't really necessary to supervise them." He says less than 1 percent of offenders commit new crimes while on supervision.
Mr. Fall’s conclusions were reinforced by the decision made by the California Sex Management Board in 2008:
"With the cost of GPS tracking and the amount of time devoted to supervising offenders on GPS taken into consideration, only high-risk offenders should be considered for placement on GPS tracking. Additionally, GPS officers recommended that those offenders who have completed GPS supervision without incident should be removed from GPS and placed on a lower level of supervision (Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole, 2007). This method frees up the unit for another offender to use, delineates a goal for offenders to work towards, and builds trust between the formerly tracked offenders and the criminal justice system." http://www.casomb.org/docs/SOMBReport1.pdf
The results of a recent study, publishedAugust 8, 2011:
- GPS technology is far morelimited than anticipated
- 70 percent of alerts are false alarms
"GPS technology is currently too underdeveloped to recommend continued swift enactment of legislation mandating implementation and utilization of GPS in a cost-effective manner."
WHY IS HUDAK REALLY PROPOSING THE USE OFGPS?
As we have seen, GPS will not serve as an effective deterrent; it will not make communities any safer; it's an expensive and non-reliable technology.
"So whywould Tim Hudak push this expensive scheme on Ontarians?
Well, it might havesomething to do with Tim Hudak's friends.
For example, Gordon Baker is a Director and Jemtech Inc., a major distributor of GPS tracking devices. He's also a major donor to Hudak's PC Party, with over $50,000 in personal donations. And he is credited in Tim Hudak's election platform.
There's a history between Hudak and Baker/Jemtech. Under the last PC government Jemtech claimed 87% of their business came from sole-sourced deals with the PC government.
So police say communities will be less safe. But Hudak's friends may get lucrative new business.
Just anotherexample of Tim Hudak's questionable judgment."
The issue is not whether children need to be protected, of course they do. The issue is whether the solutions proposed to ensure their safety actually alleviate the danger to them. Unfortunately, Instead of aggressively seeking solutions to the dangers that women and children face, both in the home and in our schools, the federal government introduces laws that will increase the severity of punishments after the crime was committed and the prescribed sentence completed.
Targeting these former offenders, most of who will likely never re-offend, is a good way to look tough without actually doing anything. Separating former sex offenders from society and increasing their punishment does nothing to protect society. The vast majority of crimes against children are committed not by released sex offenders but instead, by a victim’s own family member and close family friends.
Mr. Hudak referred to the individuals on the registry; those who have legally paid their debt to society and are now law-abiding, voting, tax-paying, Canadian citizens, as “these predators”. "The reality is the vast majority of registrants are not predatory, and don't pose a danger to strangers, which is the only reason GPS would be useful," says Jeff Stein, a criminal defence attorney, and co-chair of the legislative committee for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. The new GPS devices, he says, fuel "the hysteria that all registrants are predators."
As Conservative politicians rush to impose harsher penalties on those who have offended sexually, critics -- legal and criminal analysts, and even some victims of sex crimes themselves -- state that the punitive new laws violate civil liberties and are ineffective. And while a technological fix like fastening GPS devices to former felons may make the public feel safer, it will do nothing to protect the victims of most sex crimes.
More importantly, preventing the rehabilitation of former offenders may lead to increased recidivism. Canadians would most likely prefer to see the tens of millions of dollars Ontario is about to spend monitoring ex-offenders be poured into counselling for victims of crimes and into programs for offenders that aim to prevent recidivism.
What Can the Government Do To ImproveCommunity Safety?
Are you tired of politicians implementing policies that do very little, other than promoting the image that they are 'tough on crime'? Any policies that have a real effect on community safety will take both time and effort, but it can be done.
1. All legislative action must be duly considered and based on evidence. Empirical inquiry is needed into the impact and effectiveness of public policies designed to prevent sexual violence. Funding for research which investigates the impact and effectiveness of sexual violence policies should be a priority.
2. Collaborative efforts should exist between citizens, victim groups, offenders, and treatment providers to render management, probationary supervision, and rehabilitation services that promote community safety.
3. "Assessment procedures are available that allow practitioners to distinguish between sexual offenders with a low risk of reoffending and those with a high risk of reoffending. Consequently, community safety can be efficiently served when responses to sexual offenders vary according to their risk level."
With the ability to effectively determine risk level, it is the responsibility of our government to do so. We must employ standardized reporting and risk level guidelines for all offenders making monitoring easier and more effective for law enforcement, corrections personnel, and the courts. Implement a four-tier risk level; to include NO RISK, LOW RISK, MEDIUM RISK, and HIGH RISK. Such risk levels, established prior to re-entry into society and reassessed annually, must be proportionate not only to the gravity of the offence but also to the personal circumstances of the offender.
It is the responsibility of our government to ensure that high-risk offenders are not returned to the community.
4. Most sex offenders do not re-offend. Those offenders who returned for a new sex related offense did so within a few years of release. Two-thirds recidivate within three years. If GPS is to be imposed upon former offenders, let it be in-line with the practice employed by most American states, where GPS is utilized only when the offender is on probation or parole.
5. Educational efforts should be directed at the prevention of sexual abuse amongst teens and young adults through development of successful coping skills and through understanding of appropriate boundaries. Communities are entitled to the dissemination of actual and research-based information and education about sexual violence and sexual perpetrators.
6. Abolish measures which make it difficult for past offenders to reintegrate successfully into the community. Encourage support groups for sex offenders, including help with finding housing, employment and effective treatment, before their release and afterward.
7. Treatment, not harsher conditions is imperative to preventing recidivism. Provide separate sex offender correctional facilities and mandatory therapy prior to, and after, release.
"... if we are to believe even half of the research that has been conducted across this nation in this field, then we can only conclude that, in general, sex offender registration… have little or no discernible effect on recidivism or public safety. The most prevalent threat to the public comes from those who have not yet offended or have not yet been identified andcaught."
"8% of sex offenders were recommitted in the 10-year period"
"3% of sex offenders committed a sexually-related violation of probation/ parole"
"½ of recidivists re-offended within two years of release"
"2/3 of recidivists re-offended within 3 years of release"
"Sex Offenders have a lower recidivismrate than other offenders"
· Follow-up Period: 4 years Recidivism Rates
· Sex Offenders 2.46%
· Forgery 6.86%
· Burglary 10.56%
· Drugs 6.42%
· Robbery 5.17%
· Larceny 12.65%
· "7.1% of sex offenders who went through treatment reoffended"
· "16.5% of sex offenders who did not undergo treatment reoffended"
- Virginia Criminal Sentencing Division
· "Only 14% of inmates in prison on sex crimes had prior sex crimeconvictions"
· "In short, 86% in prison were first-time offenders or about 6 out of7".
"2 out of every 3 people who committed a serious sex crime would not meet the base DSM-IV criteria for pedophilia".
Sex Offenders have a low Specific Recidivism rate
· 9,641 sex offenders released in 15 states (Three-year follow-up period)
· 262,420 non-sex offenders released in same 15 states in 1994
· 517 sex offenders (5.3% of all sex offenders) were arrested for a sex crime within 3 years, 3.5% of sex offenders re-convicted
· 3,228 non-sex offenders (1.3% of all no-sex offenders) were arrested for a sex crime within the same three year period
- California Sex Offender Management Board (www.CASOMB.org) June 2008. RECIDIVISM OF PAROLED SEX OFFENDERS – A FIVE (5) YEAR STUDY:
- Wyoming Legislative Service Office. Research Memo
- New Jersey Department Of Corrections Study on the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registration, February 11, 2009:
- New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives Research Bulletin: Sex Offender Populations, Recidivism and Actuarial Assessment, 2007
- Arizona Department of Corrections. Arizona Inmate Recidivism Study. 2005
"Statistics show most sex offenders are not likely to repeat their crimes. [We see] the increasing efficacy of offender treatment, largely due to a modern behaviour modification model stressing relapse prevention through recognition and avoidance of criminalimpulses".
The Economist: America’s Unjust Sex Laws.2009
The cover story calls America's harsh punishment of sex offenders "unjust and ineffective."
Hollida Wakefield, “The Vilification of Sex Offenders: Do Laws Targeting”
As former offenders are denied opportunities to reintegrate into society and stigmatized, they lose hope. Stigmatized offenders are more likely to recidivate than reintegrated offenders, as the resistance to recidivate diminishes among offenders who are ostracized.
On the other hand, a “pro-social identity,” including concrete recognition of their reform, is integral to reducing recidivism.
“Handbook for Sexual Abuser Assessment and Treatment
” by Mark S. Carich and Stephen E.
Mussack. Safer Society Press, 2001.--The Safer Society Press is one of the premier publishers of books dealing with treatment of deviant sexual behaviours. This handbook is a guide to different treatment techniques
The Adam Walsh Act: Scarlet Letter, by Lara GeerFarley, April 17, 2008:
Fact Sheets Examine Impact of Sex Offender Registries: Justice Policy Institute, September 2, 2008:
Collateral Damage: Family Members of Registered Sex Offenders by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University Published in (2009) issue of American Journal of Criminal Justice,
Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies: Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force to the Multi-State Working Group on Social Networking of State Attorneys General of the United States., December 31, 2008:
Revising the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act: Our Best Hope for Dealing with Sex-Abuse Hysteria in the United States, Richard A. Gardner, 1993 to the reporters.
Residential Proximity to Schools and Daycare Centers: Influence on sex offense recidivism, An empirical analysis by Jill Levenson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Services at Lynn University, December 23, 2008:
When Evidence Is Ignored: Residential Restrictions For Sex Offenders. By Richard Tewksbury and Jill Levenson
The Pursuit of Safety: Sex Offender Policy in the United States, Vera Institute of Justice, September 2008:
Treatment and Re-entry Practices for Sex Offenders, An Overview of States, Vera Institute of Justice, September 2008:
Youth Sex Offenses Fact and Fiction, Justice Policy Institute, February 2009
SOL Research.org: Research on Sex Offender Laws and their Effects on People and Society
Sex Offender Treatment: Reconciling Criminal Justice Priorities and Therapeutic Goals by Mary Ann Farkas & Gale Miller, December 2008:
Sexual Predator Laws: A Two-Decade Retrospective by Eric S. Janus & Robert A. Prentky, December 2008:
Brandishing the Mark of Cain: Defects in the Adam Walsh Act by Joseph L. Lester, December 2008:
Perpetual Panic, by Michael O’ Hear Marquette University Law School, March 2009:
Life before the Modern Sex Offender Statutes, by Deborah W. Denno, Fordham University School of Law, January 2009:
One of These Laws is Not Like the Others: Why the Federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act Raises New Constitutional Questions, by Corey Rayburn Yung, The John Marshall Law School, August 2008:
Banishment of Sex Offenders: Individual Liberties, National Rights and the Dormant Commerce Clause, Environmental Justice, and Alternatives, by Shelley Ross Saxer, Pepperdine University, September 2008:
The Sex Offender Register: A Case Study in Function Creep, by Terry Thomas, Leeds Metropolitan University, June 2008:
Sex Offender Registration and Community Notification: Past Present and Future, by Wayne A. Logan, Florida State University College of Law, February 2008:
Be They Fish or Not Fish: The Fishy Registration of Nonsexual Offenders, by Ofer Raban, University of Oregon, August 2007:
From Wetterling to Walsh: The Growth of Federalization in Sex Offender Policy by Richard G. Wright, December 2008:
The Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and the Commerce Clause by Corey Rayburn Yung, December 2008:
Child Pornography Sentencing: The Road Here and the Road Ahead by Ian N. Friedman & Kristina W. Supler, December 2008:
This paper found that actuarial methods were the best predictors vs. professional judgment. It means that psychologically informed risk assessments may have strong predictive accuracy and clinical use for specific cases (general, sexual, violent, etc.)
This project found that trained community supervision officers can reliably predict sex offense recidivism, specifically with STATIC-2007, STABLE-2007 and ACUTE-2007 assessments.
This research bulletin builds upon the first by introducing concepts related to structured assessment and instruments that foster collaboration among probation officers, clinicians and treatment providers
This research bulletin the first in a series published by the New York State Division of Probation and Correctional Alternatives bringing together issues in managing sex offenders on probation.
I was always a curious kid who wanted to learn and explore. One day while my friend and I were poking around in my garage, we found a calendar with a topless woman on it. We quickly sneaked it out of the garage to someplace we could admire it without being caught. I still remember the excitement that calendar lit up inside me. From then on, I was on the prowl for anything similar that I could get my hands on.
Those things that I later found came in the form of a Jacques Cousteau book (sad to admit) and then a treasure trove of Playboy magazines in my basement. At those times, I’m not sure what was more exciting, the pictures or the thrill of doing something wrong and trying not to get caught!
All the guilt eventually caught up with me and I asked my mom about the magazines and if Dad was still an ‘alright’ guy for having them. Man, was I ever a hypocrite. After a while, my Dad threw away his stash and guess who scooped up a bunch for his own collection…me of course!
I also remember buying single naked pictures from my friend for a buck a piece. He would rip them out of his dad’s large collection and sell them to me and my friend. I remember buying as many as he would sell. He was very cautious and hesitant and eventually stopped selling them due to getting caught.
My own stash was stored in a few different places over the years. I never put them under the mattress, that was such an amateur move! At first, I would hide them under the carpet inside my closet. It was perfect because I would move stuff over top and no one would know. I even cleared out half the closet so I could sit in there with my flashlight and look at my pictures. At other times I would hide my magazines in a bunch of auto show literature.
Those were the early days of my pornography addiction. That first taste lit a desire within me that really took over me for about 20 years. Why do I relay this story? Well, a lot of it has to do with remembering this stuff today while I mowed the lawn. The other reason is that I want to show you where I have been and to let you know that you are not much different than me. Another thing – Do all you can to keep your kids away from pornography! They eventually will come in contact with it, but make it much later in life after they learn about what real love is and how to treat a woman.
Please share your story with us… How did you get exposed to pornography? What did that do to you?
Anime: The Other Sideof Starry-Eyed
By Leigh Seger
Anime and manga, even the ones for children, aren’t simple minded (Izawa, 1998).
As a busy parent, you may not have thought twice about the Pokemon toy in your child’s latest Happy Meal. But Pokemon is often a primer for a child’s entry into the world of anime, which has a dark and even pornographic side.
A Brief Background
Anime, or Japanese animation, can be found nearly everywhere in the form of cartoons, movies, comic books, and video games–and it’s all available online.
Anime is rooted in Manga, or Japanese comics. Starting as pictures drawn on temple walls, then on wooden blocks, and then finally published in books, manga became a form of stories and art. By the early 20 century, manga became the main form of literature for most of Japanese society.
When animated film-making arrived in Japan, it had a huge impact. In the 1940s
, more than 40% of all domestic films in Japan were animated based on anime/manga. As these shows grew more and more popular, they caught the attention of networks in the U.S. In 1964, NBC syndicated Osamu Tezuka Tetsuwan Atom
as Astro Boy
and it became the highest rated syndicated show on television. Many other popular shows followed suit, such as Kimba, the White Lion; Marine Boy;
and Speed Racer,
to name a few.
Cause for Concern Anime continues to grow in popularity for all ages. However, it is imperative to be advised of its darker side, especially in young people. Because there are numerous genres of anime, one can move from the typical fairytale to mature adult content very quickly. The transition to teen-themed anime is a particular concern. This is a very vulnerable time for many teens, who may identify with the characters they see: portrayals of being left out, unwanted, not fitting in, or being bullied.
Japanese animation does not shy away from sexual content or partial/complete nudity within its mediums. In Naruto, the main character possesses the ability to turn into (among other forms) a naked woman and uses this power to distract others.
Many female anime characters are drawn seductively with hourglass figures, skimpy clothing, and pretty faces. The sexual enticement factor within anime imitates real-life film, providing everything from the innocent to teasingly seductive to hardcore pornography.
Violence and death are prominent in the anime culture. Many distributors of manga and anime movies and television shows have even had to alter the original Japanese content to make it appropriate for a more conservative American market. A simple example of this is the end of a Sailor Moon episode. Two scouts die in the Japanese version, but in the American version the scouts are trapped and rescued.
A simple online search for anime can yield disturbing results. Because many characters look alike, it is hard for a child to know when they are entering a danger zone.
Sometimes the content of anime or manga may even be considered criminal for American audiences. Consider the cases of David Scott Hammond
and James Corey Hammond
, twin brothers who were charged with child pornography for possessing anime that depicted underage males engaged in sexual activities. Or the case of Christopher Handley
, an Iowa man who was charged for possessing manga drawings of children being sexually abused.
Another questionably legal aspect of anime your child may stumble upon is “fansubs
.” Usually these are brand-new shows, unlicensed in America, which have been given English subtitles, translated by fans. Fan subs are widely popular and have helped promote the popularity of anime, due in part to the audience-tailored subtitles. Some even feel that fan sub translations are better than those professionally translated by the companies who originally produced the anime. However, fansubs are illegal. For the most part, fansubs go unprosecuted, but there have been lawsuits passed down for violations of copyright law.
“My 15-year old daughter started out on a Gaia
website and was interested in drawing anime. This turned into ,” or dressing up like a favorite character. This ultimately led to “anime pornography, complete with Japanese words for homosexual activities,” says Natalie, a mother who discovered how online anime and anime-related groups can quickly become inappropriate.
The Internet provides a huge platform for anime fans to express their creativity and to learn more about the art. You can easily interact through online clubs and forums, such as Gaia Online
, with the ability to customize your own avatar
as an image to represent yourself in these online communities. But with that comes the high probability that your kids will be mixing with individuals who may have a hard time drawing the line on what is acceptable and age-appropriate for viewing.
Additionally, your child’s participation in these online groups brings the susceptibility of being approached by someone with wrong intent. According to a 2011 Microsoft poll
, 75% of teenagers have been contacted by a stranger via the Internet, and 23% of teens felt comfortable in making friends with adults online, which they normally would not do.
All of this serves as a simple reminder: you may walk by the TV or your kids’ computers and see cute doe-eyed characters, but are you truly informed about what your children are watching?
Anime: A Parental Primer
As with most things in life, there are good sides and bad sides. Anime is no different. It is a wonderful form of art that inspires creativity and imagination. There are strong themes of loyalty, friendship and good-versus-evil in many anime cartoons. Kids love anime and parents can use the “good” parts as a vehicle to have great conversations about life-lessons.
Here is a sampling of terms to be on the lookout for as you help protect your child’s online and offline interactions with anime:
Terms and Titles
Kawaii (kah-wah-ee): Cute. Often used on its own when observing a situation or character having any distinct level of cuteness.
Shoujo (sho-jo): A girl or young woman
Shounen (sho-nehn): A boy or young man
Yaoi (yah-oh-ee): A male/male relationship, usually of a more sexual and explicit nature than shounen ai
Shounen Ai(sho-nehn ah-ee): A shoujo anime feature in which the plot concerns a romance between two males. Contains male-male relationships but not displayed as explicitly as in yaoi
Hentai: The Japanese word for “pervert” and is considered the catchall name for pornographic anime
Magical Girl: Anime starring a girl with magical powers. Examples: Sailor Moon, Sasami
Shonen: Anime for the young male, from boys to teens. Examples: Naruto, Ruroni Kenshin, Bleach.
Basic Categories of Anime
Action/Adventure: Many anime shows fall into this category and can contain martial arts action, sword and sorcery adventures, and battles between giant robots. Examples of these: DragonBall, DragonBallZ, Black Lagoon, Darker Than Black.
Historical: Manyanime are inspired by Japan’s own past, featuring its history and mythology. Examples: Samurai Champloo, Samurai 7, Rurouni Kenshin.
Drama/Comedy: Shows revolve around coming-of-age and romantic experiences at school, both negative and positive. Examples: Ouran High School Host Club, Princess Jellyfish.
Adaptation: Anime created as an off-shoot of video games, comics, or other live-action productions. Examples: Slayers, Devil May Cry, The Dirty Pair.
Sci-Fi/Space: Anime in this category widely ranged from science-oriented to space opera (similar to soap opera, with romantic themes). Examples: Cowboy Bebop, Ergo Proxy.
$28-Billion-Crime: New film shows the dark connection between sex addiction and sex trafficking
By Luke Gilkerson
I stood before a less-than-captive audience at the local community college talking about the subject of pornography. I had been called in as a “special lecturer” for a required Ethics class to discuss the moral problems associated with porn. In order to wake the class from their usual slumber, I decided to show a video testimony of an ex-porn star who unabashedly talks about the debasement and brutality of the sex industry.
The students woke up pretty quickly. Many who had never considered that watching pornography was a moral issue suddenly changed their tune.
That day I learned a couple things I will never forget. First, when it comes to motivating others, never underestimate the power of a good story. Today’s filmmakers are modern day storytellers, and like all storytellers, they have the power to shape our emotional chemistry and move us to action. Second, one of the easiest ways to rip off the alluring mask pornography wears is to show how it is vitally connected to the cruel world of commercial sex.
The Awful Reality of Human Trafficking
Human trafficking is a form of modern day slavery where victims are forced, defrauded, or coerced into labor or sexual service. “The victims of modern slavery have many faces,” said President Barack Obama in last year’s Trafficking in Persons report
. “They are men and women, adults and children. Yet, all are denied basic human dignity and freedom…All too often suffering from horrible physical and sexual abuse; it is hard for them to imagine that there might be a place of refuge.”
- Globally, human trafficking is a $32-billion business, making it the second most lucrative crime in the world (after drug trafficking).
- Trafficking does not necessarily involve transporting victims over national lines, although about 800,000 victims are trafficked this way every year.
- In the U.S., over a quarter of a million American kids fall victim to commercial sexual exploitation each year. This outnumbers international victims in the U.S. 11 to 1.
For many victims of human trafficking in general, sexual assault and violence is commonplace. But for other victims of trafficking, prostitution or sex slavery is the very reason they are bought and sold. This is known as sex trafficking, and it is a global reality. From the sex tourism of Indiaand Cambodia to the underground prostitution rings of Eastern Europe and the United States, the total market value of the sex trade is $28 billion.
The Porn Connection: Supply and Demand
Sex trafficking is the big tip of a very ugly iceberg, but what does pornography have to do with it?
Laura Lederer, former Senior Advisor on Trafficking in Persons for the U.S. State Department, thinks there is a vital connection. “Pornography is a brilliant social marketing campaign for commercial sexual exploitation,” she says
. No, not all or even most pornography is created by traffickers. But a key ingredient to commercial sex is the belief that people (women especially) are sexual commodities, and Internet pornography is the ideal vehicle to teach and train this belief.
Porn drives demand for trafficking. It creates the appetite. “It drives people to the place where they become comfortable with commercial sex,” says Noel Bouche
, Vice President of pureHOPE. Of course, not all porn consumers endorse human trafficking, but by their actions, they do tacitly endorse the objectification of women and the commodifying of sex.
Fighting sex trafficking, according to Ms. Lederer, means not only fighting it on the supply side—demanding better laws, better law enforcement, and putting systems in place to rescue and rehabilitate victims—but also on the demand side. As a society, we must fight the venomous ideas that feed the demand for commercial sex. Those concerned about trafficking must fight any form of sexual exploitation and objectification wherever it is found.
“We will never have success in eradicating sex trafficking,” says Ms. Lederer, “unless and until we tackle the cultural messages of pornography and related materials that are encouraging this exploitation and abuse.” Media has the power to shape culture, and the choice before each and every consumer is what kind of media they will endorse, the values they want their culture to embrace. When media sanctions the belief that it is normal—even natural—for men to use and abuse women, that women are only worth the sexual pleasure they give to men, then it works like a poison in the culture. In pornography, this message comes through loud and clear. Therefore, by consuming pornography we allow that poison to infect us, spread further into our culture, and dampen the voice of justice.
10 Seconds: Showing the Demand Side
Ms. Lederer believes it is high time for anti-porn and anti-trafficking advocates to ally themselves under the banner of fighting sexual exploitation. And just as commercial sex is promoted by pornographic media; those who want to combat it must have their own social marketing campaign, their own media. “We’ve got to reverse engineer,” says Lederer. And some filmmakers are fighting fire with fire, making their own media showing the brutality of commercial sex and trafficking.
Fictional films that dare to take on this heavy topic typically place either the victims
or the rescuers
at the center of the action. Award-winning short films like Fields of Mudan
and Svetlana’ Journey
show the brutal, often overly-realistic, life of children forced into sex slavery. Other full-length blockbusters tend to show the drama of search-and-rescue. While some films, like Taken
with Liam Neeson, rely on more Die-Hard-esque action sequences, others like Trade
(starring Kevin Kline) and Holly
(starring Ron Livingston) capture the real grit of sex tourism in densely-populated capitals like Mexico City and Phnom Penh.
But few films place the demand side of sex trafficking in the limelight. Who are these men who go to such lengths to pay for sex? What is their story?
This is exactly what the new independent film 10 Seconds
seeks to capture.
Jesse James Locorriere plays Gilbert Horn, a successful business and family man with a sinister secret of sex addiction.
On the surface he seems to be living an admirable life: a thriving executive, personable and friendly, large home, adorable kids, beautiful wife. What his colleagues and family don’t know is that he has developed a sexual compulsion that is consuming his mind, even taking him to the doorsteps of an underground brothel tucked away on the fringes of his own community.
The short film does not give us the back-story on Gilbert’s life. The audience doesn’t find out what brought him to this point, but we are given some clues. Gilbert’s fantasy life, driven in part by pornography, has spiraled out of control. The film offers viewers a snapshot of the darkest moments of his addiction, the series of events where his secrets are unraveled.
In a parallel fashion, the film also follows a small group of young girls who have been trafficked internationally to suburban America. By the end of the film, viewers are brought to a disquieting climax as Gilbert’s addiction intersects with the lives of these young girls.
10 Seconds is raw and at times difficult to watch. While it does not soft-pedal Gilbert’s sexual rage, it tells a compelling story without titillating the audience. For someone who has struggled to control a porn habit, the movie will offer a knot-in-your-stomach portrait of what happens to a man when his lust has taken complete control.
Using Film to Teach
Many films show the atrocious realities behind sex trafficking. Below are a few good examples. Read more comprehensive lists at Love146.org
– Examines the buyer demand for sex in the U.S., Japan, Jamaica, and the Netherlands
The Candy Shop
– Called a “sex trade fairytale,” a short fantasy film that aims to fuel the growing anti-slavery movement in Atlanta, Georgia
Cargo: Innocence Lost
– Examines the shrouded crime of sex trafficking in the U.S. through compelling interviews with some of the country’s top officials
– A candid look at the exploitation of children and how America is a leading contributor to the problem
– A frank documentary about the problem of the exploitation of children in Atlanta, one of the top ten cities in the world for child sex trafficking
Turning a Corner
– Tells the stories of those involved in fighting the sex trade in Chicago
– Explores the problem of child prostitution on the streets of Phoenix
– A powerful story of one couple’s effort to rescue women from the red light district in Calcutta
Born into Brothels
– An Academy Award-winning documentary about the children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes
The Day My God Died
– A feature-length documentary that presents the stories of young girls whose lives have been shattered by the child sex trade in Bombay
Ray of Hope
– The story of one girl named Suhana who was trafficked not once, but twice
Call + Response
– Examines human trafficking from the child brothels of Cambodia to the slave brick kilns of rural India
Children For Sale
– NBC’ Dateline travels with an undercover human rights group in Cambodia
The Virgin Harvest
– An emotionally-charged, undercover peek at trafficking in Cambodia and stories of rescue
– Examines the social, economic, and cultural forces behind the trafficking of girls from rural Burmese villages into Thailand
Bought & Sold
– Film that documents the trafficking in women for forced prostitution out of the former Soviet Union into Europe, Asia, and the United States
4 Reasons Accountability is Critical for Singles
By Lisa Eldred
“It is not good for man to be alone.”
If you’re at all familiar with this verse, you’re probably used to hearing it in the context of marriage. Perhaps you’ve heard it in a sermon or during a wedding ceremony.
And if you’re living in prolonged singleness, perhaps every time you hear it, you feel somewhat less-than-sufficient for not having somebody. Or maybe the opposite is true, and you have a sense of smug superiority, and you think to yourself, “Relationships are for other people. Me? I can do it all on my own.”
But this verse is about more than marriage. Nobody, not even those who choose singleness, is ever called to do life alone. Jesus always sent the disciples out in pairs, and Paul always traveled with companions. Or consider James 5:16, which says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.”
In reality, we singles need to stick together. Those of us who live alone are especially vulnerable to temptation simply because there’s nobody there to walk in on us. So whether our temptations are to watch pornography or to waste our lives on TV or video games or to wallow in bitterness over our lack of relationships, accountability is critical for us to continue growing in Christ.
I was struck by this shortly before Thanksgiving. My pastor was preparing for a sermon on singleness based on 1 Corinthians 7, and he wanted feedback from some of the single members of the church. Personally, my accountability partner (another single Christian woman) has been the single most helpful factor for me over the last year. I’ve become healthier, less bitter, and more motivated to serve. As I reflected over the last year, I identified four reasons why accountability has been critical.
1. Accountability reminds us we are not alone.
For those living in prolonged singleness, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of self-pity and bitterness. This is especially true at Valentine’s Day or events like weddings or high school reunions. One friend mentioned that at a wedding she attended recently, there were only two unmarried men, and they both brought dates. Having an accountability partner of the same gender and relationship status means that you have someone who understands, and who you can turn to on those rough days.
2. Accountability keeps us healthy.
Did you know that single people die younger than married people
? Granted, that statement is a gross oversimplification – most studies only look at those who have never married in comparison to those married only once, excluding divorcees and widows. But it touches on the principle that accountable relationships, be they marriages or support groups, tend to result in healthier behaviours. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers are founded on this concept. It also has a scriptural basis. James 5 says that we are to confess sins to God for forgiveness, and we are to also confess to each other “that you may be healed.”
I’ve found this particularly true in my own life. My impetus for accountability was weight loss; my accountability partner and I have each lost 30 pounds over the last year. Others may fall into unhealthy financial behaviours, spending money on things we desire instead of keeping budgets and donating to our churches or people in need. Still others of us may be tempted into sexual sin (either pornography use or sleeping around in pursuit of relationships). As Covenant Eyes proves daily through our Accountability software, being held accountable reduces the temptation to fall into such gluttonous patterns, instead replacing them with healthier behaviours.
3. Accountability keeps us involved. 1 Corinthians 7:32 reminds us that “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.” However, most singles, when pressed, will confess that they “waste their singleness,” whether by playing video games or watching TV or becoming married to our job or obsessing over finding a spouse. Simply put, singles have more free time and flexibility than married people, but it also means we have more opportunity to be selfish with our time. Ideally, we need accountability partners who will encourage us to serve (or better yet, who will serve alongside us). Minimally, a regular reciprocal conversation with another single will get us involved in someone else’ story, and remind us that there’s more to life than what we personally face.
4. Accountability provides eternal perspective. Often, the aforementioned selfishness with our time is accompanied by a false humility. This may manifest itself in a belief that because we are unloved, there is something wrong with us that makes us unlovable. Alternately, we may believe we are somehow better than others because we don’t need other people in our lives, unlike those married schmucks. Both of these lead to a lack of trust in God’s work, either that He can use us in spite of ourselves or that we need to rely on His provision.
The reality is that, as Galatians 3 states, as Christians “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” God is at work in all believers, and an accountability partner will be able to look at your life from outside and see where He is moving when we can’t see it ourselves.
YouTube: it’s the world’s largest video sharing website. A remarkable 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute—that’s about 8-years of content uploaded every day. This content is initially unmonitored.
YouTube does have “Community Guidelines
” which specifically state: “YouTube is not for pornography or sexually explicit content
.” With so many videos being posted, how do they enforce these Guidelines?
YouTube users themselves are the first line of defence against inappropriate videos. YouTube.com has enabled users to “flag” videos they deem inappropriate. When you click the “flag” icon, you have the opportunity to indicate why you think the video violates the Community Guidelines.
After you flag a video, YouTube staff review it to see if it fails to conform to the Guidelines. As far as sexual content goes, YouTube stresses,
Most nudity is not allowed, particularly if it is in a sexual context. Generally if a video is intended to be sexually provocative, it is less likely to be acceptable for YouTube.
There are exceptions for some educational, documentary, scientific, and artistic content, but only if that is the sole purpose of the video and it is not gratuitously graphic. For example, a documentary on breast cancer would be appropriate, but posting clips out of context from the documentary might not be.
Porn on YouTube
That being said, there are still thousands of provocative videos on YouTube. Some never get flagged. Others, even when flagged, do not technically break the Community Guidelines, so they are allowed to remain on YouTube.
In 2009 the Media Research Center (MRC) examined the volume of softcore pornography on YouTube. They looked at the most popular search results for the word “porn.”
- Searching the word “porn” returned more than 330,000 results, many of which were sexually suggestive in their language and themes.
- There were 157 videos with more than one million views each found under this search. Two-thirds of these advertised themselves as being actual pornography.
- Many videos featured clips from actual porn movies, interviews with porn stars, advertisements for porn sites, and phone sex lines.
- Profanity was also commonplace in the titles and comments for the videos.
Child Porn on Canada’s Internet: shutting down a multibillion dollar market -place Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at 8:26AM
Don Hutchinson in Pornography
Last week, the Government of Canada introduced Bill C-58
, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service
. Once passed, this simple piece of legislation is expected to change the landscape (Netscape) of online child porn. Child pornography is a multi-billion dollar a year industry and the internet has become its primary market place.
The act requires internet service providers to report the internet protocol address or burl of any of their clients about whom they are advised or believe may be hosting child pornography. They are also required to preserve the evidence of reported child pornography on their servers for a 21 day period unless required by a court order to keep it longer.
The legislation goes on to protect the internet service provider from lawsuits arising out of their preservation and disclosure to appropriate authorities of the information related to the child porn. Failure to reportis a criminal offence.
Hopefully the legislation will move swiftly through the House of Commons and the Senate. In the protection of children, Bill C-58 will be good companion legislation to last year’s raising of the age of consent to sexual activity with an adult from 14 years of age to 16 and Bill C-268, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (minimum sentences involving trafficking of persons under the age of 18) which is currently being delayed in the Senate following strong support and passage in the House of Commons.
From the initial passage of child pornography legislation
in 1993, through the validation of that legislation by the Supreme Court of Canada
in R v Sharpe
in 2001 to the current proposal intended to police internet distribution of child porn, Canada has extended increasing protection for children against a crime that was once thought unimaginable. This is a good law. Children deserve the right to be children, protected – not perverted – by all adults in their life.
My Daughter was Caught By a Predator: A Word of Warning from One Parent to Another
by Mary Kozakiewicz
On New Year’s Day, 2002, my 13-year-old daughter, Alicia, was lured from our Pennsylvania home and stolen to Virginia by a man whom she had been introduced to online. For eight months, this sadistic madman masqueraded as her friend, grooming my daughter, restructuring her thought patterns through coercive mind control, and bypassing those core values which her father and I had laboured to deeply ingrain. A 38-year-old computer programmer, father to his own 12 year old daughter, held my little girl captive, chained to the floor by her neck in his basement dungeon as he repeatedly raped and tortured her. Throughout the entire grooming process, my husband and I were totally clueless, and therefore helpless to circumvent the unfolding tragedy.
Our Lives Before
The night of Alicia’s abduction was blisteringly cold. Outside of our warm family home, redolent of holiday fragrance, the winds raged and whipped snowy ice crystals against the candle-lit windows reflecting our traditional little two-parent two-child family.
It is captured forever in my mind’s eye, this golden moment in time. We were happy, secure–and desperately unprepared for what would follow. To the casual passerby, we would have appeared to be an All-American Norman Rockwell painting, and certainly, that’s what we felt that we were. As with any family, our lives were certainly less than perfection but, to this day, I miss the “us” that we were before January 1, 2002.
Looking back, I treasure my memory of our joined hands; heads bowed in prayer, as we shared those moments we were most thankful for in the year past, and our resolutions for the new. These were our last moments of grace.
For, in the passage of these ten years, each of us has been irrevocably altered, and our lives overshadowed by the event. One does not survive every parent’s worst nightmare and remain unscathed.
The Nightmare and the Rescue
When Alicia, excusing herself from the dinner table, slipped silently out of our front door and into oblivion, she carried with her the hopes, dreams, and the expectations that for each parent begin the moment our children are born. Hours later, after police reports were made and family members had returned to their own home, we sat curled in terrified misery as through our suddenly silent home, the clock’s tick-tick-ticking counted the seconds of our precious child’s life—and our own—slip-slip-slipping away.
The specialized law enforcement which responded, The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, shared with us in the days that followed that our daughter’s chance of recovery was perhaps a million to one. It would take a miracle…
Nearly hopeless, and brought to our knees, us to our knees by grief and exhaustion, we began to do the only thing left to us: we prayed. We prayed for miracles. And they came.
Days, eternities later, Law Enforcement was able to locate the needle in the haystack that was my daughter, only because the braggart Internet Predator shared Alicia’s abuse and degradation with his fellow pedophiliac perverts via streaming online video. Cutting the chains from Alicia’s neck, they returned her to freedom—and to my arms.
Parents Remain Clueless
A decade’s journey behind us, our family has risen from its knees to wage war against online sexual abuse and exploitation. Internet crimes against children have grown exponentially, and no child—or their parents—are safe from these monsters.
When Alicia was lured and abducted, the Internet was in its infancy. Most parents, myself included, knew little to nothing of this new technology that had begun to forever restructure the ways in which humanity would interact with each other. Unbeknownst to parents, schools had begun teaching our children how to surf the net, but were neglecting to teach them how to protect themselves online.
This is not acceptable! Parents must educate themselves to the dangers their children are encountering each and every time they set their fingers to the keyboard. The tragedy that Alicia and our family suffered may be on the extreme end of the spectrum, but the danger that every child is constantly exposed to every time he or she goes online is no less damaging. The availability of hardcore porn, which incessantly attacks even the innocent and unsuspecting children as they surf the web, desensitizes them and endangers their future ability to maintain decent loving marriages. Indeed, young people have shared with us their Internet addiction as well as their fear that the Internet has led them to prey on younger children. So, what can parents do? We can do a lot!
The Sexualization of Our Children
First and foremost, we must acknowledge that, through media, our children are being sexualized far beyond their ability to cope with the psychological ramifications. Subsequently, we must cease to hide behind those psychological defence mechanisms that give a false sense of security.
After Alicia’s recovery, the general public chose to believe that we were poor parents and to place the blame on our family rather than on the predator. Thus, they were able to convince themselves that if we were “bad parents” as compared to their ”good” parenting, then their resultant “good child” was safe. But quite the opposite is true.
The web is a level playing field for predators. Every child—yes, your little prince or princess—is vulnerable. Alicia’s abductor initially began the grooming process by simply being her friend and by giving her seemingly unconditional love, something that any responsible parent setting boundaries and enforcing consequences can rarely compete with.
Therefore, as parents we must strive to communicate with our children in an open and honest manner when discussing the Web and its inherent dangers. Despite the discomfiture we may feel when discussing sexually taboo areas with our children, kids need to know that they can confide in us without our becoming judgmental. Predators will use that same fear and shame as coercion.
On the other hand, we must also acknowledge that, as their safety is our responsibility, nothing should be left to chance. Privacy issues are no argument when the need for monitoring software arises.
We lock our doors and our liquor cabinets. We surreptitiously sniff their breath for evidence of cigarettes or alcohol. Logically, if we hold them to geographical boundaries and curfews, we should do so on the Internet highway as well. Remember: it’s their home, but it’s our house and our computer. As such, we have the right to monitor usage.
Call your local legislators; ask them what laws they are endorsing to battle child sexual exploitation. Vote accordingly. All too often I have been asked whether I suffered from feelings of guilt, and my answer has been that I do not. I know that I did everything that I could have to protect Alicia utilizing the information that I had been given at that time.
But I am a mother, and as parents, we are ultimately responsible, aren’t we? I would give anything to have known better, to have saved Alicia from that monster.
Consider this your wake-up call, moms and dads. How will you answer that question?
Table Talk – Conversation Starters About Cyberbullying and Cyberbaiting
Writtenby Luke Gilkerson
Using fresh news stories can be a great way for parents to spark discussions with their kids and teens about how to be a good cyber citizen. “Table Talk
” is a series on Breaking Free, passing along recent headlines about Internet temptations and dangers. Use the questions provided to get your family thinking about Internet safety and responsibility.
Teen Kills Herself After Many Hurtful Facebook Comments
Two day after Christmas, 15-year-old Staten Island student Amanda Diane Cummings
jumped in front of a city bus, killing herself. Amanda was reportedly driven over the edge by people who bullied her, both in person and on Facebook.
“Dealing with bullies in school has always been a problem that high school students have had to face,” writes Caitlin Larsen
, a junior at Staten Island Technical School. “However, bullying has recently expanded its grip on young people through the use of social networking sites. Unlike the face-to-face bullying that goes on in school, there is no escape from Cyberbullying after the last bell of the school day rings
Following Amanda’s suicide, a New York Senator, Jeffery Klein, has introduced a bill
that would create harsher penalties for cyberbullies, including certain kinds of Cyberbullying in current stalking, harassment, and hate crimes laws.
- Do you see people treating one another in a mean way over Facebook?
- Do you think digital words can hurt, in a way, more than words said face-to-face? Why?
Cyberbaiting: Teachers Caught on Tape
All you have to do is venture over to YouTube and type “teacher hits student” or “teacher flipping out” or “teacher yelling at student” and you will find a long list of cell phone videos shot by students from the comfort of their desks. It’s called “Cyberbaiting,” when students irritate a teacher until the teacher starts to lose it, and someone in the classroom catches the whole thing on video.
According to a report from Symantec
, more than 1 in 5 teachers say they have had personally experienced or know another teacher who has experienced Cyberbaiting
Beyond just Cyberbaiting, schools recognize the liabilities of cell phones in the classroom. According to a study from Pew Internet
, more than 6 out of 10 teens (62%) say they are allowed to have a cell phone at school but not in class, and another quarter of teens (24%) say they are not allowed to have cell phones at school at all. Despite these restrictions, 87% of teens who aren’t allowed phones in class still take their phones to school with them several times a week or every day.
- Do you see cell phones in school a lot? How often?
- Do you think it is appropriate for students to bait teachers this way? What about just catching a teacher on film getting angry?
Young Adults Prefer the Internet to Driving
In a survey that will be published later this year, Gartner Research found46% of 18-24-year-olds would choose access to the Internet over access to their own car
. The survey also found only 15% of baby boomers would say the same. In general, teens drive less overall today than they did in past generations, Gartner Research found.
Thilo Koslowski, lead automotive analyst for Gartner, commented that mobile devices “offer a degree of freedom and social reach that previously only the automobile offered.” Koslowski said
, “The iPhone is the Ford Mustang of today.”
- If you had to choose between access to the Internet and access to a car, which would you choose?
- Why do you think so many young adults would choose the Internet over their own car?
“He’s so useless, if he had a third hand he would need a third pocket to put it in.”
This is how some Covenant Eyes members feel about their Accountability Partners. As I glance through e-mails and comments from our members, it is clear some don’t feel their Partner is really up to the task.
What do you want from your Accountability Partner?
Of course, some people don’t want a super-vigilant Accountability Partner. Earlier last year I sent out a survey to our blog readers about why they value having the Covenant Eyes Accountability program on their computers and cell phones. I asked our users to give a number rating on a scale of 1 to 10:
- 1 = “I rarely or never have conversations with my Accountability Partner(s) about my Accountability Report. I just like knowing I’m being watched.”
- 10 = “I have regular conversations with my Accountability Partner(s), and we often talk about my Accountability Report, even when the report looks good.”
I was surprised by the results. Over half (53%) of the people said 1, 2, or 3. Only 20% said 7, 8, 9, or 10. It seems, even for our regular readers, the thing many of them value about Internet Accountability is just the knowledge that someone is watching them. They aren’t necessarily looking for a proactive Partner to help keep them in line.
Still there are others who want more.
In a recent comment, “Tim
” said there are three reasons why his Accountability Partner is falling short:
- His Partner does not show due diligence: he doesn’t read each Report and offer some specific comments on each one.
- His Partner is not timely: he doesn’t offer feedback until he has multiple Reports and is playing catch-up.
- His Partner is not alert to the whole Report: he doesn’t look at the “grey areas” on the Report—not just the Highly Mature sites but others that could be problematic.
Setting Expectations: 7 Tips
Before you fire you Accountability Partner, you may need to have a talk about expectations.
- Tell your Partner to how often you think they should get the Accountability Report. They can get your Reports delivered to them once every three days, once a week, or once every two weeks. Tell them which frequency you think is best based on your Internet surfing habits. Your Accountability Partner can change this Report setting on our website.
- Tell your Partner which sensitivity level is best for your Accountability Reports. Your Partner can choose a Report Sensitivity Level, giving them a choice about what web ratings they want to see on each Report. Are you only concerned about visiting porn sites? Then the HM (Highly Mature) setting is probably right for your Reports. Are you also concerned about other sites that might provoke lust (lingerie sites, crude humour, video sharing sites, dating sites, etc.)? Then the M (Mature) or MT (Mature Teen) settings might be better. Your Partner can also change this setting on our website.
- Tell your Partner to pay close attention to sites with high ratings. Your Partner can get a glance of some of the highest ratings by going to the “High Ratings per Site” module on the Accountability Report. Often page titles will appear which should give your Partner a better idea about a questionable site. If page titles don’t appear, have your Partner look for questionable words in the web address, if there are any. Your Partner can learn more about how to read the Report here.
- Tell your Partner what times of day or night he/she should look out for. If you don’t think you should be online at 1:00 a.m., tell your Partner that. Each time a website is accessed, the time it was accessed will also appear on the Accountability Report. To get a general overview of this, tell you Partner to go to the “Average Hourly Usage” module on the Report. They’ll see a graph showing the times of day in percentages when the Internet was accessed.
- Tell your Partner about any “grey areas” he/she should be looking out for. You know where you get into the most trouble. Is it Facebook? Chat sites? Photo sharing? YouTube? Talk to your Partner about those sites and make sure they keep an eye out for them on the Report.
- Tell your Partner to ask you about any questionable web searches. On every Report you can choose to see the “Web Searches” module which gives a list of all the highly rated searches you did. Tell your Partner to always pay close attention to this section and ask you specifically about any questionable search.
- Tell your Partner how often and under what circumstances you expect them to talk to you about your Report. Do you want to hear from your Partner right after he/she sees the Report? Tell them that. Do you only want them to talk to you after a questionable Report, or even when the Report looks good? Tell them that. When they contact you, do you prefer they drop you an e-mail, call you, or talk to you in person? Tell them that. Setting these expectation will really help them do their job better.
Is the iPad the Real American Idol?
Writtenby Dan Lohrmann
I gave my wife Priscilla an iPad for Christmas this year and life will never be quite the same in the Lohrmann household. Yes, she’s owned (and regularly used) desktops, laptops, cellphones and more over the past decade, but this is different—very different. Allow me to explain.
After plenty of research, we decided to buy the iPad 2 WiFi + 3G version, so she could use it easily on the road. Now, she always has it with her. Whether playing music, reading the Bible (at home or in church), visiting friends, driving my daughter back to college (from central Michiganto Chicago), writing her grocery list or looking for a dinner recipe, she’s discovered the meaning of the popular phrase: “There’s an app for that.”
To say that she really likes her iPad would be a vast understatement—like saying Mount Everest is a tall hill.
At work, a similar transformation is occurring. Since the early days of working with (Michigan) Governor Snyder’s transition team in 2010, it was clear that iPads were more than a cool new fad; they were the “new normal” in government. Over the past year, I’ve seen the same trend nationwide with businesses, university students, and more jumping on the bandwagon. In fact, the explosion of tablet PCs (including the Kindle Fire and Droid-enabled versions) is starting to create that paperless office we’ve been talking about for decades—with e-books and helpful applications for just about every possible activity.
Meanwhile, the content being offered to us is changing as well. New applications, websites, videos, music and attractive services from Google, Facebook, Twitter and new start-up companies continue to raise expectations and possibilities. The dream of any data on any device at anytime from anywhere is slowly becoming a reality.
Context on Virtual Change
As a Chief Security Officer (CSO) for a large enterprise, my team is trying to come to grips with this new world with smartphones, tablet PCs, cloud computing and always-changing technology that is being “enhanced” just as we figure out the previous version. We’re not alone, and the challenges from the “consumerization of IT” can be seen annually at the Consumer Electronics Show
in Las Vegas.
Amazingly, technology company names are becoming new verbs all over the place with “googling” and “skyping” now a way of life for all of us.
No, this is not an advertisement for Apple or Google or Microsoft or any other technology company. Nor am I setting you up for a big “BUT BE WARNED” or “BEWARE!”
The reality is that I love using state-of-the-art technology, and for the most part, new tech tools and toys have been very helpful in my life. I’ve been labelled “more a technophile than a Luddite
” on a few occasions, and I admit that this is true. Like my wife, I have an iPad + blackberry + laptop for government work. While seldom on Facebook, I regularly update my LinkedIn account. I find learning about paradigm-shifting advances in cyberspace to be intriguing, fun, efficient, and necessary for professional growth. I also enjoying sharing ideas online, like writing this blog. My children are growing up with all this stuff and loving each new gadget and innovation as well.
But I’m writing this article because I never cease to be dumbfounded by the extraordinary pace of the technology revolution. Ever since I started to study computer science over 30 years ago in high school, the exponential transformation has been both exciting and scary to me at the same time. (Side note—I love funny videos like this one
that describe our modern advances in fun ways.)
Bottom line—our society’s adoption of new technologies has implications for our privacy, security, faith, careers, purity, families, personal interactions, and a host of other topics. So how can we navigate this tough road as we head into 2012 and beyond? Over the next few months, I’d like to offer some specific thoughts in a series of blogs on this topic. I’d like to start with that elusive goal: balance.
Great church leaders throughout the ages, such as Martin Luther, emphasized both freedom as well as responsibility
in living out the Christian faith. In the 21 century, I believe that this means we need to think through the ramifications of online life and intentionally develop habits that can benefit from the virtual opportunities and also withstand the persistent storms ranging in cyberspace.
Over the past few years since I wrote the book Virtual Integrity
, I’ve learned that an important aspect to surfing your values
is to maintain balance—or keeping priorities straight over time regardless of technology, culture or personal situations that often change.
So what does this look like? How can we “maintain balance” in cyberspace? What about disconnecting?
What are the areas that we need to think through regarding Internet and technology adoption? I’d like to address three foundational topics:
- Balance of intentions
- Balance of possibilities
- Balance regarding iPads (or other Internet access device)
These three areas are generally not topics that we think about in detail each day, but it can be helpful to stop and think about each aspect several times a year. Since we are just stating 2012, perhaps now is a good time to discuss this topic with a family member or trusted friend. As you work through these items, think back to what you actually have done online (and with technology) over the past few months, and what you aspire to do in the future.
Three Areas of Balance
Balance in intentions
(Jesus said) “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:21 (NIV)
The first thing we need to examine as we use technology and/or visit cyberspace is our intentions. What do we want to accomplish? Where are we going? Why? How much time do we intend to stay there? Many people think of these topics as “heart issues” or motivations. And yet, do we apply these questions to how we spend our time online?
I know that if my heart is not in the right place, I’m much more susceptible to be tempted to go places or view material that is not good for me or perhaps not the best use of my time. This is especially hard when I’m tired at the end of a day, and I’m just relaxing.
One time, I was online at home after work but before dinner. I started-off by answering personal emails. Before I knew it, I had spent almost an hour watching NFL.com and ESPN videos about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.
You might say “what’s wrong with that?” Answer: Sometimes…nothing. But the truth is I should have spent that time getting some chores done or interacting with my children. That poor judgment led to a “mini” argument and problems with family members later that night.
One tip: think through your virtual journey before you go online, just as you think through where you will shop before driving to a mall.
Balance in possibilities
“Everything is permissible—but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible—but noteverything is constructive.” 1 Cor. 10:23 (NIV)
The Internet offers an infinite number of possibilities. From sports, to shopping to school work, almost every activity is online. And yet, do we have too many possibilities or connect too often? Is technology crowding out quality time with family or church?
As I describe in detail in my book, web designers have mastered the art of “tempting the click” to get us to go places we never intended to visit when we went online. Perhaps we should limit the possibilities to the areas that we have determined to be most beneficial to our current situation. Using Covenant Eyes
is one way to filter content and allow an Accountability Partner(s) to see where you are spending your time online. No doubt, fun and games can be a part of the equation – but we should strive for appropriate balance and not be overcome by the moment.
One tip: Set time limits on web surfing or games—even for yourself.
One interesting side note: major technology companies are working with the European Community to age-rate the Internet
in coming years. I expect this to be extended to the USA. This trend may help Christians and others who want to surf their values with more integrity.
Balance on my iPad (or other device)
(Jesus said) “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matt 6:19-20 (NIV)
The question to ask here is do you really need that new device? Is that $5 download really essential? Do you feel required to go from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 4s to get the latest features like Siri
? Is an annual upgrade required? At times the answer may be yes. Nevertheless, I think many in America fail to realize how buying the latest technology is the new way we “Keep up with the Jones in 2012”—especiallywith the housing market doing so poorly.
We have become a society where people upgrade smartphones and cellphones well before the contract expires, regardless of cost, just because of the cute new color and design of the device. I suppose this isn’t any different from recent fight over new Air Jordan shoes
, but I am convicted just thinking about these things after reading Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount. So how much is enough?
One tip: try not to buy on impulse, but discuss purchases with someone you trust first.
In conclusion, I urge readers to take a prayerful look at their online life. Consider how our Jesus’ words pertain to technology and your online life. Think about your use of Facebook, iPhone, YouTube or (fill-in-your-favourite-technology.) Finally, we need to ask hard questions like: Is the iPad the Real American idol?
My answer: Probably, now what can we do about it?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the use of technology in your life.
. . . .
is an internationally recognized Internet and computer security expert. Currently, Mr. Lohrmann works as the CSO for the state of Michigan. For seven years he served as the Chief Information Security Officer for the Michigan government. He started his career in the National Security Agency, and later worked in England for seven years with Lockheed Martin followed by Mantech International. Dan holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science (CS) from Johns Hopkins Universityin Baltimore, Maryland, and a Bachelor’s Degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana. He is the author of Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web
"If you want to be an ethical consumer of porn...pay for it"
Friday, August 6, 2010 at1:27PM
Julia Beazley in Pornography, Prostitution
Wow. That line is the conclusion of an article in the Life section of today’s Globe and Mail, titled, How to Revel in Porn and Feel Good About It
. I started reading, hoping – and I’ll admit, expecting – to find that the title was intended to be ironic. Instead, the piece is a matter-of-fact, (if not terribly thorough) quick exploration of a few ‘ethical issues’ the author has been struck by as he’s “surfed through videos on websites that aggregate porn.” Namely, “is there any way to become an ethical consumer of smut.”
Admittedly, some credit is due the author for beginning to ask important questions about the porn industry. What happens off camera? How are the actors and actresses treated? Are men and women coerced into sex acts, either through circumstances of economic disparity or even rape? What about condom use? Are they fairly compensated for their ‘labour’?
These are good questions, even important questions. But I’m certain that if he had really done his homework in seeking answers to them, he might have come up with a different conclusion than “if you want to be an ethical consumer of porn, pay for it”. He would have landed on a question that didn’t ask how to be an ethical consumer of porn, but rather whether that was even possible.
“As a major industry, the porn business does not just construct and sell a product; it constructs a world in which the product can be sold: the technologies, the business models, the enthusiastic consumers, the compliant performers, the tolerant laws, even the ideologies that proclaim porn to be the very pinnacle of empowerment and liberation”
She calls porn sex ‘debased, dehumanized, formulaic and generic,’ sex that ‘encodes deep cultural scripts of male entitlement and female subservience.’ What she describes is a sex that is so deeply contrary to the dignity of each and every human, male and female, created in the image of God.
I’ll confess, when it comes to pornography – and to be very clear, I mean where the subject matter involves adults and doesn’t involve violence or overtly degrading acts – I used to wonder if I should exercise a live and let live attitude.
But as I have become more and more familiar with the issues of prostitution and human trafficking, I’ve become increasingly convinced there isn’t anything live and let live about pornography. To ignore the intricate connections between all these facets of the so-called ‘sex trade’ is both ignorant and irresponsible.
There is much more than a simple question of morality involved. It is a question of justice. And while I may waffle on what my role is and ought to be in speaking to questions of morality, I know for certain I am called to “do justice.”
It seems our society has been groomed (a term used to describe how child predators prepare their victims) to believe that as long as there is consent, and willing participation, it’s an informed choice, it’s okay, it’s ethical, and it shouldn’t be anyone else’ s business.
But as it is with the issue of prostitution, in stark contrast to the few voices that argue freedom of choice and women’s liberation, there are more and more women who have ‘survived’ these industries who are speaking out about how unsafe, non-consensual, undignified and unliberated these so-called professions are in reality.
In an address at the June 2010 Stop Porn Culture Conference, Gail Dines said that for all the successful, apparently glamorous porn stars we see on the television programs like Oprah or Howard Stern, there are “thousands of women that go to the San Fernando Valley with stars in their eyes and come away with scars on their bodies. Some go back to their low paid jobs while others end up on the streets under the control of pimps, in the brothels of Nevada, or doing the type of porn that is considered to be beyond the mainstream, even by the porn industry…These are the women the pro-porn people never want to talk about because they bring into stark focus just how the industry really treats women.
Their lives illustrate the contempt and utter disregard that the industry has for women and the reality of their lives is hidden behind the mantra of ‘well, they consented.’ What does consent mean in a world where women are the poorest, hungriest and most overworked group? What does consent mean in a world where according to economist Amartya Sen
, 100 million women are missing? And we don’t even notice their absence.”
These words firmly put to rest any notions of a ‘live and let live’ mindset when it comes to pornography. The porn industry uses, abuses and exploits vulnerable people. And, it has so infiltrated our society that the common understanding is that it’s all okay, that boys will be boys, and that boys want porn… increasingly graphic and hardcore porn.
What struck me most as I read the article was that porn was presented as just so… normal. This unquestionably unhealthy and unnatural representation of sexuality was, for an author writing in a major national newspaper, simply... normal. And his suggestion to any ethical dilemma that porn might present? We should try at least to make sure our sources of porn are reputable, compensate the actors fairly, and oh, make sure you pay for it.
As a mother of a six year old boy, I firmly believe that it is in fact true that ‘boys will be boys’. Little boys say and do things that sometimes make VERY little sense to me. And I love it. I wouldn’t dream for a second of trying to stifle any of his little boy-ness.
But I refuse to accept that being a boy means being complicit in either an industry or in societal attitudes that exploit and demean and dehumanize sex and those who engage in it. That say anyone is entitled to treat anyone else’ s sexuality and person-hood as something that can be bought or sold.
I refuse to believe men are born with a propensity to be violent and misogynistic. And I will do my best to raise my little boy to become a man who respects and values women – and sex – and will never think that it’s okay to treat either as a commodity, whether on the internet, at the video store, on a street corner or in a strip club.
Child Pornography and Canada’s Minister of Justice
Monday, February 22, 2010 at12:25PM
Don Hutchinson in Pornography
This past weekend I attended the extremely well organized Christian Legal Fellowship National Christian Law Student Conference hosted by University of Ottawa law students. Kudos to organizers for a great event with great speakers including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson as the keynote speaker for the opening session on Thursday night.
I arrived a little late as it can be hard to break away from a conversation with a Chippewa elder (and I really enjoyed the wisdom he had to share), but that’s a story for a different day. Because of my late arrival I didn’t hear all of Justice Minister Rob Nicholson' s talk but did hear some words of wisdom shared by a Conservative elder, Nicholson having been first elected to Parliament in 1984.
We live in a hyper-sexualized culture and children are, unfortunately, not immune from it. Sex sells cars, clothes and children’s toys. Unfortunately, sex with children also sells and so do images of that action.
Nicholson was a member of the cabinet in the Progressive Conservative government that enacted section 163.1 of the Criminal Code in 1993. The production, possession, sale and distribution of child pornography in Canada is illegal as a result.
In November 1998, the law was challenged by John Robin Sharpe who had been charged with two counts of possessing child pornography. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, having been engaged on this issue since the 1980s and involved in the passing of the law in 1993, stood before the court as an intervener in its defense.
The law was upheld by the Supreme Court of Canada, with two exceptions: written or visual presentation created by an individual from his or her imagination and held for his or her exclusive personal use; and, visual recording that did not depict unlawful sexual activity, created with the consent of the participants and held exclusively for personal use. At the time of the decision in R. v. Sharpe
, that meant that those able to legally consent to sexual activity with an adult could be filmed while doing so, an age set at 14 since the enactment of the Criminal Code in the 1890s.
As Government Leader in the House of Commons, and subsequently Minister of Justice, Nicholson oversaw the introduction and enactment of legislation to reduce the gap established in R. v. Sharpe by raising the age of consent to sexual activity with an adult from 14 to 16 years of age effective May 1, 2008. Nicholson stated on Thursday evening that he was pleased to have played a role in protecting children from predators in both adding child pornography to the Criminal Code and increasing the protection afforded children by two more years with the change in age of consent.
Noting his personal concern for the protection of children, Nicholson was pleased to tell students that although Bill C-58
, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service,
had died on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued, the government would be reintroducing the legislation when the next session begins in March.
People of faith can and do engage in the political process, making a difference and making good public policy motivated by the faith that inspires them. The students were impressed with Minister Nicholson’ s perspective and accomplishments. And, we look forward to the re-introduced legislation in the hope that it will move quickly through House and Senate to continue to extend the protection of children that is part of the legacy of the Honourable Rob Nicholson’ s career.
As I wrote on December 1, 2009
, “Children deserve the right to be children, protected – not perverted – by all adults in their life.”
Experts Admitting Internet Addiction Really Does Exist (It’s About Time!)
by Rev. Jim Rose, LLPC
A thirteen year old boy, punching holes in the wall, throwing things angrily, going to school only intermittently, refusing to do anything that will take him away from his obsession. Is this the plot of a new reality TV show? No. Actually it’s a real boy from Sydney, Australia. His mother is beside herself and desperate for help. She’s gone to specialists. She’s talked to a psychiatrist. What could possibly have such a hold on him? His mother said, he won’t go to school. He missed most of this year and most of last year.
I can’t get him out the door. I am a petite person, just 44kg, and he is quite tall for his age so I can’t pick him up and put him in the car when he refuses.
We have spoken to the school and they have spoken to him but he is not worried about it at all. We have called the police because he gets aggressive when you take the computer away.
He starts punching holes through the walls, throwing things around and threatening you. And this all has to do with World Of Warcraft, the most addictive game.
I wish I had never bought it.
The Reality of Internet Addiction
The article tells the story of another Australian boy who has been admitted to a hospital study attempting to control destructive Internet usage:
The first teenager admitted to hospital partly due to computer addiction volunteered to spend a number of weeks at the Rivendell Adolescent Unit at Concord, receiving therapy and doing schoolwork.
The teen, who accepted he needed to be separated from his computer if the treatment was to succeed, said he was now gaming two or three hours a day instead of six hours. “I am still playing but I am controlling it a bit better and I’m not doing it through the night,” he said. “The treatment was to find a useful substitute to gaming as the best way to manage it. I am now playing sports–basketball, tennis, swimming–and hope to study business at university.”
I hope you’re not laughing at these poor kids. It is hard for those who haven’t been touched by the reality of Internet addiction to really believe it. How could a kid spend six hours a day playing computer games? What parent would really have to call the police to intervene between a child and his computer?
But there are many who do laugh in skeptical unbelief. Even “experts” have concluded that Internet usage is really not that big a problem. Typical of the sceptics is John M. Grohol, a mental health professional and editor of the Psychcentral
website. He wrote an article titled, “Why Internet Addiction Still Doesn’t Exist
After an analysis of ten years of scientific research on “Internet addiction” Grohol concluded: What’s happening today and some people’s reaction to the Internet is neither new nor unique—it’s as old as technology itself (starting with the printing press). It’s an overreaction to suggest that the Internet is somehow different than what’s come before, as history tells us otherwise. Every new technology unleashed on society from the 1800s on was thought to be the end of civilized society—the paperback book, the telephone, the automobile, the motion picture, television, and finally video games. And now, the Internet is the latest in a long line of demons society would like to blame for some of its problems.
I don’t deny that some small subset of people have behavioural problems with learning how to integrate using parts of the Internet into their everyday lives. But people have similar problems with work, the television, and many other things in life, and we can still treat them without demonizing (and labelling) the conduit that brings a person new entertainment, information, or enjoyment.
Now isn’t this an interesting use of logic? Dr. Grohol said that Internet addiction can’t possibly be real because the Internet is simply a technology and people have been demonizing harmless technologies for generations.
Notice that last phrase: the Internet is the latest in a long line of demons society would like to blame for some of its problems. Is this really what the proponents of Internet addiction believe?That the Internet is demonic and evil?
I suppose there are some “Luddites” out there who would try to make this point, but that’s not where the debate rages. The very concept of an addiction suggests neurological, behavioural and chemical changes in the addict. It’s not about the substance as much as changes in the person making it increasingly difficult for self-control. That certainly seems to be what happened to the boys in Australia. But it isn’t just out of touch Luddites who are recognizing it.
A Diagnosable Condition
For example, there is cutting edge research on Internet abuse by scientist William Struthers. If you haven’t seen his scholarly yet accessible work, Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain,
you really should. While Struthers and others like him are careful not to get caught up in the “addiction” or “non-addiction” debate, I believe his research lays the foundation for understanding the addictive potential of this kind of behaviour.
I’m hopeful that the voices of sceptics like Grohol will become less influential as more and more experts see the light. A huge step forward would be if Internet addiction is included in the upcoming fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The DSM is the recognized authority on mental health diagnoses, used by professionals everywhere. If it is included it will go a long way toward elevating the risks of uncontrolled Internet activity.
Internet addiction appears to be a common disorder that merits inclusion in DSM-V. Conceptually, the diagnosis is a compulsive-impulsive spectrum disorder that involves online and/or offline computer usage…and consists of at least three subtypes: excessive gaming, sexual preoccupations, and e-mail/text messaging…
All of the variants share the following four components:
1) excessive use, often associated with a loss of sense of time or a neglect of basic drives
2) withdrawal, including feelings of anger, tension, and/or depression when the computer is inaccessible
3) tolerance, including the need for better computer equipment, more software, or more hours of use
4) negative repercussions, including arguments, lying, poor achievement, social isolation, and fatigue.
While this debate over whether Internet abuse is or is not an addiction may seem irrelevant to most of us—especially the parents of teens like I mentioned above—I beg to differ. The terminology signals a cultural and professional mindset with significant implications.
The more we minimize or marginalize a problem the longer it will spiral out of control.
Those “gatekeepers” of society—parents, teachers, medical and mental health professionals—need assistance in recognizing and dealing with social problems. They need heightened awareness. They need to heed the early warning signs so they can push the alarm buttons when problems are presented. Admitting that some Internet abuse is an addiction might have that benefit.
There’s one other thing. It reminds us how destructive and deadly this abuse can be. Very few people need help understanding how harmful alcohol or drug addiction is. We’ve been trained to cry for help and insist on intervention in these situations. Perhaps the growing willingness on the part of the mental health community to treat Internet gaming, pornography and texting as potentially addictive will have the positive effect of expanding research and treatment plans even more in the days to come.
The Bully Epidemic
by Michele Santos
Far from a benign rite of passage, bullying threatens the long-term health of students across the country. Thousands of elementary, middle and high school students in the United States are bullied every year, usually because they are different in some way. Sometimes the victims are teased, pushed around or hit because of their ethnicity or sexual orientation. Others are harassed because they are poor or overweight, have a learning disability, or are shy.
No matter what the reason, bullying can have serious, long-term psychological consequences. Constant bullying as a child may lead to suicidal tendencies later. Studies of school shooters have shown that virtually all were continually teased in school.
While clearly not everyone who is bullied becomes a murderer, school shootings do show the danger posed by prevalent attitudes toward bullying. Assuming it is a youth problem that will go away on its own, experts say, will only increase the numbers of tortured teens capable of violence.
Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho was bullied in high school, former classmates say, because of his race and accent. (Cho and his family were from South Korea.) It's perilous for our society to treat bullying as a normal part of growing up, says Dr. Warren Blumenfeld, a professor at Iowa State University who travels across the country giving talks about preventing bullying.
Parents and teachers often dismiss bullying incidents with a "boys will be boys, girls will be girls" shrug, but "this is a societal toxic attitude that needs to be changed," Blumenfeld says. "Bullying has profound consequences for those who are bullied and those who do the bullying." Blumenfeld says there's a "definite connection" between being a victim of bullying and going on to commit acts of violence.
"When you feel you don't have any chances, you have nothing to lose," Blumenfeld says. "The perpetrators (of school shootings in recent years) felt that there was no one out there for them." Dr. Michele Borba, an author and educational psychologist who regularly appears on "The Today Show," says the intensity of bullying has increased in recent years.
According to Borba, the National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children skip school each day because they are afraid of being harassed or victimized. One out of seven children has been bullied, she says. "Bullying is far more intense, far more relentless and occurs at younger ages," than before, Borba says. A child who is constantly bullied often becomes a bully after bottling up a dangerous amount of fury and resentment.
"They have so much anger built up—they've got that anger, long-term, emotionally kicking on them," Borba says. "Some kids can blow it off. These kids (the school shooters) don't have that resilience factor. You finally find that this kid is a pressure cooker."
Many children and teens who are cruelly bullied for years are at risk for committing suicide, Blumenfeld says. "There are serious psychological outcomes in those who have been bullied, from depression to suicide attempts to social anxiety disorder," Blumenfeld says. Blumenfeld says he was constantly bullied by his classmates because he is gay. "I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder" as a result of being bullied, Blumenfeld says. "I've been in therapy for 40 years."
Blumenfeld was able to build a successful life and academic career because of the support from his parents: "My parents helped me in understanding that it wasn't my problem. It was society's problem. For those young people who were not as supported as I was, we see the suicides."
In the case of school shooters, Blumenfeld says, "We see people who were crying for help, and then turned on others. Suicide and homicide are two sides of the same coin."
Bullies now have a whole new array of ways to torment their victims. E-mail, instant messaging, camera phones and Web sites have given school bullies—particularly in middle school—ever more efficient ways to spread their cruel words.
Blumenfeld is conducting a study on "cyber-bullying." Examples of cyber-bullying would be if girls sent out a mass e-mail insulting another girl, or took pictures of other girls in the locker room and posted them online or e-mailed them to other people in the school. He calls these acts "cyberlence"—cyber violence.
One particularly mean creation is the "online voting booth," where teens at a school post pictures and names of students and have other teens vote on who is "the hottest, the ugliest, the biggest geek or the wimpiest fag," Blumenfeld says. "They e-mail stories and caricatures, jokes ridiculing and mocking each other, or telling who you slept with or what you're like in bed."
Junior highs and high schools have always been rife with mean-spirited gossip. But 20 years ago a bully's options were limited; now, malicious gossip can spread "to thousands of people, with one click on a computer," Blumenfeld says.
Hope for a solution
Iowa has had success with the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program
, Blumenfeld says. This comprehensive program educates children, teachers, parents and staff members to reduce bullying incidents and improve peer interactions at schools. More than 12 countries have implemented the program.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration has a site with suggestions for parents, kids and teachers called "Stop Bullying Now!"
"The culture has to see bullying as a problem of society, not just a youthful problem that will go away," Blumenfeld says. "We need to look at systemic reasons why people are perpetrating violence."
Michele Santos lives in Austin, Texas. She has written about architecture, real estate, health, fitness and other lifestyle trends for more than 10 years. Her articles appear in
The DallasMorning News, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications.
You just caught your child looking at porn. What do you do?
Written by Rick Thomas
My friend Luke Gilkerson with Covenant Eyes
interviewed me regarding how to respond to a parent who just caught his/her son in porn.
Luke’s questions are in italics, with my responses underneath:
Start with hope
LG: Let’s say a dad came to see you for advice about his teenage son. He tells you his son has been sneaking out of bed late at night looking at porn on the computer. He’s put filters in place but his son seems to be able to get around them. How might you start advising this father?
The first thing the parent needs to know is that God’s grace is sufficient for this.
The starting point when dealing with personal challenges must be in the hope we have in God. While we may not be able to understand everything that is going on in our lives, we can understand, know, and trust in God’s goodness even in our darkest hours.
I would want to make sure the parents are rooting their hearts and minds in God alone. God is writing His story in their lives. God is in control. God is working His plan. And most importantly they need to know that God is good. These should be fixed anchor points in their hearts. My first goal would be to make sure the parents are rooted in these truths.
The second thing I would want to do is make sure the parents understand that the real issue is in the kid’s heart, not on his computer.
While the parent can use technology to guard the computer, he will need to take another approach to guard the child’s heart. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:14-15 (ESV)
Sometimes a dad or a mom can have a hard time accepting what they are seeing in their children. While they can understand why other children mess up, it can be hard to receive and accept the truth about their own children. If a child, like the one you’re asking about, goes to these lengths to get to porn, then you are more than likely talking about what our culture calls an addiction. Paul frames it better by calling it being “caught” in a transgression.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. – Galatians 6:1 (ESV)
It may be helpful for them to re-frame what is happening in their family another way. For example, if you think about an alcoholic or crack addict who was circumventing sound advice and obstacles to drink or use, then it may be easier for the parent to see the depth and severity of the problem. This kid is not a victim to his culture or to technology. He is premeditating how he can get to porn. He is a user. According to James, porn is in his heart. He is being lured away by evil desires that he fosters in his heart.
End with hope
This may be a good time to re-remind the parents of the grace and mercy of God. God is working His plan in their lives and now they have a great opportunity to cooperate with what God desires to do for their child. With that in mind, part of God’s mercy could be His desire to blow this thing up while the child is young. This would be a mercy from the Lord. Dealing with this problem today is far better than finding out about it when he is 40-years old, married to a bitter wife and his own kids are in rebellion.
Rather than the parents getting lost in the discouragement of what is going on I would want to motivate them to think and respond biblically, while implementing a biblical plan to help their son. As you counsel them, be sure to situate the parent’s hope in God.
Parents need to lead
LG: What are some first steps of protection you would recommend to parents to prevent future porn-surfing?
The parents should do the most obvious things like Covenant Eyes.
I would also recommend that they call Covenant Eyes to make sure they have all the blocks that are possible on their computers–all of their computers.
This kind of protection would also apply to cell phones, iPads, and any other form of technology that allows the child to access pornography. While there are no foolproof ways to stop a guy if he wants to get porn, it would be good to do as much as possible.
Additionally, I would remove or reduce his accessibility to technology. Does he have to have technology? What is the purpose for him having a computer and other devices? Cell phones are a desire, not a need. Most people do not need a cell phone. Our culture tells us we need one while enticing us to have them. Facebook is similar. Nobody needs to be on Facebook. Though this flies in the face of our technology gods, the truth is that we don’t need all that we have!
I have counselled many parents who are afraid of their children, as shown by their acquiescing to the demands of their children. I would want to carefully walk the parents through the “needs vs. desires” tension when it comes to technology.
If there are times when the child needs to be on the computer, then I would move his computer to a central, highly visible, and public place in the home. If your son struggled with drinking, I don’t think you would put a mini-fridge full of beer in his room and give him a stern warning about what you’ll do to him if he takes a sip.
Model, serve, and protect
LG: How should a parent talk to their teen about the details of what they have seen? Should a parent probe into specific questions about what kind of porn was viewed?
The parents should talk to their child the way they would want to be talked to if they were found out.
Yelling and screaming at a child would not be a good idea. The parents should seek to model what they want their child to be. This was the advice of Paul in several places in his writings (1 Corinthians 11:1
; Ephesians 5:1
; Philippians 4:9
- If they want their child to be humble, then they should model humility.
- If they want their child to be kind, then they should model kindness.
- If they want their child to be honest, then they should model honesty.
As far as the actual content, it would depend on the situation, the content viewed, and the parents. For example, the dad has a responsibility to protect, lead, and shepherd his wife. Sometimes the role of a shepherd-husband is to protect his wife.
- Will it serve her to know what was viewed?
- What would be the point of her knowing all the details?
I deal with these kinds of things all the time. My wife’s position is that she trusts me and she does not want to know all the gory details. She does not want her mind polluted with some of the things I hear through my counselling opportunities. It is my job to serve my wife, to help her in her growth in Christ.
It may not serve the wife to know the severity or the explicit nature of the porn her son was viewing. It is enough to know that her son was in porn and that he needs help.
From the husband’s perspective, it would not be wise for him to view the porn–nothing more than what he has discovered. Men are affected differently than women. While the wife is generally nurturing and would be tempted to lose hope by what she sees, the husband would be tempted to be lured in by what he views. In either case, porn takes no prisoners. It is violence to the soul. All parties involved should be extremely circumspect when dealing with it. More porn knowledge or more visuals are not helpful.
It’s not important to count how many beer bottles were on the wall. Just knowing there were some up there, some were taken down, and your son did it should be enough.
Matters of the heart
LG: How should parents be disciplining their children to help them understand why pornography is wrong?
This is an interesting question. While I would want to discipline my children on the sin of pornography–if they were into porn, I would want to discipline them through the deeper and more insidious problems that are going on–the things that feed the porn. I cannot over-emphasize this: our behaviours flow from our hearts and if our hearts are not shepherded toward Christ, then the kid does not have a chance.
The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)
Some of the more insidious issues of the heart are the following:
Slothfulness - the child is lazy, meaning that he is using sex to satisfy himself rather than sex being a beautiful thing that God designed. Sex is not primarily for him, but for his future wife. He is lazy. He is not interested in what God says.
You will find laziness at the root of a lot of what the child does. Laziness is not a singular tributary out of the soul. Laziness will touch many things in this child’s life. Begin to carefully examine his whole life and you’ll find pockets of laziness in other places, not just how he thinks about and behaves toward sex.
Dishonouring - More than likely the child knows he is dishonouring his parents, but he does not care. He wants what he wants. Like laziness, you’ll also find this “dishonouring worldview” popping up in other areas of his life.
If his dishonouring attitude is not taken care of now, there will be many other repercussions in his future, e.g. how he thinks about and works for his future employer and how he loves and serves his future wife are just two examples.
Deceit/lying - He is lying and living in a lie. This is one of the more heinous sins. When a person lives a lie, then it is difficult to know if anything he says or does is the truth. Lying and deceit in a relationship will destroy a relationship.
One of the reasons we love God so much is because He always tells the truth. We can assuredly know where we stand with Him. You cannot ever be sure where you stand with a person who lies.
Self-righteousness - Porn is a form of self-righteousness. The self-righteous person has a greater than/better than attitude. Porn is the devaluing of women. The porn user is “using” women to satisfy his own selfish cravings.
Self-centeredness - As you might deduce, self-centeredness is the center of the porn user’s worldview. Whatever is in the center of his life is what defines him. This is who the son really is. Being self-centered will creep into every single facet of this person’s life.
Ignorance - Part of why he is not trusting God, choosing rather to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, is because there is something he does not understand about God. There is a level of ignorance working in his life. You can find this kind of life portrayed by the life of the fool in Proverbs.
These are merely a sample of some of the things that have been going on in the kid’s heart–things that have led to his pornography use. As the parents insightfully talk to him, they will find other sinful categories working in his heart too. They will need to carefully unpack him so the roots of porn can be eliminated.
One of the more challenging things to walk the parents through is a sober self-assessment of their marriage and how they have parented their child. In more cases than not, it has been my experience to find that there are problems between the parents, as well as how they parent when it comes to the sin of porn.
Though the kid is personally responsible for what he did, if the parents are humble they will want to know how they may have contributed and how they can change in order to serve him (Matthew 7:3-5
It may be that the parents need to go to their child and confess their sins, whatever they may be. I have seen many parents humble themselves through the years and it went a long way in restoring what was broken in their family, the porn being just the tip of the iceberg.
Finally, everybody involved needs to understand that what was born in isolation will be overcome in community. Porn is a secret sin. It lives undercover and in the dark.
The parents and the child need to pursue the care and accountability of their community–their local church. While Covenant Eyes can help, the family needs more. They need the family of God.
The parents and the child will be embarrassed. Everybody understands this. Exposure cuts against the grain of a proud heart. If they will humble themselves to the help of God’s people, they will soon experience a new and refreshing kind of grace from God.
Child Protection: Bill C-54, Steps in the Right Direction
Monday, November 8, 2010 at10:00PM
Don Hutchinson in Child Protection, Pornography
Most agree that it is difficult to think of anything more reprehensible than an adult violating a child’s trust for personal sexual gratification. Where some might disagree is on the degree of punishment that is warranted for such violation.
Thursday’s introduction of Bill C-54, an act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), takes steps forward in recognizing the severity of such crimes on the lives of children. Minister of Justice Rob Nicholson and the Government of Canada are to be congratulated for introducing this legislation, and Parliament was encouraged to pass C-54 quickly. With a minority Parliament and rumours of an election continually swirling, actions that protect children deserve the full and early attention of both the House of Commons and the Senate.
The draft legislation introduces increased mandatory minimum sentences for the crimes of sexual interference (inappropriately touching a child), invitation to sexual touching (encouraging a child to touch an adult inappropriately), sexual exploitation (abusing a position of trust for sexual interference or invitation to sexual touching), and incest. The minimum sentences are proposed to be increased from forty-five days to one year for indictable offences, those assessed by prosecutor and court to be more serious, and from fourteen days to ninety days for summary conviction offences, those assessed to be less serious – both types of offence being assessed as “serious” and in fact a crime. The potential maximum sentences remain ten years for indictable offences and eighteen months for summary convictions.
Bill C-54 also similarly increases the minimum penalties for possessing or accessing child pornography as defined in section 163.1
of the Criminal Code
. Minimum sentences for parents who provide their children for sexual purposes and others who knowingly allow such sexual activity as described above to take place on their premises are also increased. In addition, the draft legislation proposes to add the new crime of “making sexually explicit materials available” to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of any of the series of sexual offences against the child as are described in the Criminal Code
The legislation also proposes updating the Code to recognize offences that may be committed by “telecommunication” in sharing the offending materials or making arrangements/agreement for a child to be engaged in sexual offences.
As a corollary to legislation passed in 2008 that increased the age of consent to sexual activity with an adult from fourteen years of age to sixteen, penalties for sexual assault of a person under sixteen years of age are also strengthened.
There are those who are philosophically opposed to mandatory minimum sentences, usually because they are focused on a prison system that is not adequately directed toward rehabilitation of offenders. Others argue that such sentences do not function as a deterrent to the depraved mind.
Still, one cannot deny the need to take steps for the better protection of our children.
One step Bill C-54 takes is to bring public attention to a change in the law designed to make those who are tempted, but have not given themselves over to depravity, think twice before taking advantage of a child.
A second step is to better equip law enforcement officials with tools to arrest and prosecute those who intentionally violate children for personal satisfaction or financial gain.
A third step is making it clear to those who sentence convicted offenders that there is an expectation of recognizing the seriousness of the offence.
The fourth step is often not considered by those who oppose mandatory minimums. That step is recognition to the child victim of his or her significance when the person who perpetrated their abuse doesn’t walk out of the courtroom based on time served but instead is taken out of the courtroom through the door to the cells. That step is the recognition that for a period of time the child victim may live free from the fear that their abuser is just around the corner, and simply have the time to heal … perhaps to restore some elements of childhood that such perpetrators seek to steal.
Minister Nicholson, these are steps in the right direction. Now we wait for your colleagues in Parliament to join you in taking these steps. We trust it won’t be long.
Not Just Child’s Play: Potential Pitfalls in Console Video Games (Part 1)
By Lisa Eldred
Do violent videogames make violent kids?
It’s a common and important question, and one that was on the forefront of many parent advocacy groups and gamers alike at the end of June, when the Supreme Court struck down California’s ban
on selling violent video games to minors. Gamers rejoiced at the Supreme Court’s commitment to free speech, and parent advocacy groups were concerned about the removal of the ban and therefore the removal of another layer of protection between kids and inappropriate content. But what does it mean for a video game to be violent? Is that the only risk of video games? And what are parents and gamers to do to protect themselves?
Understanding Video Game Genres
The first thing to understand is that video games are not in and of themselves a genre. Like movies or books, there are different genres and different audiences, and just as the violence in Lord of the Rings is different from the violence of The Godfather, so too is the violence in Street Fighter different than that of Nintendo’ Super Smash Brothers.
Before we look at some of the negative elements of video games, we need a brief overview of some of the most popular genres.
On a technical level, a role-playing game (RPG) is simply a game where you play a specific role in a story. Usually you (by yourself) control a team of 6-7 characters from a third-person point of view. These games involve lengthy preset story-lines with some customization. Lightning, the primary protagonist in Final Fantasy XIII, will always have the same storyline, regardless of who is playing the game.
However, recent developments in video game technology have led to an increasingly customizable experience. In the Dragon Age series, for example, you can choose your main character’s name, race (e.g. elf vs. dwarf), gender, role (fighter, wizard, etc.), and appearance.
Most RPGs are based in a fantasy world and use magic. However, the term itself is all-encompassing; games like Grand Theft Auto have been described as RPGs.
Popular RPG series: Final Fantasy, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Kingdom Hearts
In first-person shooters (FPS), you directly take the role of a character as seen through his or her eyes. On the screen, you will likely only see your character’s hands and any weapons you’re holding. FPS games tend to focus on action and fighting.
Popular FPS series:Halo, Bioshock, Call of Duty
Strategy games focus on tactics and planning to achieve victory. Usually you have an omniscient view of the resources you’re controlling, and have direct control over all of the actions you take (e.g. troops may defend against enemies automatically, but won’t move unless you tell them to).
Strategy games will either take place in real time (RTS), meaning you and your enemies act at the same time, or in individual turns. Most strategy games focus on warfare, though there are exceptions. For example, the popular board game Settlers of Catan (also downloadable on consoles) is a turn-based strategy game about acquiring territory and more settlements than your competitors.
Popular strategy games:Civilization V, Star craft 2, Settlers of Catan, Valkyria Chronicles
Simulation games are generally open-ended; there may be small goals to accomplish, but the game doesn’t have a distinct endpoint. Some simulations aim for accuracy, like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator, which presents realistic flight controls. Others may focus on more cartoonish world-building, such as The Sims, where you control the finances, relationships, and careers of individual families.
Popular simulation series: Flight Simulator, The Sims, Spore
Puzzle games are generally family-friendly and focus on solving a problem to get from one location to another. In Portal 2 (2011), for example, you create portals in the walls of a science laboratory that allow you to walk through one portal in one part of the room and out the other portal in another part of the room. Although you have to destroy a handful of robotic enemies, you do so through clever problem-solving more than outright violence.
Not all puzzle games are kid-safe. The upcoming game Catherine, for example, is technically a puzzle game, but is centered around the protagonist’s sexual relationship with his girlfriend and a one-night stand with another woman.
Popular puzzle games:Portal 2, LEGO Star Wars, Catherine
While there are certain common elements to most video games, how they play out will vary depending on the nature of the individual game, and the description of “violence” in an RPG may be significantly different from violence in an FPS.
So what are some of the common dangers, and where should you set the lines for yourself or your kids?
As more and more adults play video games, concerns about language will continue to decrease, and foul words will sneak into games with increasingly lower ratings. Portal 2, for example, drops a limited number of foul words in recorded messages. Characters in RPGs (usually considered appropriate for teens) will also spout single obscenities at emotional points in the storyline. The older the intended audience, the less concerned game developers will be with avoiding foul language.
The reality is that fighting is one of the most common game mechanics, and game companies will continue to make violent video games unless there is compelling evidence (and legal directives) that violent games create violent kids (and so far, little evidence supports that theory, according to researchers like Henry Jenkins
and Cheryl Olson
There is a difference between the defensive fantasy violence of Final Fantasy XIII and more real-world violence as in Grand Theft Auto 4 (inset).
The very term “violence” is almost too broad to be useful. There is a vast difference between the gratuitous or overly-realistic violence of games like Grand Theft Auto or Bioshock and the fantasy violence of an RPG like Final Fantasy. One of the primary mechanics in all three games is the death of enemies. But it’s a very different experience to run over prostitutes with your car, compared to defending yourself from zombie-like humans, compared to watching monsters dissipate in a puff of smoke. Even non-violent games may have violent elements. In The Sims, if two characters dislike each other, they may fight in a comedic cloud of dust and smoke.
If you’re worried about video game violence, the U.S.-based Electronic Software Review Board (ESRB) offers age-based ratings as a baseline. It may be enough to tell your teenager that he isn’t allowed to play games rated M (Mature) in your house, and set parental controls on all current consoles to enforce that. Alternately, you may draw the line at FPS games, but the more cartoonish RPGs are fine. Or you may dislike the magical elements of RPGs, but decide that the slightly more realistic violence of strategy games is okay, since they help train the brain to think strategically.
Sexual content in video games is also a concern, though surprisingly a less controversial one. While fighting is a primary game mechanic, sex is a much less important one, and if a game has highly sexual content (e.g. nudity or intercourse) it will get a higher rating from the ESRB.
Interestingly, researcher Cheryl Olson
has pointed out that when she runs focus groups on video games, the boys she speaks to are more likely to see kissing as inappropriate content. Because kissing is something they are likely to do in real life (unlike participating in extreme violence, which they recognize as fiction) games that include kissing are in a way “too real” from their viewpoint. While there is little or no research on the effects of sexual content in video games on the brain, the related research on pornography, in combination with the surprisingly concerned reactions of young boys for the simple act of a kiss, indicate that this ought to be a major concern for parents.
Because sexuality shows up in things as simple as a female character’s outfit, sexuality is a lot more prevalent than one might think. Once again, the question is, what does it mean to have sexual content in video games? How does it play out between genres? And where do you draw the line?
In most FPS or RPGs, the biggest concern is with female outfits. In an FPS, a female enemy may be scantily clad; in an RPG, it may be one of the characters you control. Although significant research states otherwise, the stereotype is that only males are gamers. To appeal to this male demographic, female characters are given large breasts and impractically revealing armor. Of the three female protagonists of Final Fantasy XIII, two of the three have bared midriffs, and all three wear either shorts or short skirts.
Revealing outfits aren’t the only concern with RPGs. Some action/adventure games will actually include sexually charged mini-games. At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, one female character will request that either you or one of the male characters impregnates her (the act takes place off-screen). You can also romance your characters, resulting in a PG-13 scene wherein both parties wear underwear; there’s a similar option in Bioware’s Mass Effect. These romances are not limited to Male-Female pairings. And in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004), players uncovered a hidden option known as “Hot Coffee,” in which you could actually control the protagonist’s actions during (fully-clothed) sex.
Sexual content in simulation games is equally concerning, particularly in games like The Sims, in which you directly control the appearance and actions of characters. In The Sims 3 (2009), clothing options range from full coverage to revealing (female characters may sleep in only their undergarments, for example). Personality traits include “Flirty” and “Good Kisser.” Regardless of their gender or romantic relationships with others, two adult Sims who like each other enough can choose to “Woo hoo” – the bed covers rustle beneath laughter and the sounds of a harp. The Sims 3 is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB.
As video game developers continue to realize that gamers continue to play video games as adults, the number of adult-themed games will only increase. The game Catherine has a release date of July 26, 2011, and currently occupies two spots on Amazon’s best-seller list for video games. Its premise? The protagonist impregnates his girlfriend, has a one-night stand with another woman, and, as Amazon* describes, “Vincent’s waking fears, doubts, pressures, and growing guilt about commitment and fidelity now gleefully follow him into his dreams.”
Given the prevalence of questionable content within video games (even the otherwise kid-friendly Portal 2 contains swearing), why even bother with video games? Why not forbid the entire lot?
Many video games with storylines will have good themes. RPGs, for example, almost always promote the values of teamwork, loyalty, dedication to a cause, and good vs. evil. (The final enemy in Final Fantasy X is named Sin.) Strategy war games will often address the cost and consequences of warfare. Even FPS games, which tend to have gratuitous violence, will incorporate themes of good vs. evil and revolution against evil regimes for the cause of justice. Both Bioshock games show the ultimate result of political extremism. The first is set in a failed extreme libertarian society reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s writings, and the second is set against the backdrop of communism.
Puzzle and strategy games in particular require a great deal of thought and planning. In Portal 2, you are handed a set of tools (including your portal gun) and set in a bizarre environment; you are required to use physics (like momentum) to your advantage in order to complete increasingly complex tasks. In Valkyria Chronicles, you fight your way across WWII-style battlefields. A poorly planned move could result in the loss of a member of your troop. And in The Sims 3, you’re required to balance a limited income and limited time with your Sim household’s need to eat, pay bills, and stay healthy, with their individual desires to have fun, have nice possessions, and maintain relationships with friends (much like real life).
An increasing number of games will force you to confront ethical dilemmas that impact later events in the game. Both Bioshock games are excellent examples of this. Throughout both games, you are required to either rescue or “harvest” a number of little girls. Rescuing them saves their lives at the cost of a smaller immediate reward and later prizes in gratitude. Harvesting them gives you greater immediate rewards, but results in their death and an unhappy game ending. The second Bioshock game additionally allows you to save or kill a handful of additional characters; if you show mercy to at least one in particular, she will assist you later in the game.
Some of the more open-ended RPGs, like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, will also take your choices as a player into account. As in real life, choosing the more morally upright path in these games will frequently lead to more immediate difficulties, but will usually result in a happier ending at the conclusion of the game.
What You Can Do
Now that you’ve got a general idea of some of the pros and cons of video games, what can you do to set standards within your own home? How can you protect yourself and your family from the potential pitfalls?
Judge each game individually
While the ESRB ratings are a good starting point, you may decide that a game they rate E is not actually appropriate for your children—or conversely, if your teen is mature enough, you may decide that she is allowed to play a game rated M. Start by checking PluggedIn
to see if they offer a review of the game in question, as their reviews will dig deep into much of the negative content.
From there, askyourself the following questions:
- That is the purpose of the violence? Is it to protect your character or others, or is it entirely gratuitous?
- Are there consequences for gratuitous violence? (Even in Grand Theft Auto, you will eventually be chased by cops.)
- How realistic is the violence?
- Does the game rely on mechanics that run contrary to personal convictions (e.g. magic)?
- How noticeably revealing are female characters’ outfits?
- How prevalent are sexual themes? Are they avoidable?
- Is there simulated sex? Are there consequences for sexual relations?
Pick your appropriate game console
If you haven’t yet purchased a game console but are strongly considering it, look at the game titles available for each platform. If you have young children, most likely you will want to stick with a Nintendo Wii, which offers more family friendly games (like the Mario series), party games (like Wii Sports), and games that actually promote physical activity (like Wii Fit). Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft’s XBOX 360 offer more T (Teen) and M (Mature) games that are often popular and action-packed. Don’t forget to evaluate handheld gaming systems, like the Nintendo DS line or the PlayStation Portable.
Set parental controls
Set rules for your kids, and explain them. This includes limits for what games are played both in and out of the home and setting limits for when and how long your kids can play video games. Limiting their time spent in games may be as simple as setting a timer next to the TV. Be willing to give them grace when necessary. RPGs in particular only have a limited number of save points, so try to warn them when their time limit is running out so they can save their progress, and if they need a few minutes to get to a good stopping point, be willing to give it to them.
All three game consoles allow you to set parental controls based on ESRB ratings, making it easy to enforce a “No Rated-M Games” rule. Windows Vista and 7 do as well, but Windows XP does not. Learn which games your kids’ friends like to play. If one friend is a fan of the Halo series but you don’t want your children playing it, encourage your kids to invite that friend over for tamer games.
Set limits for yourself
If you don’t have kids or if you will be the primary gamer, don’t forget to determine your own adult boundaries for games. Once again using the Bioshock series, you may decide that its storyline outweighs the violent elements. On the other hand, “Garbage in, garbage out”—if you notice that the profanity-laced game makes you more prone to swearing, you may decide it’s inappropriate after all. And you may decide that some games are inappropriate simply because they waste your time. In the Covenant Eyes offices alone, one gamer discarded The Sims 3 due to its sexual content, and another sold his copy of Civilization V because it stole time that he knew he should spend with his family.
Not Just Child’s Play: Online Interactions in Console and Single-Player Games (Part 2)
By Lisa Eldred
“Online interactions not rated by the ESRB.”
Perhaps you’ve seen this notice on video games, but have you ever stopped to ponder what it actually means? After all, a game is a game, isn’t it? What makes an online component of a video game unrateable? Last month we discussed games and their content generally
. This month we’ll take a closer look at what it means when console games use the Internet.
Taking Consoles Online
Internet use on all three consoles, Wii, XBOX 360, and PlayStation 3, is almost inescapable. All three consoles push you toward creating a personal username, which is handy for tracking in-game achievements. While you’re not necessarily required to tie these logins to the Internet, you are strongly encouraged to do so. The PlayStation 3 and Wii have free Internet capabilities, including multiplayer gaming and Netflix streaming. These features are available on the XBOX 360 for a monthly fee, though chat is available for free. With the right accessories, the 360 and PS3 both allow for video and voice chats as well.
Handheld devices also have online capabilities. The Nintendo 3DS has passive online sharing integrated into the hardware itself. With StreetPass, the 3DS automatically shares certain data with any other 3DS within 90 feet. This includes high scores and custom game information.
Two minigames are actually reliant upon gathering “Miis” (player created avatars) from other 3DS owners. Other Nintendo DS models use PictoChat, which allows users to send not only text messages but to actually draw images using their stylus and send them to other users.
Still other games allow you to upload or download player-generated content. This is most common in simulation or world-building games such as The Sims 3
. For example, one player created a homeless family and maintained a blog about their misadventures
, and then allowed other players to download these characters to let them loose in their own towns.
Understanding Multiplayer Games
The pièce de résistance to Internet-enabled consoles is the ability to play multiplayer games with family, friends, or even complete strangers. This may sound unappealing, but playing against (or with) a real person provides a more interesting experience, as live players are usually more intelligent or less predictable than the system. Multiplayer games may be cooperative or competitive. Co-op games (like Portal 2) focus on working with another player to complete an objective, whether solving a puzzle or defeating an enemy.
Competitive games come in many varieties. Some involve competing to complete an objective first or with the best score. Mario Kart Wii, for example, is competitive racing. Competitive board-to-console games like Catan or Carcassonne offer limited interactions with opponents. Your main objective is to have the highest score by the end of the game, and any impact you have on your competitor’s strategy will likely be an incidental benefit (like winning a bid for a limited resource).
Other games, like Civilization V, offer more direct interactions against other players.
Perhaps the most common type of competitive game is considered player vs. player (PVP). In this mode, you fight directly against other players, frequently in timed matches. These games are often first-person shooters, in which you directly shoot your competitors before they can shoot you. The Halo series is a popular example.
Many games will incorporate both co-op and competitive elements. In Team Fortress 2, players form two teams that compete against each other to complete objectives (one mode is capture the flag).
Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) also blend co-op and competitive elements seamlessly. These games will be discussed in more depth in next month’s edition.
So what’s the appeal?
Online components enhance the gaming experience. Some games, like Portal 2 or Ghostbusters: the Video Game, add extra story elements that are only available through co-op (Ghostbusters, in fact, doesn’t even allow offline co-op). These story elements are like an epilogue to an enjoyable book. The creator of homeless Sims Alice and Kev has also offered them for other players to download
When players create content for others to download it can change the game.
Available player-created (and therefore free) downloads in The Sims 3 include characters, clothing, buildings, and textures. Did someone create a particularly cool My Little Pony t-shirt? Import it into your own game and dress your own character in it. And as already mentioned, certain games on the Nintendo 3DS are designed to be playable only with StreetPass turned on to gather other players’ Miis.
There’s evidence that multiplayer games may enhance offline relationships as well. Two researchers at Brigham Young University discovered that fathers and daughters playing games together positively impacts the girl
(although the correlation drops when the game is rated M). They theorized that the relationship wasn’t present with boys in part because boys were more likely to spend time playing multiplayer with friends.
Research by Cheryl Olson
supports this: more than 50% of boys responding to a survey reported that they play video games because they “like to compete with others and win,” and she cites one study of boys aged 14-15, which “found that ‘good at computer/video games’ was second only to being ‘fun’ as a desirable trait among one’s in-group members.” Elsewhere, Olson states
, “Nick Yee’s surveys of (mostly adult) online game players also found that socializing was an important motivator. They enjoyed being part of a team, helping others, and forging solid relationships. This suggests that video games could play a role in healthy friendships for children and adults.” When you consider that social network users actually have more close friendships and social support
than non-users, it’s not unrealistic to extrapolate that for many, playing multiplayer games online with people they know in real life may strengthen those bonds.
Of course, one of the reasons people like playing console multiplayer games is because you aren’t required to coordinate with your friends in advance. Some consoles allow you to quick-form or quick-join a game with complete strangers. With this, you get the benefits of fighting with or against another human instead of the game’s artificial intelligence, but you’re unlikely to interact with that particular person again after the match is over. It’s the gaming equivalent of chatting about the weather with the person seated next to you on the bus.
Potential Hazards of Online Interactions
As with any other Internet-based activity, there are risks with online game interactions. The information shown on gamers’ profiles is actually fairly limited (usually to the gamer’ username, current game, and city), making it less of a risk than some social networking sites, but the risk exists. (Interaction with predators is a much greater risk in MMOs, so we will address that topic in Part 3.)
One of the biggest problems with console multiplayer games, especially when voice chat is enabled, is the prevalence of bad language. This most obviously comes in the form of curse words. In a game’s PVP mode, it’s not at all unusual for one player to swear when killed by another player. Racist and sexist slurs may also be used frequently.
Depending on the nature of the game, the nature of the language may change as well. A game based in violence like Halo is more likely to result in expressions of violence. The multiplayer mode of the sexually-charged Catherine has a somewhat higher probability of resulting in sexually-charged commentary (possibly sexual solicitation, if a male and female play together). Meanwhile, interactions in a family-friendly game like Catan may be limited to good-natured banter or perhaps simply a chatted “GG” (“Good game”) after a match.
As a general rule, the higher the ESRB rating, the higher the likelihood of bad language and negative interactions. As a parent, you probably don’t want your 12-year-old playing the violent Team Fortress 2, both for the violent content and the higher probability of language inappropriate for their age.
Inappropriate Player-Created Content
It’s a running joke online that any game that allows players to create their own content will result in the immediate creation of genitalia. While this is perhaps an exaggeration, the risks are still very real. Some players of The Sims 3 have found ways to “enhance” created characters, continually pushing boundaries in female clothing design. Although the majority will be fairly harmless (player-created t-shirts for characters advertising the popular Twilight movies, for example), and although reporting mechanisms for inappropriate content exist, the fact is that such content is almost unavoidable.
As with any device connected to the Internet, there is always a risk of your data online being compromised. This was brought to the forefront in April 2011 when the PlayStation Network was hacked
, revealing the data of 77 million users, including credit card information. This is one of a number of networks that have been hacked this year (in fact, members of the same group accused of hacking the PlayStation Network plan to attack Facebook on November 5
). As such, this should not be the make-or-break criteria in determining standards for online game play. However, it’s worth noting that every Internet-enabled device or online network that you join increases your risk of data or identity theft.
What You Can Do
Given the prevalence of Internet-enabled multiplayer console games, what’s a parent to do? It’s easy to decide to forbid your kids from playing multiplayer online at all, but there are more balanced approaches.
Write a gaming agreement
Before you set limits for your gaming console, sit down with your kids and write an agreement with them. Be sure to include details about who they can interact with and whether they can use voice features. Microsoft offers a sample pact
for you to fill out with your children. Putting it in writing will help you enforce the rules when conflicts arise.
Set parental controls on your consoles
We mentioned last month
that you can block games based off their ESRB ratings. You can also set controls for online game play, including who your kids can game with. As a note, the more limits you set, the harder it will be to join an online match.
Monitor what you can
If you use Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability, check your kids’ Accountability Reports for gaming websites and downloadable content. Not only will you catch any questionable content that your kids have downloaded, you’ll have a better idea of what games your kids like to play. If, for example, you’ve found them watching YouTube videos showing strategies for games like Halo, you can turn it into a conversation about the appropriateness of both the content and the interactions.
And if you use the XBOX 360, the Gold Family Membership, you can view reports about your family’s XBOX Live activities. (On a similar topic, before the end of 2011 Android users should look for a brand new Covenant Eyes app that monitors Internet use and the use of apps.)
Play with your kids
If the research is right
, playing games with your kids may actually increase parent-child bonds and improve their overall mental and emotional health outcomes, especially between fathers and daughters. This addresses the other benefits of more game content and more interesting game play as well. Playing games online together also means that parents have a chance to be proactive about dangers like bad language and harmful interactions.
As one gamer told me, “Games, online or otherwise, should be treated as any other activity. Parents should be wary of what they’re exposing their children to, regardless of what form/medium it comes in. That said, exposing themselves to it (either before or alongside their children) will help parents learn what’s going on and how best to deal with it, rather than just avoiding it entirely and not knowing what to expect when something negative happens.”
Not Just Child’s Play: Massive Multiplayer Online Games, Addiction, and Predation (Online Predators) (Part 3)
By Lisa Eldred
“During my addiction, I hated, truly hated, going out with family during my ‘World of Warcraft (WoW) time.’ I never organized anything with my friends, I sulked about having to work during the weekends, and I dropped all my interests…just because of WoW. I became withdrawn, irritable and lifeless.” “I’m moving to a new job soon, my first job, the one with the degree I almost didn’t get due to playing WoW instead of studying.” “My son committed suicide Nov. 2010. His addiction to WoW had ruined his marriage.”
These are just a handful of stories from World of Warcraft
players or their loved ones, taken from WoWaholics.org
. But they are also the sensationalist ones–the kind that get picked up by major news outlets and daytime talk shows because they’re compelling, if atypical. These are the stories leading to studies about video game addiction. And these are the stories leading to the stereotype of gamers that they are, at 40 years old, still living in Mom’s basement and living off a steady diet of Doritos and Mountain Dew. But what does it mean to be addicted to gaming? And why do Massive Multiplayer Online games (MMOs) seem to lead to addictions?
The Risks of MMOs
As we’ve seen in the lasttwo
issues, video games have a number of risks ranging from inappropriate content to harmful interactions, though there are positive elements as well, such as teaching ethics and problem solving. In most console games, both the positive and the negative elements occur in a controlled environment. In Portal 2
, for example, the script is set in single-player mode; parents can play it once and know exactly whether it is appropriate for their kids. And in its multiplayer mode, parents can’t limit the language another player uses, but they can limit who their kids play with.
In MMOs like World of Warcraft, players enter fantasy realms and play as mythical creatures, including Minotaurs. MMOs take both the good and the bad aspects of other video games and magnify them. Most of the popular MMOs, including World of Warcraft and the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic, are role-playing games (RPGs), meaning they take place in a live, shared virtual world. Each player controls one custom character at a time. Often gamers will join a single gaming group (known as a guild). These guilds schedule times to play regularly together, whether competing in a tournament or conducting a “raid” on a dungeon in order to kill a tough monster.
The online shared environment means your actions in the game can impact the storyline or other players in the virtual world. It also means there are few controls limiting who you interact with. Many games allow you to block specific users after they contact you once, but there is nothing to stop them from contacting you in the first place.
These very open environments lead to enhanced experiences, both in the game and in some cases in life. Many gamers consider other guild-members to be close friends, for example. However, these same positive elements lead to an increased risk of addiction.
A Note on Addiction
1. Acompulsive, physiological craving
2. Increased tolerance (needing a higher dose to get the same effect) following early use
3. Well-defined and uncomfortable physiological symptoms during withdrawal
Often, those who are accused of (or claim) video game addiction simply enjoy games as a hobby. Gamers may play for hours on end, several times a week.
Therapist Mike Langlois
compares these people to a person who reads Bleak House
for three hours in the evening. That person would not be categorized as “addicted” to Dickens. Olson similarly likens many gamers to those who memorize sports trivia, collect memorabilia, and watch games for 3 or 4 hours: we don’t call them addicts, we call them fans.
Even those who let their gaming hobby affect their offline lives (like those quoted at the beginning of this article) may not be “addicted” in the technical sense. For many, it may have more in common with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Or, extreme escapism through video games may be a symptom of a deeper problem, like depression. That being said, “addiction” is a reasonable term to describe a behavior that may be difficult to stop, and therefore we will be using it in this article.
How MMOs Work to Addict You
It certainly doesn’t help that many MMOs actively condition you to keep playing. One needs only to compare video games in general (and MMOs in particular) to the research of B.F. Skinner on Operant Conditioning. Game researcher Nick Yee
explains Skinner’s research:
Skinner boxes are small glass or plexi-glass boxes equipped with a combination of levers, food pellets, and drinking tubes. Laboratory rats are placed into Skinner boxes and conditioned to perform elaborate tasks. At first, the rat is rewarded with a food pellet for facing the lever. Then it is rewarded if it gets closer to the lever. Eventually, the rat is shaped to press the lever. Once the rat learns that pressing the lever is rewarded, a food pellet does not need to be dropped every time and the rat will still continue pressing the lever.
How does this connect with games? Most games have a very quick rewards cycle at the beginning of a game (level up and gain additional powers multiple times within the first few hours). Eventually this basic rewards-structure will slow down, but by that point most well-designed games will have additional goals in place to keep you pressing the lever–goals like leveling up in a certain skill (by performing a certain action a certain number of times), or like defeating a certain monster who only shows up at a certain time to gain a certain piece of equipment.
These basic reward cycles are common to all games; systems of trophies or achievements are designed to force you to play for hours. You’re required to play each level in the popular LEGO games at least twice to accomplish everything, for example. Online games in general and MMOs in particular take this a step farther. Unlike single-player console games, which you can put away for weeks (or years) without losing anything in-game, many online games will actively punish you for not returning to it regularly.
In the popular Facebook game Farmville, you risk losing crops if you do not return to the game within a set timeframe. Some MMOs incorporate similar “features.” At the least, they will introduce regular expansions to the core game with new areas, character types, or rewards. The most successful MMO, World of Warcraft, has released three expansions since its original release in November 2004.
Then there is the risk of ostracism. One of the biggest benefits of an MMO is the ability to join a guild and go on raids in groups. Miss the occasional raid, and you’ll miss the opportunity to gain valuable items, and fall behind other players. Miss too many raids, and some guilds may even kick you out completely. This is especially problematic for those who, for whatever reason, have migrated their primary social interactions to these games. For them, setting aside the game is akin to skipping out on the Labor Day barbecue or the weekly get-together to watch football. Skipping once in a while is one thing; skipping regularly means a loss of community.
MMOs and Escapism
Anecdotally, many gamers get addicted because a game is an increasingly rewarding escape from personal problems. A writer for gaming site Kotaku
, for example, talks about getting addicted to EverQuest
after his girlfriend broke up with him. As an extreme example, Langlois
cites overseas soldiers, whose jobs very literally have a high risk of injury or death. It is natural that their hobbies would include games like World of Warcraft
, which resurrects you moments later if you die.
Escapism is natural, and in reality any form of escape, even “good” ones, may have problems. (Any avid reader will tell you tales of staying up late to finish a book.) The particular problem with using MMOs, however, is the inherent addictiveness. Most gamer horror stories begin with a real-world problem. They turn to their game as an escape and are increasingly drawn in; this causes them to lose sleep or skip classes or work; they drop out of school or get fired; they turn back to games.
On occasion, this will lead to questionable or even criminal, behaviors. Skim WoWaholics
or WoW Detox
and you’ll see stories of those who stole money to pay the monthly fee; on extremely rare occasions, stories like this one
talk about turning to actual drugs as a result of gaming:
I found out that I could make more money than any of the roomies by working 1 night a week so I started working Saturday nights at a strip club (and I had always been modest prior to this). It was perfect, about $1,000 a week, all the time in the world to play WoW, my roomies were happy, and life was sunshiny.
While stripping, I was introduced to cocaine! A drug that allowed me to play WoW even more! I was hooked. As cocaine became too expensive, I was turned onto meth, which was less expensive and kept me awake for up to 5 days at a time.
Extreme, yes. But those who increasingly turn to games as an escape share a common story: increased focus on the game came at the detriment of personal goals and relationships. World of Warcraft did not fix the problems they sought to avoid; rather, they exacerbated them.
The Tangled Web of MMOs and Predation
Because MMOs are so social in nature, they can lead to predation
whether intentional or otherwise. Some predators
play online games in pursuit of grooming a relationship with a minor. In other cases, a fellow guild member may strike up a friendship that turns sexual. Many of these predators would not self-identify as sexually preferring children. Instead, they first fall for the digital character, then the person behind the character. When face-to-face interactions are introduced at a later stage in a relationship, age becomes a secondary detail.
In two cases involving World of Warcraft
, for example, the children lied about their age to the perpetrators. In one, a 23-year-old expected to meet an 18-year-old
when in reality the girl was 14. In another case, a 35-year-old who claimed to be 21 started conversing with a 15-year-old claiming to be 20
. This excuses neither adult, who both chose to proceed even after finding out about their victims’ ages, but in both situations it appears to have been about the person
first, not their age.
With stories about addiction and predation filling the news, it’s easy to write off MMOs as irredeemable. However, it’s important to remember that these cases are the exception, not the rule. Most gamers play casually for an hour or two at a time without being consumed by it. These people find that MMOs provide an enhanced gaming experience in comparison to other games.
Adaptive Gaming Environments
In standard, single-player console games, the game world and storyline are comparatively static. Portal 2 will never change, no matter who plays it. Even more open-ended games like Dragon Age 2 will share certain essential plot points, although some of the side stories and character interactions may differ depending on certain choices you make.
MMOs, on the other hand, don’t have strictly linear timelines, and player-controlled characters vastly outnumber static, computer-controlled characters. Two separate guilds may trigger the same quest, but because the people comprising each guild are unique, their interactions with the plot lines are unique.
In addition, many MMOs remain in active development after release. This means that they are constantly working to create new quests or environments. Play through Portal 2 once and you’ve seen it all. On the other hand, it is virtually impossible to unlock everything World of Warcraft has to offer.
In some MMOs, your game decisions may even impact the game environment itself. Some players in the game Glitch
, currently in beta, discovered a bug that allowed them to drop items in midair. This allowed them to spell out words or create pictures within the game environment which other players could come and view. The Glitch developers embraced these
player-created art installations.
Group Collaboration and Interaction
The biggest benefit of MMOs is the social aspect. Most MMOs have single-player functions; joining a guild is not necessarily required to have a good experience. However, as you level up, more emphasis is put on guilds and collaboration. This means more than just teaming up to kill a monster. It means performing a vital role in service to other players. Physically weaker healer characters, for example, keep physically stronger fighter characters alive while they’re in the front lines taking and dealing damage. In planning before a raid, players can work out creative, tactical solutions that a single player likely would not discover on his own.
These interactions often mean that complete strangers in different geographical areas can become close friends. While these can be harmful to some people on occasion (as in the cases of child predation, or simply neglect of non-gamer friends and family), these can also be incredibly beneficial to some gamers facing isolation in real-world communities. Langlois
mentions that someone who is physically impaired may have limited mobility and therefore limited real-world friends, but can get the social support they need from MMOs. In addition, a number of Christian guilds exist
, allowing Christian gamers to grow in faith and community while playing MMOs.
Often, MMOs are used to support real-world relationships as well. Many friends or couples will go online together as a way to bond. While one Covenant Eyes employee was away at college, he would play World of Warcraft with his brother for an hour or two nightly as a way to spend time together despite being geographically distant.
What You Can Do
Despite these positive elements, some parents will (quite reasonably) choose to forbid their children from playing these games. For those who don’t wish to do so, or for gamers who choose to play MMOs, here are some steps to take to protect yourself and your family from game addiction and predation.
Monitor Internet Use
One of the most reasonable steps to take is to monitor the time you or your kids spend online and set strict limits. The Covenant Eyes Filter allows you to set daily or weekly time limits
. Once these limits are reached, the Internet is automatically shut off for that user. Given that raids are often scheduled by guilds as a group, it may be wise to allow your child to bank their weekly time limit. Instead of an hour a day for an MMO, they may get more value out of their time by playing for three hours on Friday and four on Saturday.
Don’t forget to monitor Internet use. If your daughter seems to be spending all of her time online playing World of Warcraft and staring at strategy guides, it may be a sign that she has a problem.
Monitor Schoolwork and Outside Activities
As with many other issues, if gaming is becoming a problem in someone’s life, then other areas of life will suffer. Keep an eye on your son’s schoolwork, and consider setting limits based on his grades. If he drops from a B average to a C or D and spends all his free time talking about and playing City of Heroes
, you may want to give him stricter time limits until his grade point average increases. If a friend of yours plays an MMO and starts dropping out of real world activities, such as a church group or movie nights, you may want to call him up and ask what’s going on in his life. (Conversely, if your child is suddenly overachieving, it may actually be a sign that she is being groomed by a predator
Remember to look at the whole picture when you consider these factors. If your straight-A son gets a B in math but maintains high grades in his other classes, it may be more indicative that he has problems with math than with World of Warcraft. And if your daughter drops out of the track team and fills her time with MMOs, ask yourself whether she actually liked track or whether she joined simply because you asked her to.
Look for Outside Factors
It’s important to remember that increased time gaming may in fact be a method of escapism from a different problem in life. If you’ve determined that your child or friend’s use of MMOs has become problematic, see if there’s a separate problem. Is your child being targeted by a bully? It’s only natural he would retreat into a game where his power is unlimited. Did your friend just break up with her long-term boyfriend? Of course she would want to become someone completely different. By identifying these underlying motivations for playing obsessively, you may be able to help your friend or child solve their issues before they get truly addicted to an MMO.
Get Professional HelpRemember, most addicts of any substance or activity will not seek or accept help until they acknowledge they have a problem, and you telling them they have one may only serve to make them more resentful. If your child or friend appears to be truly addicted, or if you have just discovered that your child has been groomed by a predator, you will help them most effectively by acknowledging that the problem is beyond your capacity and seeking help from a professional counselor or therapist.
Break Porn Addiction: 5 Lessons I Learned Along the Way
by James Tarring Cordrey
Years ago my wife surprised me with a direct question about my use of pornography. What followed that question is known in our marriage as “The Confession.” The brutal truth of my long addiction came to light and a long, painful journey of healing began. As God has brought healing into my life, there are five key lessons I have learned, and each one has been crucial to my freedom.
Lesson 1: I Had Been Lied To…
My culture, influenced by pornography, had told me all sorts of lies about how normal it was to indulge sexual lust. Even though I was a Christian who knew I wasn’t supposed to lust, I still allowed myself to be persuaded that my urges were a sign of being a healthy man who had a normal sex drive. Sure, I wasn’t supposed to look at porn, or masturbate to sexual fantasies, but the pull of pornography was so powerful there was simply no way to resist it.
But it wasn’t just secular culture that had lied to me. Christian culture had as well. During those moments when I felt convicted about my sin, other Christians counselled me by saying that the best I could hope for would be a life in which I managed to keep it from getting out of control. There was no discussion of actual freedom.
At one point in college I confided in a leader of my campus ministry that one of my goals for the school year was to experience victory over lust and masturbation. His response was: “It’ll never happen.” I realize now that I made a horrible agreement with that lie back in college and I lived under it for a long, long time.
Lesson 2: Real Change Is Really Possible…
Shortly after The Confession, I realized that my theology had been warped. I had come to believe that God actually didn’t transform people. I used to read verses that spoke of new life and new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:4 and Revelation 21:5), and I never thought that what God was talking about was actual change.
The Christians I knew never really talked about transformation, and when we encountered these verses in Scripture, they were usually explained away using some sort of language of religiosity, so that I never saw what was plain: God changes people. The pattern throughout Scripture is one in which people leave behind their former way of life and cling to the hope and promise of being made new and clean in Christ. I had missed that somehow. I had missed the fact that the “newness” being spoken of was actually accessible to me.
Lesson 3: …But You Will Have To Fight For It…
Anything worth having is worth fighting for. This is certainly true of freedom. Moreover, God identifies Himself as a warrior in Exodus 15:3, and since I bear His image, that means I am a warrior as well. I had been taught all my life that I should be the world’s nicest guy, and that meant I had no idea how to fight for something that was important.
At my first counselling appointment after The Confession, the counsellor asked me straight up: “How bad do you want to be free?” He challenged me to adopt the attitude that I would do whatever it took to be rid of porn and win back the trust of my wife. The counsellor was calling me out; attempting to awaken the warrior within me. It worked.
Lesson 4: You Must Engage In Spiritual Warfare…
There is a reason Paul tells us in Ephesians 6 to put on the Armour of God. There is a reason why Peter advises us to be alert that Satan prowls about like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour in 1 Peter 5. We have a real enemy and he hates us intensely because we are the image of God.
Fortunately, we have a conquering God. Nevertheless, in our daily experience we still face the temptations presented to us by our Enemy who is constantly lying to us about where life is to be found. In the days, months and years that followed The Confession, I have learned how to pray against the work of the Evil One and break the strongholds I have allowed him to build in my life, focusing on 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. It has been crucial.
Lesson 5: It Really Is A Matter Of Life And Death…
On the night of The Confession, God made it clear for the first time that my involvement with porn was actually killing me and my marriage. The rage, disgust, anguish, despair and intense pain I saw my wife experience as I told her about my addiction was a visual representation of the Scriptural reality that sin brings death. Getting free, God told me, it was a matter of life and death. It clicked for me that night. I started reflecting on all the ways I had brought death into my life or my marriage by indulging in pornography.
I saw how my attitude, my selfishness, my treatment of others and the ways I had failed to be an authentic man had all been shaped by looking at pornography. And I realized that if I continued with pornography there was a very good chance that I would end up in a situation where I would be in physical danger as I looked for riskier forms of indulgence.
But the journey away from porn has been life-giving every step of the way. I am truly alive now because of the freedom God brings. I recognize that every temptation to lust or look at porn is an issue of life and death and I am called to be a warrior in the image of my God, fighting for purity and freedom.
Underage Linking - Over 7 million kids are lying about their age to join Facebook.
By Luke Gilkerson
It’s called “Smash or Pass.” Boys and girls alike can submit a photo of themselves or someone else to any number of smash-or-pass pages on Facebook. Others then stop by and say whether they would like to “smash” (have sex with) or “pass” (turn down) this person based on the submitted photo. As you can imagine, profanity and swarms of other crude comments follow.
This is just a sample of the adult content and culture of Facebook. And yet a recent survey from Consumer Reports indicates that 7.5 million active Facebook users are younger than 13 years of age.
Getting Around Face book’s Age Minimum
According to federal COPPA law—the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act - unless there is parental consent, websites are not allowed to collect someone’s personal information if they are under 13 years of age. Verifying parental consent can be costly and involve some paperwork, so most online social networks like Facebook simply do not allow children younger than 13 to use their services. Face book’s statement of “Rights and Responsibilities
” states clearly: “You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.”
But all you have to do to get around this age minimum is add some years to your birthday when creating your online profile. And a recent report
shows many kids are doing just that—some 2.5 million kids 10-12 years old are on Facebook, and another 5 million under 10. More disturbingly, the same report indicates that parents are aware of this and they do very little monitoring of what their kids are doing on their profiles. Only 10% of parents of kids 10 and under had frank discussions with children about appropriate online behaviors and threats.
One Network for Adults and Children: A Recipe for Disaster
“Allowing 500 million people, children and adults, onto one social network, where anything goes, will only exacerbate the online safety and privacy issues that are already affecting our children on a large scale,” says Mary Kay Hoal, founder of YourSphere.com, a kids-only social network. “This, to me, is a recipe for disaster.”
Allowing your child to use Facebook is similar to allowing them to use Google: the sky’s the limit on what can be searched for. “You, or a child for that matter, can search for something as simple as ‘Adults Only’ in the Facebook search bar and find discussion threads filled with public requests for sex,” Ms. Hoal reports.
“Considering the blunt curiosity of children, they might use a more direct search term like ‘boobs.’ This will result in several pages filled with inappropriate photos and videos, as well as links to pornography websites.”
Activities like “Smash or Pass” are only the beginning of this dangerous cocktail. “It’s safe to say that the culture of Facebook and the content on Facebook go hand-in-hand,” Ms. Hoal notes. “Facebook users make Facebook what it is today. Since the users are mostly adults, then it’s fair to say that the culture is mostly adult-oriented.”
But my child isn’t like that…
Consumer Reports says one reason why parents of young children are unconcerned about the use of Facebook is because they believe their pre-teens are less likely than a teenager to take risks. This may help to explain why only 18% of parents were their young child’s “friend” on Facebook (compare this to 62% of parents of 13- to 14-year-olds). Parents of younger kids do not feel their child will do anything too concerning.
Mary Kay Hoal’ daughter was a typical 12-year-old who insisted on having an online profile. But Ms. Hoal was not the typical mother. Knowing most social networks were created by and meant for adults, she immersed herself in the world of social networking so she could better understand its draw as well as its dangers.
What she has found over the years both delights and frightens her. Online social networking can bring many benefits to kids—education, connectivity, creativity. But she also saw teens and pre-teens being exposed to a free-for-all adult culture without safeguards.
And online privacy settings are no guarantee. “Configuring the privacy settings on Facebook is no easy task, so there may be overlooked privacy loopholes in a user’s profile if they don’t take the time to go through every single option available to them,” Hoal reports. And how many parents sit down with their children to look through all the privacy settings anyway?
Even if parents trust their 9-year-olds to not look for inappropriate material on Facebook, often inappropriate content comes looking for them. Even with privacy settings in place, Facebook users can receive friend requests from strangers and invitations to check out adult-oriented applications. You may trust your kids, but do you trust all your kids’ friends—let alone the rest of the world?
Lying is Lying is Lying
Online dangers aside, parents who knowingly allow their children to create a Facebook profile are either unaware of the age minimum or are encouraging their children to lie. “Parents don’t teach their children to lie to get what they want—whether to join a team, a school, receive a gift—so sending a message that it is okay to lie to join Facebook sends the wrong message and compromises what a parent has taught their child.”
, a social media researcher at Microsoft, says one of the reasons why the 13-year-old-minimum law was drafted in the first place was so parents would need to be more constructively involved in their children’s online lives. So encouraging lying not only compromises a family’s value system, it also shortcuts the reason for the law’s existence in the first place.
When Your Pre-Teen Wants to Be on Facebook
Ms. Hoal can relate to the pressure a parent feels to let their kid get a Facebook account. “As a parent that struggled with an underage child wanting to join an adult-intended network, I can tell you that either the children are going behind their parents’ backs (this happened to my husband and me despite the fact that there are family rules and consequences), or parents haven’t had the opportunity to learn about the health and safety issues that their children are susceptible to on Facebook.”
She offers some timely advice to parents: “If your child is under the age of 13, then just say no
. Children need to learn that there are things they need to wait for.” Choose to point your pre-teen in the direction of new social networks meant specifically for their age group. There are many to choose from. Nearly three years ago Ms. Hoal spearheaded the creation of YourSphere.com
, a social network meant only for minors. Your child doesn’t have to pretend to be 13 to join, and its editorial and law enforcement teams works to keep the site safe and clean for all kids who join.
Chances are, merely suggesting your child use an age-appropriate network may not work. After all, being older than 19, you’re ancient in their mind, and therefore any idea you have is probably not cool. Instead, Ms. Hoal suggests you ask your tween to simply give you feedback about a new social network you’ve heard about. “It’s a non-threatening approach. Typically, there isn’t a child/teen that will turn away from the opportunity to tell their parent their idea stinks.” She reports many parents have taken this approach, and as a result, their children have found they really love YourSphere after they’ve had time to play around with it.
Still, when your child turns 13, they may want to be on Facebook like all their friends. Diligent parents should keep in mind that turning 13 doesn’t magically enable someone to handle all the responsibility of using an adult social network.
He is seeking escape
Life is tough and there are many responsibilities between work and family. Sometimes a man wants to get away from this world and enter fantasy land. This escape takes his mind off of things that cause pain or anxiety and provides him with pleasure. As a wife, you understand the need to get away from the children or work. This is much the same as he is seeking with pornography.
Many women believe he is trying to get away from her, which might be true if she is a contentious woman, but usually he is stressed about the cares of this world and wants a brief escape. Try to provide an environment where he can talk to you freely and without hesitation about things that are on his mind. Listen to him and make sure he knows you are on his team and working together with him.
He is wired to be visually oriented
Men are visual creatures. We find what we like by site and feelings come later. Women use their feelings to determine what they like then they translate that into physical attraction. This being said, a man is usually always scanning females searching for something pleasant to the eye. He gets great satisfaction just from observation because he is stimulated by sight. Using pornography develops his visual appetite and makes it more satisfying and therefore he will keep going back for more. Don’t neglect yourself physically and stop wearing nice clothes for him. He will notice you more if you take time to get his attention.
He is hooked on the high he gets
Pornography has been documented to mimic the same effects on the brain as drugs do. It releases all kinds of feel good chemicals that provide lots of pleasure for a while. It is so easy to get hooked on pornography for this very reason. Men like the view and the feeling it gives them. You may be a good looking sexy woman, but your husband will go to pornography for the variety and to get his fix. I’ve seen men with very attractive wives go back time and again to pornography. This is very hard to comprehend for a feeling oriented woman. Many women will blame themselves because they don’t look sexy as they used to, but the truth is, he is an addict and is acting out of addiction and not directly as a result of your physical beauty.
He is searching for an intimate connection
Even though men are visually oriented, deep down inside we are lonely and seeking an intimate connection. If you and your husband have a rocky marriage, make love infrequently or don’t take time to go out on dates and connect with each other, he may be starving. It’s hard to understand how a man can get intimacy from a video screen, but in his mind these girls are there for him and to please him. They draw him into a false intimacy that he eats up if he doesn’t have an intimate connection with his wife. It’s not just the sex he is looking for, it’s the feeling of being wanted, appreciated and being able to please someone else. If you can provide those things for your husband he will rather spend time with you over them.
Wives, I write this from a man’s point of view to help you understand where we are coming from. A man does not always look at pornography as a direct result of something you have done or not done. Sometimes he does it because it is what he has done for a long time, but other times he does it because something is lacking or he is just plain stressed out with life.
My best advice to you is to be sensitive to your husband’s needs. Try to be understanding and let him get close to you physically and emotionally. Also, make certain he knows you love him and don’t like the fact he is using pornography. Try not to be confrontational but don’t let him off the hook if you know he is looking at pornography.
Together the two of you can work through these issues and come out on the other side, a stronger and closer couple.
4 Reasons Christian Companies Should Offer Accountability Software to Their Employees
by Rev. Jon Gleason
The company for which I work first became aware of Covenant Eyes
some years ago when an associated company hired an apprentice. The leaders of his church were concerned about his computer use, and suggested Covenant Eyes to provide accountability.
This began a relationship which I have come to greatly value. My company has a strong Christian ethic, and eventually offered Covenant Eyes to all employees on a voluntary basis. At first, I was hesitant because it seemed to intrude on my privacy, but I began to see it differently. As my children have grown, I have valued it greatly, and our family uses Covenant Eyes on all our computers.
I have become a strong advocate of accountability software. Companies invest heavily in employees, but even Christian owned/operated companies often do little to help their staff in this area.
This is spiritually and financially short-sighted, as pornography and other Internet addictions destroy productivity and health (spiritual, mental, and physical). The impact can be far greater when addiction leads to divorce.
As a husband, father, pastor, and employee, I see four compelling reasons for any Christian man to use Accountability Software like Covenant Eyes:
It is when you think you are strong that you are most likely to be weak (1 Corinthians 10:12; Proverbs 16:18). Each of us is vulnerable to temptation, and we must be vigilant against spiritual danger (1 Peter 5:8). If I trust my own integrity to keep me out of trouble, I lean on a thin reed indeed.
A very effective guard against temptation is a guarantee you will get caught if you yield. Certainly, God sees what we do, but somehow having wives, friends, or work colleagues know what I’m doing makes a big difference. Accountability to God should be enough, but honesty compels us to admit it often isn’t. As a result, knowing that someone gets a report if I click on that link is a strong deterrent.
Accountability Software protects against my weakness.
Sin makes us stupid. Sometimes, we just sin even when we know we are going to get caught. Maybe bitterness or anger tempts us to say, “I don’t care.” We might even get so messed up that we sin just to hurt someone, and so accountability prevention doesn’t help.
When a Christian gets this way, they need intervention. James 5:19-20 talks of believers who sin and are rescued by a brother’s intervention. If my sin generates a report going to a brother, I place in his hand a powerful tool to sweep away excuses and address my great spiritual need.
Accountability Software equips my brother to intervene.
Timothy was to be an example to other believers (1 Timothy 4:12). By using Accountability Software, my actions communicate. I say that purity is more important than privacy, and thus by example I encourage others to take purity seriously, and reject prideful spiritual self-sufficiency.
I live out the fact that we are family, not islands unto ourselves, and that what we do, even in private, affects others. I demonstrate my unity with my brothers, and my determination to involve others in my life. I live out the importance of a strong marital relationship, and that trust is something to be earned and protected. Even if I personally did not need the software, I would use it as an example to encourage others who do need it.
Accountability Software gives a positive example of godly values.
If you want people to trust you, make sure they don’t have to. This is true in financial, business, ministry, or sexual ethics. If you establish safeguards, others gain confidence in your integrity. The more people don’t have to trust you, the more they will trust you on those occasions when they need to. Conversely, the more they do have to trust you, the more opportunity for distrust to creep in.
Who, more than anyone else, do you need to trust you? Covenant Eyes is not an expensive gift of love to give your wife. Even if you aren’t tempted, you make it easier for her to trust you when she sees you establish a safeguard to protect your marital intimacy.
Accountability Software builds trust where most needed–in marriages.
Prevention, Intervention, Example and Trust. I would never say that those who do not use Accountability Software are sinning. What I would say is that I am thankful that my company made it available, and there are strong reasons for companies to consider offering it to their employees. I would definitely say that any Christian man who doesn’t use it would do well to take a second look.
. . . .
is a bi-vocational pastor in Glenrothes,Scotland, pastoring Free Baptist Church. He supports his family by working as a computer programmer. He and his wife Terri have six children. He blogs at
Virtual Worlds for Kids: 10 Reasons Why Your Child Should Be Connected Online
By Mary Kay Hoal
Kids younger and younger are adopting the digital communications tools available. The Millennials (those between the ages of 10 and 20) represent the largest percentage of these users. The fastest growing segment of kids online is those 2–11 years of age.
I initially wanted to delay my children’s foray into the world of connectivity through social media. Perhaps you’re like me, but after five children ranging in age from 7 to 20, I can tell you this: Your kids should be connected online, and the sooner the better. Here’s why:
1. It’s Inevitable.
It’s not a matter of “if”; it’s a matter of “when.” As you read, children as young as two are online. This is why you need to be proactively involved in making sure your child is connected. If you aren’t, they’ll do it on their own, and you’ll miss the opportunity to steer them in the right direction to kids-only social networks instead of the adult-intended ones.
2. It’s Educational.
When your child is participating in a kid’s social network, they’re supplementing the education they’ve received in the classroom and at home. Whether it’s learning about “ways they can be green” or “5 tips for writing your own song,” the experience is beneficial to them.
3. It’s Lots of Fun.
Let’s face it, a positive comment from a friend, creating an avatar, playing hundreds of games, or creating a sphere to show off their interests are all sure ways to make your child smile as they have fun using social media.
4. It’s A Creative Outlet.
Unlike any other media, social media gives our kids the ability to develop and pursue technical, creative, design, artistic, and writing skills. It’s an outlet where their imagination is their only limitation, and that’s a wonderful thing!
5. It Expands Your Child’s Social Circle
While real-life friendships are absolutely the most important, social media connections allow your child to meet other kids that share the same interests, talents and aspirations.
6. It’s A Great Communication Vehicle.
Our kids live digital lives. It’s proven to be a wonderful and necessary tool to stay connected.
7. It’s A Participatory Media.
No more concerns of “turning into a vegetable” if you watch too much TV. With online social connectivity, our kids don’t just consume, they get to produce, become and participate in the media.
8. It’s Inspiring!
To see kids support and help one another, to share their interests and to create common ground with kids from all over the world is nothing short of being an inspiration to us all.
9. It’s Healthy.
When your child is in an environment made especially for them, where their individuality is supported, where their privacy and safety matter, where their interests are nurtured, and a community of positive interaction is the status quo, well, it’s simply a healthy experience for them.
10. To Prepare Them To Avoid The Pitfalls.
While there’s much to be gained, there are the pitfalls. Mainstream social networks like Facebook and MySpace were created by, and meant for adults. Too much personal data is collected on these networks; there is no “real privacy”; consumer data is sold; adult content is the norm; a free-for-all culture allows members to behave any which way.
Your kids need the opportunity to learn through networks intended just for them what’s okay to post, or not; how to be a good digital citizen, and why privacy matters so that when they grow up and move on to these networks, they are prepared.
If you’re reading this article then chances are you care very much about your child’s online safety. That’s why I recommend you pick up a copy of Covenant Eye’s e-book, Parenting the Internet Generation. In it, you’ll find valuable information on topics such as sexting, Cyberbullying, online predators and pornography.