Satan and his forces pose a clear and present danger to the souls of mankind as real as any other threat. That danger is perhaps more imminent today than ever before.
Having been engaged from the beginning in an effort to destroy God's plan of happiness for His children, the adversary has shown himself to be resilient in adapting to changing times and conditions. Attractive targets for him could be the "very elect" of God (see Matthew 24:24) or those who are weak and easily ensnared. Familiar with human nature and disposition and with contemporary culture and circumstances, he can take most any beneficent tool and hijack it to further his own nefarious purposes.
One of these tools is the Internet, the acclaimed "information super-highway" which so rapidly has become a pervasive part of modern life. Its uses are manifold, and it has become the means of accomplishing much good. Through the Church's own Web site, www.lds.org, gospel knowledge is perhaps more accessible today than ever in history.
But the Internet has been also used for evil, with the dissemination of pornography being a predominant use. The very pervasiveness of the Worldwide Web gives the devil a potent means to infiltrate our homes and attack our families within what ought to be an inviolable sanctuary.
One survey of youth who use the Internet showed that within a year, 25 percent had one or more unwanted exposures to sexual pictures and 19 percent had received an unwanted sexual solicitation or approach. Moreover, 70 percent of these incidents happened while the young people were at home. In 10 percent of the incidents, the perpetrators asked to meet the youth somewhere. (See David Finkelhor et al., Online Victimization: A Report on the Nation's Youth, Alexandria, Va.: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.)
The bulk of these approaches occurs in so-called "chat rooms," where Internet users can communicate anonymously. Some adults posing as youth will seek personal information from young people or propose face-to-face meetings. Sometimes they will entice them into "adult" Web sites. Through the use of "cookies," small data files implanted on personal computers, purveyors of these sites can track visitor use and record personal information such as e-mail addresses.
It is the urgent duty of parents to protect their young ones from these predators. Desperate times call for bold, preventive action.
The Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a coalition of national, state and local public-safety agencies, recommends these measures in a brochure, "A Parent's Guide to Internet Safety":
- Talk with your child about online dangers, including sexual victimization.
- Teach your child responsible use of the Internet.
- Set limits with your child, determining when and how long to surf the Web.
- Protect your online password for use each time you allow your child on the Internet.
- Place computers with Internet access in high-traffic areas of the home, never in a child's bedroom.
- Consider using blocking or filtering software offered by some Internet service providers.
- Monitor Internet use in the home. Maintain access to your child's online account and randomly check his or her e-mail. On the home computer, Web sites recently viewed can be checked by clicking the "History" button on the Internet browser.
- Never give a child your credit card number.
- Find out what computer safeguards are in use at your children's school, public libraries and homes of their friends.
More information can be obtained from the task force's Web site, www.utahicac.com.
As parents seek to safeguard their little ones against online predators, the words of the prophet Alma to his people have particular meaning: "The good shepherd doth call after you . . . and he commandeth you that ye suffer no ravenous wolf to enter among you, that ye may not be destroyed" (Alma 5:60).