Wise parents

"Two wolves live inside each of us," the old Indian said to two young men who had come to hear his wise counsel.

"One wolf is evil and destructive and hurtful," he continued. "The other wolf is good and kind and caring."

The two young men waited for the elder sage to speak further and, when he didn't, one finally asked: "How do you know which of the two wolves inside us will grow to be the strongest?"

The old man was waiting for the question. He replied in a voice heavy with meaning: "Whichever one you feed the most."

As the old Indian knew well, basic to our happiness is deciding which of our inner selves to nurture — the natural man of carnal, sensual and devilish appetite, or the spiritual self inclined toward abundant love of God. Food for either is readily available today. Certainly, the blessings of spiritual development are now as rich and filled with promise as at any time in the history of the world. Conversely, food for the carnal mind is becoming yet more prevalent as even toys for children have become a media of pornography.

Being promoted are new, digital wireless handheld devices with screens that connect to the Internet and provide immediately an unfiltered access to explicit content of the most debasing nature. Game consoles that are in great demand by pre-adolescents and adolescents also connect to the Internet with similar, unfiltered results. Coincidentally, most of those who suffer from a lifetime of addiction to pornography had their first exposures as youth of this age. While these digital devices are not in and of themselves the problem, what they can be used for is a problem. And even where there are filters, parents should not rely on them as the answer to this problem.

"You, too, know enough of the seriousness of the problem," said President Gordon B. Hinckley in October 2004 general conference. "Suffice it to say that all who are involved become victims. Children are exploited, and their lives are severely damaged. The minds of youth become warped with false concepts. Continued exposure leads to addiction....

"I know that I am speaking directly and plainly. I do so because the Internet has made pornography more widely accessible."

Since President Hinckley said this four years ago, the availability of pornography via the Internet has multiplied.

Has our awareness increased accordingly?

Now, too many parents are naive when their children are not.

Many things viewed as harmless in the past have become destructive and dangerous, including many movies and TV shows, some games, some songs, some employment situations, and even sleepovers in many situations. Many parents are not aware of what goes on in their own homes, let alone what can happen in their neighborhoods, schools or at youth job sites. Today's children and adolescents face challenges that cannot be ignored and which bring specific, long-term consequences.

While one child's parents deny access to the Internet, another child's parents might allow it. The influence of "the herd" becomes pervasive. Then, even casual encounters between friends can be used to beam illicit images between devices. Today's parents who understand that their children will almost certainly be exposed to these images sooner or later will be better prepared and more motivated to protect their children.

Now, more than ever, wise parents will guide their children to good choices. They will take the time to build a close relationship of trust and obedience with each child. As the likelihood of related problems increases, such parents will give an even higher priority to the well-being of their children. Wise parents will learn the full capabilities of every digital device in the home or that they purchase — or choose to decline to purchase — and teach their children to use these devices with responsibility and openness. Wise parents will also recognize that there is more to life than providing 24-hour entertainment to their children, and invest accordingly.

In the final pages of the Book of Mormon — at a civilization's demise — the prophet Moroni speaks of gifts, exhorting "that ye would come unto Christ and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift, nor the unclean thing" (Moroni 10:30).

It is a time when if anyone has naivety, it should be children, not their parents.

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