In the classic tale of The Gingerbread Boy, by Paul Galdone, a gingerbread boy finishes baking and runs away, leaving the old man and woman who created him behind.
"Run, run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me! I'm the gingerbread man," he says.
He runs from a cow, a horse and farmers. "Stop, so we can eat you," each calls after the boy.
But he manages to elude the clutches of everyone he meets, until he happens upon a clever fox.
"I have run away from a field full of farmers, a horse, a cow and a little old woman and a little old man, and I can run away from you, too," the gingerbread boy tells the fox.
In response the fox lies.
"I do not want to catch you. I want to help you run away. Hop on my back and I will help you cross this river," he tells the gingerbread boy.
Falling for the cunning lies of the fox, the boy who once ran from danger, finds himself moving closer to it; from the fox's tail he moves to his back, then his shoulder, and finally the gingerbread boy rests on the fox's nose.
And before the gingerbread boy realizes what has happened, "snip snap" the fox opens and closes his strong jaws.
"And that was the end of the gingerbread boy."
Just like the gingerbread boy, our children are susceptible to falling for the cunning lies of foxes that lie in wait. On the Internet, foxes can present themselves as anything they want.
Parents should be involved with their children online and have open family dialog about Internet risks. Although the Internet is a powerful tool for good, it is not a safe environment for children.
Many parents have never viewed their children's MySpace.com or Facebook.com accounts; online accounts are not an appropriate place for a child — or even a teenager — to have interactions with people they do not completely know and trust. These accounts should be private, open only to trusted friends. If accounts are unrestricted, predators will have access to the teens' personal information.
The popular MySpace.com Web site has more than 180 million profiles. During the first two weeks of May 2007, MySpace.com deleted 7,000 profiles of registered sex offenders and has deleted more since.(Jill C. Manning, What's the Big Deal About Pornography?, pp. 30-31.)
Chat rooms also have risks. One expert said going into chat rooms is a little like going to a party where sexual predators, criminals and disrespectful people will be mixed in with the wholesome, clean-cut people. The biggest difference is that at the chat room party everyone looks the same — it is hard to recognize the foxes (Oct. 25, 2008 Church News).
And Internet pornography can lead an unsuspecting child or teen down a devastating road he or she never intended to travel.
In a general conference address Oct. 7, 2000, President Gordon B. Hinckley recounted the story of a 12-year-old girl who got hooked on the Internet. "In a chat room she met an admirer. One thing led to another until the discussion became sexually explicit. As she conversed with him, she thought he was a boy of about her own age," he said.
?But when she met him, the girl found "a tall, overweight gray-haired man." He was a "vicious predator, a scheming pedophile." Her mother, with the help of the FBI, "saved her from what might have been a tragedy of the worst kind."
President Hinckley said youth today find "this tempting stuff all about them. They need the help of their parents in resisting it. They need a tremendous amount of self-control. They need the strength of good friends. They need prayer to fortify them against this flood tide of filth."
Jesus loves children. During His mortal ministry, He gathered them around Him and blessed and protected them. He promised a terrible fate to those who hurt them: "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matthew 18:6).
On one occasion Jesus was teaching when people brought their children to Him. His disciples began to send the children away, but "Jesus called them unto him and said, Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God" (Luke 18:16).
Parents, too, should gather their children around them, creating an environment where they will come for counsel and to ask questions about difficult subjects. Parents should help their children navigate the Internet world.
Even though the Internet did not exist in its present form during his presidency, President Ezra Taft Benson offered counsel and direction that is as relevant today as it was almost three decades ago. "Encourage your children to come to you for counsel with their problems and questions by listening to them every day," he said. "Discuss with them such important matters as dating, sex and other matters affecting their growth and development, and do it early enough so they will not obtain information from questionable sources" ("The Honored Place of Woman," Ensign, November 1981, p. 107).
It is by talking and listening that children will learn to recognize foxes of every kind. As parents are educated and aware themselves — especially about the Internet — then they can help their children have the knowledge and ability to flee from the fox's lies, having never been in the devastating position of resting on the fox's nose.