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Saturday, November 17, 2007 LDS Church News
Internet wide open for children's gamesA Christmas warning: wireless toys can access unfiltered pornography
A letter from the Religious Alliance Against Pornography and the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, of which the Church is a member, has sent a strongly worded warning letter to congregations across the United States.
"In direct communication with many of the largest wireless companies, we have learned that they do not intend to warn parents at the time of purchase about the dangers of internet pornography," the letter states.
"This means that the educational process with parents to protect their children by not buying access to the Internet until adequate safety devices are in place must be done by the faith community now."
The letter continues: "We, the members of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography and the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families, wish to share with you a disturbing reality now affecting the most innocent and vulnerable among us: America's children and youth.
"Pornography and other sexually explicit material are now readily available on any wireless mobile device with Internet capabilities. Our children and grandchildren are at risk as well as those children entrusted to our spiritual leadership and care. Entire families, thus whole communities, stand to become victims of the immeasurable moral, social and spiritual damage which results.
"Most disconcerting is the fact that children's entertainment devices have become venues for explicit sexual content. Today's technologies facilitate the distribution of digital video content as never before. Wireless handheld devices such as video cell phones, iPods, iPhones, PDAs, and PlayStations and other video game consoles are now conduits for all the pornography available on the Internet. Pornography has gone from between the mattresses to the cinema screen, to the television screen, to the computer screen and now to the wireless screen. Handheld pornography is no longer a futuristic threat.
"Parents cannot and must not expect government and the wireless industry alone to protect their children from the harms of the wireless culture. Until recently no filtering devices for wireless technology were available. The five largest wireless companies, T-Mobile, AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Alltel, and Verizon are seriously committed to developing filtering technology. But to date, only T-Mobile, AT&T and Alltel have made publicly available such an Internet blocking tool.
"Let's be very clear. Wireless technology is not the enemy. Rather, the danger lies in the perverse misuse of the technology and the fact that safeguards are limited in both availability and reliability. Exposure to unwanted, seductive and explicit content downloadable from the Internet onto these wireless handheld devices is a real and present danger. Further, children and teens are vulnerable to sexual predators who readily approach them through the Internet."
The letter encourages leaders of congregations and parents to keep people informed of "real time accurate information" of inherent dangers, and is signed by William Cardinal H. Keeler, Archbishop Emeritus of Baltimore; and the Rev. Jerry R. Kirk, Chairman of the Board, NCPCF. Both are co-chairmen of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography.
The letter further warns that every child in America will be impacted directly or indirectly because: "Pornographers are continually on the offensive and are determined to seduce those not seeking pornography and force their immorality on us. They have learned how to manipulate innocent people from good sites to pornographic sites.
"Every child will have some peers or friends of peers that are plugged into the Internet through a wireless device (video mobile phone, PDA, video iPod, iPhone, PlayStation).
"Pornographic material is powerfully addictive and because those peers who will be impacted, will talk about it, and will offer access to the material.
"Young people and children are often more computer literate than their parents and grandparents and are inquisitive about sexual things.
"Children and youth are already putting pressure on their parents to have video mobile phones, etc. that can access the Internet. That pressure will increase significantly as the video mobile phone industry explodes. Within a matter of months almost every mobile phone will have Internet and picture capacity and we know that the wireless industry will produce a massive advertising campaign because they make their large profits through monthly Internet fees. Peer pressure to not be left behind will intensify.
"If your children don't succeed with you in getting the Internet, some of their friends or peers will succeed with their parents. When they discover pornographic material, including its addictive nature and how it impacts their hormones, they will share it with others. Knowledge is power and they will become an 'In Group'.
"When (not if) your child sees that material, because you have trained them in the Christian faith, he/she will likely be attracted and repulsed at the same time. Often the revulsion will wane and the titillation will come back and make it more difficult to say, 'No' consistently over a long period of time."
Wireless handheld devices such as video cell phones, iPods, iPhones, PDAs, and PlayStations and other video game consoles are now conduits for all the pornography available on the Internet.
January 5, 2008 LDS Church News
"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.