By Bill Williams | for The Christian Chronicle
Few technological advancements have revolutionized the human experience more rapidly or more dramatically than the Internet. We have e-cards, e-commerce, e-fax, e-file, e-libraries, e-loans, e-mail, e-news, e-trades, e-zines and … e-almost-any-and-everything. We can even find long-lost loved ones via the “net.” Through this modern marvel, the world literally is at our fingertips.
Never before has such a tool existed. It allows us to communicate the gospel globally, while maintaining the ability to conduct individual follow-up with those seeking the Lord.
Additionally, this technological tool enables us to educate and edify believers the world over. What an incredible opportunity! While there are many positive things to say about the Internet, I hasten to raise 1,000 or 2,000 caution flags. The Internet can and should serve as a tool for accomplishing great good in the world. But, there are dangers to avoid.
We need to be cognizant of these and prepared to take the necessary steps to deal with the dangers lurking on the World Wide Web. Not all of these plummet us into the dark world of wanton wickedness. Some are less severe; but there are pitfalls to avoid. Hopefully, you find the following to be helpful:
Be advised: The Internet can rob you of huge chunks of time as you click through link after link. You know the drill. Read a news story. Follow the embedded links to several related stories. Look at something else that catches your eye; get an update on a favorite sports team; check the latest weather forecast; and, before you know it, 30 or 40 minutes have passed.
Do this a couple of times in a day, six or seven days a week and an entire workday has clicked through your fingers. Benjamin Franklin said, “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff life is made of.” Through the Apostle Paul, God instructs, “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:15-17).
If we are not careful, the Internet will rob us of valuable time that could be better spent in a variety of productive ways. Be alert: There are many insidious forces at work on the Internet. Based on the practices of the most proficient and prolific Internet users, the more accurate nomenclature for this cyber-entity just might be: The “sInternet!”
One fact alone supports this assertion: As many as 20 million adults visit cybersex sites each month. This is astounding. Everyone should be alert, for our “enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). No doubt, the devil utilizes the World Wide Web as a means for promoting world wide wickedness. You name it and it’s on the Internet. Cyberstalkers search for unsuspecting children in chat rooms; pornography sites send out their alluring e-mails by the billions; and opportunities for marital infidelity are abundant. “Can a man scoop fireinto his lap without his clothes being burned?” (Proverbs 6:27) Be alert!
Be aggressive: There are many ways to protect yourself and your family from the digital dangers skulking on the Internet. Do research. Find out what will work best for you in your circumstances. Focus on the Family provides helpful information on their Web site. Go to www.family.org and search for Internet safety.
Another helpful site related to Internet safety is www.isafe.org. Parents, we especially need to be aggressive in supervising your children in their Internet usage. You should know whom they are talking with and about what.
In addition to the basic safety information available on many Web sites, let your children know that nothing should be written in an instant message that wouldn’t be spoken in a restaurant, where it is sure to be overheard (by a concerned and highly engaged parent). Also, let them know they are the primary filters for what will and will not be viewed on their Web browsers. Talk to them candidly about the likelihood of encountering unwholesome content and teach them to: “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).
No doubt about it, the Internet provides us with exciting opportunities never before experienced by humans. While seeking to maximize the positive, spiritually enriching usage of the World Wide Web, let us not minimize the dangers lurking there. When it comes to the Internet, we need to be informed of the hazards and insist that our families surf safely!
BILL WILLIAMS is outreach minister of the Northwest Tampa church in
Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He also
maintains a blog.