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“You ought to do an article on www.MySpace.com. A LOT of people are on this site, including kids from our church, I’m very disappointed to say. Our pastor has preached against the things these kids have posted, but some of them now have just made their sites private. It’s very sad how these things are manifesting themselves in fundamentalist churches. You ought to warn pastors to check up on their youth and they might be surprised what they find.”
In the year 2000, a youth pastor in Ohio told me that the worst problems he was having with young people in the church pertained to the internet. He was referring to chat rooms. And that was long before MySpace.com exploded onto the scene.
MySpace is a MASSIVE, SUPERCHARGED, VISUAL-ENHANCED CHAT ROOM. A recent survey found that 61% of Americans aged 13-17 have a MySpace profile. The site features 74 million profiles with 85,000 new ones added every day. During any given week it has 36 million active users.
Wanting to learn more about MySpace, I sent out a notice to our Fundamental Baptist Information Service mailing list and asked for feedback from anyone who has had experience with it. The response was large and overwhelmingly negative, meaning that the vast majority of those who replied gave the strongest warning against Christians being on MySpace.
Never has strict separation from the world been more urgent for Christian homes and churches, and never has it been less practiced among those who claim to be Bible-believing people. We are in an awful, desperate battle for the souls of young people, and churches and families that do not get serious about this battle will surely regret it.
WHAT IS MYSPACE?
MySpace is a “social networking” web site. It is a meeting place, a dating connection, a chat room, an instant message service, a place to blog or write about your life and opinions (like an online diary), a place to download music, a place to post your personal information, photos, videos, and music clips, and a way to link to your friends’ pages. It allows people to sign up for a free account wherein they create their own personal “spaces” and associate with others. When you sign up you answer demographic questions about yourself to facilitate searches by others who are looking for certain characteristics. The user can list things such as date of birth, schools, favorite movies and music, astrological sign, body type, and “sexual preference.” MySpace users can post messages and pictures to one another’s pages. It’s vast online community. It’s a cyber youth hangout. It’s a web publishing house for private expression. And it’s super cool.
I need to say here that MySpace is used for more than a youth chat room and dating service. It is used for business purposes, for example, such as posting resumes and for job promotion; but the part we are concerned about in this report is the social and moral aspect.
MySpace is not the only social networking site, it is merely the largest. I have been told that college and university students use Facebook more than MySpace. “It connects people based on the schools they go to, their majors, their interests and their friends and friends' friends.” Unlike MySpace, Facebook requires an active school e-mail address as evidence that one is indeed who he says he is.
Another social networking site is Frappr, powered by Google. One reader wrote to say that Frappr “is being used by ministries and churches to connect members and missionaries with one another. Some use it as a guestbook (http://www.frappr.com/cbcmorton/map) others as photo gallery (http://www.frappr.com/southtownbaptistchurch/map) and as a way to connect fellowshipping churches (http://www.frappr.com/reformedbaptistfellowship/map).”
(Personally I don’t know anything about either Facebook or Frappr and do not, therefore, give it any sort of recommendation.)
For young people, though, MySpace is overwhelmingly the social networking site of choice, and it is therefore the one we are focusing on in this report.
WHO OWNS MYSPACE?
MySpace is powered by advertising and it is big business. It was built only three years ago (July 2003) by Tom Anderson, an alumnus of UC Berkeley and UCLA who wanted to provide a place “where people could post music, chat, and spread the word about what’s hot.”
In July 2005 Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation purchased MySpace.com for $580 million. Murdoch is the media tycoon who also owns the London Times, the New York Post, Fox Television, 20th Century Fox Films, Harper Collins, and the Zondervan Publishing House (which has exclusive publishing rights to the New International Version).
THE SECRET ASPECT OF MYSPACE
One reader wrote the following perceptive note:
“What MySpace allows the people to do is become whatever they want or whoever they want. They create a site that may be nothing like them (except in their fantasies). Most young people give up on those fantasies when they come to Christ, but by being given the opportunity to become something they are not, and it being in private, there are some devastating results and they are put into incredibly risky situations.”
Dean Hunsucker, Jr., a fundamental Baptist youth pastor (Bible Baptist Church, Wakarusa, Indiana), warns:
“The sweetest savor to a sinner’s mouth, are secret sins that won’t be found out. It used to be easier to catch your kids in sin. If you thought they had a problem with music, pornography, or language you could (as good parents should) look under the mattress, in the closet, in their car, or listen in on the other line or from the other room. (My parents probably did all these things and I am extremely grateful.) But in the late 90’s and even earlier this century, many parents got a wake up call as many teenagers turned to the internet to fulfill the lust of the flesh through porn, music, and chatting online. So the education began and many parents learned to check the computer’s ‘History’ and ‘Cookies.’ Good parents still found a way to track their teens. As the old adage goes, you can make a better mouse trap, but the world will always make a smarter mouse. Welcome to a parents worst nightmare: ‘MySpace.com.’ It is possible to create a space, add music, take digital photographs of yourself and upload them to the internet, and walk away from the computer without any evidence that you were ever there. Our kids now know about ‘history’ and ‘cookies.’ If you think they don’t, I now laugh at you and shake my head at your ignorance. Anything teens are able to keep from their parents will grow more and more out of control.”
One reader gave the following sober warning:
“I find MySpace.com scary. I am Criminal Justice major, and I hear much talk about MySpace.com at the Community College I attend. It seems to be a way to say and do things you would not normally do in public. To make it more plain, they act out in ways that they would not normally behave because they are free from any influence of their parents or adults. It’s a completely different world!”
Other readers wrote along this same line as follows:
“One unique thing about it is that a person can create several MySpace webpage profiles. It is very easy to disguise your page from those that know you and may be looking. This is a big draw to many youth; like having their own hiding place and only those they want are invited. They seem to let their sinful nature come out fully and unrestricted on their pages. You can also create a MySpace account for someone you know and they not even know about it.”
“Just like chat, email, and SMS [short text messaging via a cell phone], MySpace removes a level of contact with your immediate world, but connects you with a much larger one. Relationships can be built across the world, but whether they are genuine or not cannot be policed. You can sign up with a fake profile, and become someone totally different. So often, much time is invested into getting to know people, and then you do not know the real person, because they have just presented you with who they wanted to be that day.”
TRASHY CONTENT AND SPIRITUAL DANGER
Even those who are not Bible believers see the moral danger of MySpace. Many articles have appeared in secular publications. In April of this year, for example, the Los Angeles Times ran Catherine Saillant’s “How Shocked Parent Navigated Perils of Teen’s Hot Web Site.” Notice how the article begins.
“I’ve covered murders, grisly accidents, airplanes falling out of the sky and, occasionally, dirty politics. But in nearly two decades of journalism, nothing has made my insides churn like seeing what my 13-year-old daughter and her friends are up to on MySpace.com.”
Such a statement should make Bible-believing parents sit up and pay attention.
Saillant spoke of the shockingly open talk about immoral acts and the “coarse language and often profane messages that are plastered all over the social networking site like graffiti on bathroom walls.”
Even though this writer does not appear to live by absolute Bible standards, she is wise enough to know the great danger that MySpace poses for her daughter and she required that her daughter follow strict guidelines for participation, including that she could not add as a friend anyone she did not know personally and she had to give her mother complete access to her site, including the password that let her view hidden e-mails.
Jonathan McKee warns about the browse feature on MySpace:
“The ‘browse’ feature on MySpace is where people can really wander into racy areas. Browsing is when you do a search for other people who you want to meet, or to just gawk at their pictures and profile anonymously. You type in the zip code (if any), age range, gender, status (single, married, divorced...), and what you're looking for (dating, networking, friends, or relationships). Then click ‘Update.’ This will bring up a list of thumbnail pics for you to look at. ‘Advanced’ browsing features are also available that allow you to select sexual orientation (straight, gay, bi...), body type, etc. There might as well be a button that says, ‘Click here to see half-naked skanky women.’ After a few times browsing, I told my wife that EVEN I should not browse unsupervised. Certain girls post graphic pictures of themselves--rarely naked, but you'll find a lot of underwear and bikini shots. But the pictures aren’t the only thing that can be risqué. The language, the dialogue and even the fictitious names people select would achieve an ‘adult’ rating on many of the pages” (Jonathan McKee, “A Window into the ‘MySpace’ Generation,” Feb. 14, 2006).
Youth pastor Dean Hunsucker warns: “While MySpace claims to be against pornography. What they mean is ‘we cover the important parts of the important parts.’ Also images that are blatantly pornographic can still be posted, and must be reported as pornographic by other MySpace users (assuming they are offended and not already desensitized). The advertisements alone are soft core porn at the very least and aim to be as seductive as possible without ‘crossing the line.’”
Hunsucker further warns about the trashy music that is prevalent on MySpace: “From Screamo to Punk, from Dead Metal to Verbally Pornographic Rap. You can find it all on MySpace. Not to mention it is extremely easy to link music to your ‘space/site’ either as a ‘click to listen’ or as a background so that whoever clicks on your site will automatically be connected to the music. With the background music setting you have about one second after you click on the person’s ‘space/site’ to hit the mute button or be prepared to expose yourself to whatever they deem appropriate.”
One deeply concerned pastor wrote the following sad testimony:
“We had a business meeting to place three young men on church discipline because they refused to get off the wicked websites. They had built their own websites there proclaiming to be Christian but having rock and roll and even rap as background music. There were almost totally naked women pictured either as backgrounds or as ‘friends.’ There were four letter words of the foulest nature used as screen names. There were married men carrying on conversations with other women, some of whom were former girlfriends. Some of them even discussed meeting for lunches. Most of them carried on conversations with former backslidden members as well and hurt the name of the church as well as the cause of Christ. I cannot believe that those who claim the name of the Lord could not see or want to see the evil of this ‘meeting place.’ Said to say, all three men who would not repent grew up in good godly homes and went to our church school. On a better side, three people have gotten off. They have chosen the right path. AMEN!”
Evangelist Brad Courtney, who wrote “An Ounce of Prevention: A Parent’s Look at MySpace.com” (Baptist Bible Tribune, Sept. 2006), warned:
“In May, I learned that my 13-year-old daughter had opened a MySpace.com account at the urging of some of her friends. When I became aware, I admit I knew little about MySpace, so I was unprepared for what I was about to encounter. ... During the first two weeks of my MySpace.com investigation, I was more than shocked on several occasions, and I finally insisted I would have full access to my daughter’s account or I would cancel it and remove her profile. The things I found that shocked me were not contained on her personal site, but still I decided it was important for me to be more informed as to what was taking place on her site. ... The materials I saw were posted by 13- and 14-year-old boys and girls ... every word in the cursing vocabulary, including the vilest ones; references to every sexual act imaginable; a poem that was so sexually graphic, I cannot print it in this public forum; a picture of a young boy smoking dope; sensuous pictures of young girls that are borderline pornography.”
One reader who responded to my request for personal experiences in regard to MySpace wrote:
“My two oldest daughters [who are not saved] both have space on MySpace. I heard them talking about it quite a lot. Sometimes about other people’s spaces, other times about people who left messages for them on theirs. So I decided to check it out. The only way to check it out was to sign up for a space. I was appalled! People, many very young teens, can put their names and faces up there. Many times the photos are very provocative. Some of the messages left for my daughters were down right disgusting.”
One young man wrote to tell me that he is a member of MySpace and that he feels it is possible to retain control over it, but he made the following telling admission:
“I belong to MySpace. A friend of mine got me on to it a couple of months ago. I found some old friends from school on there, but you do get a lot of spam from women that want to be your friend and to see pics of them inappropriately dressed to go to another link to see them.”
Following are other warnings that were given by various readers as to the moral filth that pervades MySpace:
“The worst thing about MySpace is the fact that people constantly spam in porn pictures onto everyone’s page. A person must constantly be on guard and get rid of them and turn them in but it never ends.”
“As I was checking our computer to make sure both my sons were not visiting sites I was unaware of, I discovered they both had pages at MySpace and I was stunned at the ungodly stuff they are exposed to. Even if the child has nothing wrong on his or her own ‘space,’ the devil and the world are certainly in other spaces. I won’t even share the stuff I’ve read there -- wicked stuff.”
“I am a researcher for a number of Christian Ministries and a subscriber to your site as well. I have done some research into MYSPACE.COM and I have to say very, very strongly to avoid it like the plague. The reason why I say this is because it is full of abominations from Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, the esoteric to pagan and wiccan to black satanic sites. Why they even have a ‘hardcore’ christian site, and I do not want to even explain what is involved with that. Warn your readers strongly because what I have seen is a spiritual death trap to those who a new in the Lord, teenagers who are easily impressionable, and the undiscerning. Tell them to Stay Clear and to warn their children!!”
“My wife had begun hearing about MySpace a year and a half ago, and had heard that some of the kids in the homeschool group had web pages on MySpace. So she did some investigation, curious about what the kids were blogging about, etc. Some were ok, nothing to worry about, but some were filled with wretched vile language. This from homeschooled kids from Christian families. One in particular was extremely violent in nature, and obscene.”
“Unfortunately I have had many dealings with MySpace as a result of ministry. The first appearance of this came roughly one year ago when the Lord, I believe, revealed that several of our youth were involved in it. Some of them had MySpace pages for over a year. ... [You cannot] navigate the pages without being exposed to foul language, nudity, etc. ... When I was dealing with this we had nearly 15 youth involved; from 9 years to 19 years, from Christian school kids to bus kids and even a couple of kids in college. I found it to have been introduced to our youth by those in the world (other kids at school, relatives, etc.). When we first began to investigate the pages, what we found was literally heartbreaking and very revealing as to the true condition of the inner man of those involved. The pages revealed very much. Of course the parents were for the most part oblivious to this and when they did find out it required someone with some personal computer abilities to help them close the pages down. One of the youth had a page and everything on it was above board and good. However, his friends messages, etc., with the links to their pages, caused him to be guilty by association. All you have to do is click on the link and watch where you will end up. Not to mention some of the things the friends posted to his page, as well.”
“We had no idea what MYSPACE was about just up to last week when a young person whose family we know quite well sent us an invite to her MYSPACE page. Her page was very nice, not something to be concerned about. Once we began searching the site, though, we soon found out that you can click on another person’s photo or logo & then get onto that person’s page. These are called ‘my friends.’ This is when we began to worry. From just the short time on the site we soon realized how many of these ‘Christian’ young people are overtaken by ‘pop’ Christianity--the mainstream. Oh yes, Jesus’ name comes up, but in a very unpersonal way, sort of a ‘cool Jesus, not the Jesus of the Bible that we are familiar with. Another thing that was surprising to us, considering that these are professing Christians, was reading their descriptions of themselves. Questions such as orientation? Three of the young people we know personally all answered ‘straight’! ... It is odd to think that that is asked, but I guess it’s the only way you can really find a ‘date’? Also on their MYSPACE page they tell how they are physically built and what astrological sign they are. All of them had answers! Even more saddening was really that it should be called a ‘pick-up’ joint. It’s a way for young people to tell the world who they are and what they want. They are there for friendships and dates! The music groups that are on their MYSPACE pages are no different than the world. We were shocked and saddened how these professing children of God look, act and talk! It was a rude awakening for us. Actually, we talked about it most of the next couple of days, it bothered us so much. There is no separation. NONE. They are no different than anyone else who is in the world. Personally, we were offended. Now, mind you, these were just the ‘Christian’ pages we saw; I can’t imagine what other pages look like. As we did click on more and more ‘friends,’ it got uglier and uglier. The scary thing about it all is that there were young girls aged 15 who were involved and the things said were directed toward dating. ... It certainly isn’t Christian.”
“I recently checked out the MySpace.com website out of curiosity due to publicity in the media of a public school teacher from a nearby town who used MySpace to contact a 14 year old boy whom she had been molesting. The first clue for your readers as to the character of MySpace is that in order to access the site, they will first have to disable their internet filter. What I discovered was that when I searched for people in my area by zip code, I was astounded by the people that I knew who professed to be Christians (adults as well as teenagers who come from Christian homes). A couple of things that concerned me was that: (a) There is a definite separation issue involved. If I were to set up my own personal profile on MySpace.com, and you were to search for my profile, you would not only find my page, but several others as well. The thumbnail images from these pages are often very suggestive, and some are even downright perverted! My picture would be there on the same page as these other ungodly images. (b) It encourages young people to meet and develop a strange sort of cyber relationship with people whom they have never met. This can lead to romantic feelings which we do not encourage our young people to develop outside of a godly courtship relationship and under strict parental supervision. In some cases the person they meet may not be who they portray themselves to be. Child molesters and perverts have been using this type of tactic to contact their victims and find new ones, according to police agencies. The recent rash of teacher/student pedophilia is one such example. I even found that there were women on the site who are Christian wives and mothers, and they are ostensibly using MySpace to contact family and friends. I definitely don’t believe that a Christian wife and mother ought to be spending her time on an internet social site (the same goes for husbands and fathers). There is too great a danger for improper relationships to develop, and even if that were not the case, would it be a wise use of time? Of course, these same cautions apply to the internet in general, but MYSPACE BRINGS TOGETHER ALL THE DANGERS OF THE INTERNET INTO ONE PLACE.”
“It is interesting that you sent out your most recent communiqué on the subject of MySpace.com. I am a Pastor of an Independent Fundamental Baptist Church and I recently had a student from one of our IFB Colleges with me over the summer. She was helping in ministry at our church. ... While her younger sister (who is in high school) was visiting, we overheard the girls having a discussion about whether MySpace.com was a safe, clean and wholesome environment for Christians. This college student’s sister assured her that it was and so she registered for an account. This piqued my curiosity so I created a new e-mail address, signed up for an account and then deleted all of my personal information so that I could peruse it without anyone being suspicious. In order to remain accountable myself, I have shared what I have found with my wife and we have discussed this site and its ramifications on our own home and on us as parents of two future teenagers. What I discovered is absolutely shocking. I went and looked up every teenager from the church that I used to pastor and the teens from the church I am pastoring currently. Some of the accounts were set to private so that they could only be viewed by people who had permission of the person hosting the site, so I was unable to see everything. But the things I was able to see were disturbing. In the accounts that had public access, there were montages of teens being intimate with their boyfriends and girlfriends, swearing in the message boards, sexually suggestive photographs and anecdotes with vile double entendres. This is only the tip of the iceberg in respect to what I was able to see just by browsing through about 20 or 25 ‘Christian’ pages. I was able to simply click on the picture of some of the people in their ‘friends’ list and see the depravation of their websites as well. These things that I have mentioned go beyond the things that are evidently overlooked by most believers like dress, self-photographs of young men and women scantily clad, the love of contemporary Christian music and infatuation with materialism. In fact, there were not only connections to CCM, but it seems very evident that this music has provided a bridge to secular music of all styles and even videos that can be put into the pages themselves. I know that the CCM artists claim that they are providing an alternative in many respects, but it is obvious that the fruits of this movement have helped many young people make the transition from CCM to secular music with little effort. It has become more of a bridge than an alternative. ... I am very concerned about this. My wife approached this student that we had with us over the summer, and she did not see anything wrong with MySpace after having an account there for a couple of months. She even went and changed her settings to private so that others could not see her information or maybe so we could not inspect her site anymore.”
“It is impossible to describe how harmful it is to young people. We have a granddaughter, age 13, who has a MySpace page, and I have been appalled to see the type of thing with which she is involved. Recently she set it to ‘private’ -- meaning that only her approved ‘friends’ have access to her page. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine has done the same with hers. They are able to post extremely suggestive pictures of themselves. The language is beyond description. To create a personal ‘page,’ the kids access advertisers, songs, etc., and download that stuff to make it more interesting, sensual, whatever. ... Most of the kids are posting their ages as several years older than what they are. We live in a small community, but there have been several cases of girls being lured to meet men they have met on MySpace. These have resulted in rape, but in other places girls have been murdered. Of course, these men present themselves as ‘cute, 18 year-old football players,’ etc., not as child molesters, and they can easily find girls in their vicinities.”
“Whenever you make a transition on MySpace, like finishing posting a bulletin, a message, or when you log out, you are informed of finishing that task along with an advertisement. The advertisements vary (find your friend from high school, apply for University of Phoenix, etc.), but also include a very risqué singles website called True. They use provocatively dressed women to advertise their sites, and you CANNOT avoid it on MySpace. If you do what is available on MySpace (add friend, sign out, post bulletin, post message, etc.), you will eventually see ads for True. I have received several ‘add me as a friend’ messages from (supposedly) women who send form-letter e-mails saying they were interested in my MySpace. Then, when you add them as friends, they send you bulletins advertising their ‘other’ websites (all I’ve seen so far is dance clubs, messaging names and picture sites solicited, but possibly also webcams). If you have a MySpace, you will eventually get unsolicited ‘add me as a friend’ messages.”
THE LINKS: YOU ARE NOT ALONE ON MYSPACE
Youth pastor Dean Hunsucker warns:
“As you gain friends on your new MySpace site, you soon realize that MySpace takes the liberty of ‘linking’ your site to their site. It even takes the picture they use as their identifying logo (usually a photo of themselves) and places it on your ‘space/site.’”
Another reader wrote:
“There was a conservative Southern Gospel group that has a MySpace account. I was looking at their site and noticed a listing of those that are called ‘friends.’ Their photos are included and provide a direct link to their MySpace page. On one site, one of the friends used the middle finger as their photo. There were also several photos of women that [were immodestly dressed].”
WHO’S LOOKING AT MYSPACE? A SHOPPING MALL FOR SEXUAL PERVERTS
Youth pastor Dean Hunsucker warns:
“Our teens are savvy, smart, and computer minded, but they are still ignorant kids. Ignorant, green, absentminded, and they do not understand the criminal mind!!! It doesn’t take much to find your kid on MySpace. I can search and type their name. It’s that easy. The real ‘street-smart’ (I say that tongue in cheek) teens tend to attempt to use other names and nicknames as to not give away their identity. So to find them you can just click on their school (yes, MySpace lets you search by school; bet you feel safe). Once in their school you just scroll down till you find their PHOTO!!! I worked in a homeless shelter for nearly 10 years of my very short life and I have met hundreds of prison hardened criminals. I have seen these men take less than 10 minutes on the internet to find SS numbers, address, and phone numbers -- and that was before your teenage daughter posted them next to her picture on her Website!! Many of these sites list: Where I like to hang out after school... This is the car I drive... On Friday night I will be...”
A U.S. Army communications officer gave this warning:
“I am the communications officer for my battalion. We have had some opsec [operational security] issues with some of our soldiers maintaining MySpace sites. There are supposed to be controls on the content that prevent nudity, hateful content, piracy, etc. However, they don’t catch anything. Many people use this as an opportunity to provide updates about themselves so people can look them up if staying in touch is difficult. Distant family relationships have made much use of this capability. The problem with this is that many predators, terrorists and other criminals have access to the same information. To anyone that is concerned about their family’s or their own safety, MySpace is an enormous opsec concern.”
Jonathan McKee, an evangelical youth worker, gives the following examples of how MySpace has been used by moral perverts:
“The biggest problem with this type of social networking site is that you don’t know who is looking at your personal profile and using that information to get close to you. Predators are out there... and they’re ‘shopping’ on MySpace. I don’t have to convince you of this fact. You only need to turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or do a quick Google search to read reports about those who paid the price because they didn’t use good discernment on MySpace.
“Last month a 37-year-old man solicited a 16-year-old girl by visiting MySpace.com. ‘The man misrepresented himself as being younger, then tracked her down. The man showed up at the victim’s after-school job and followed her to the parking lot, where he forced her into his car and attacked her’ (The Daily Advertiser, January 20, 2006). The article goes on to explain that the assailant knew where the 16-year-old girl worked because she posted it on her MySpace profile.
“In the Tampa area a high school teacher who was accused of making sexual advances to a 14-year-old girl on the Internet was arrested on computer pornography charges. The St. Petersburg Times contends that William Warren Greico, 42, ‘first approached the girl after he saw her posting on MySpace.com in August. Billing himself as a man named “Tyler,” the Seminole High School English teacher sent his picture to the girl and a message asking if she’d like to be friends, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office’ (December 22, 2005).
“In Portland, a 27 year old faces up to five years in prison after being convicted of four charges that included sexual misconduct and furnishing alcohol to a minor. ‘The criminal complaint resulted from a romance that began after Perry read the girl’s profile on the computer service MySpace.com. The girl, who was 14, published mostly accurate information about herself on the site, but lied about her age, claiming that she was 19 in order to set up an account’ (Portland Press Herald, December 19, 2005). Now, ironically, she wouldn’t even have to lie about her age.
“And these attacks are not just on young girls. About one-third of the cases of Internet sexual exploitation are men exploiting boys” (Jonathan McKee, “A Window into the ‘MySpace’ Generation”).
One reader wrote with this frightful information:
“Ironic timing on this request for information in regard to MySpace. I’m not sure if you have read the news reports from the last few days about a man who took six girls hostage in a Colorado high school (if not, it is page one news at cnn.com or foxnews.com). During the ordeal he sexually assaulted them and eventually killed one of them and himself. It has been reported that he showed up at the school and was asking some students for these female students by name. The sheriff suspects that the man researched which girls he was looking for on MySpace.com.”
THE GREAT POTENTIAL FOR VICIOUS SLANDER
The following two cases were described by readers:
“Last year this web site caused a terrible problem for a gentleman who is the principal for a local high school. One of the students said some not-so-nice things about him that caused attorneys to get involved and resulted in the student being suspended from school for a while and then having to take special classes to be kept away from other students. I won’t go into detail about what was said about the principal. Suffice to say that it was something that could have ruined his reputation and caused many problems for the man’s family.”
“An assistant principal at the high school my children attended [in San Antonio, Texas] has sued two students and their parents for defamation and parental negligence. It seems that she had disciplined a particular student several times, so he enlisted the help of another to open an account on either MySpace or FaceBook in her name. They built a false profile and posted pornographic photos of her (by morphing her face with another image) along with several lewd comments and other images. She found out and pressed charges against one of the boys, and it turns out that what he did is a felony, which means that he can be kicked out of school. She also sued the parents of both boys, and is being hailed as a heroic pioneer in this invasion of privacy type of case. No one can predict the outcome, but it has spurred a lot of discussion amongst parents who have been clueless.”
OTHER COMMENTS FROM READERS
Following are some of the other comments about MySpace that I received from readers:
“It seems teens are totally unaware of just how much info they are providing and the perverts on the other end of the wire. I am speaking of Christian teens not the world. Shut it down, turn it off, give no place to the devil.”
“Worst of all, MySpace gives the illusion of being controllable. Many good Christian teens are allowing themselves to be sucked into this world by this wolf in sheep’s clothing. ‘My’ implies possession and anything I am thought to ‘own’.... I control. Herein lies the fundamental problem with MySpace.com. When you think you can control sin, you have already lost control.”
“My 23-year-old daughter has ‘herspace’ and I have looked around enough to get the impression that it is a great place for the unsaved to unbridle their electronic tongues and spill their godless thoughts and beliefs all over the world with no fear of repercussion. I have checked out some of her friends and even their friends and not once have I seen anything less than total depravity. Speaking for myself, I would not waste my time there, nor could I recommend it to anyone. There may be a lot more to it than what I have seen. Some may even say there is a mission field out there on MySpace but my optimism for reaching them is very low. I see it as a place to get away from Christ not find Him.”
“From a Christian perspective, MySpace is simply a dose of reality. It’s a view of everything that is in the world, the good, the bad, the whole spectrum. My personal recommendation would be for people not to fool with MySpace. ... Browsing is fruitless and can lead to trouble. MySpace carries with it the same issues and risks of chat sites and any other site where you are encouraged to interact with other internet users. It can lead to assault, unfaithfulness, fornication, and victimization from a wide range of perverts. You never know who’s viewing your information, and you never know what information you’ll find. The best thing I can say about MySpace is that it is unnecessary, and unwise.”
“My wife and I do not allow our daughter to have a MySpace account due to the fact that most of the content on the personal pages is not in any way Christian and most of it, as my late independent Baptist father would say, ‘is right out of hell and some of Satan’s best work.’ I will somewhat agree that Myspace can be used for positive Christian activities. ... However, exposing oneself to the worldly sinful content available is not good. I do not recommend MySpace and my group [who previously had a MySpace account for promoting an audio engineering business] is canceling our account and setting up a website at our expense. I am what most independent Baptist would consider a liberal and if a ‘liberal’ is against it, it must be bad!”
“It is Satan’s recruitment center, his playground, his training facility, and launching platform to wreak the lives of those whom he gleefully destroys. ... The precious lives of innocent and not so innocent people have been sucked into its void and become trapped there with no possible hope of escape. ... I have counseled brothers in the faith who are loosing their families (and that means wives, children, and even themselves) to this latest curse of man’s inventions inspired by Satan himself. Never once have I had any good dealings when it came to the use of MySpace.com. It is a danger to the spirit, mind, and body like none other that I have seen before. Only when the plug is literally pulled and the Lord Jesus Christ is introduced to the person (or re-introduced for the brethren) is there any hope of recovery. The problem is that with wireless devices, cell phones with internet capability, etc. it makes it harder to pull the plug.”
“While the opportunity for someone to spread the Gospel through a MySpace site is interesting, I question whether or not the peripherals that have to be dealt with are worth it. There are sexually suggestive sites that virtually anyone could view.”
“It’s just another avenue for the devil. It has been blocked from our internet along with xanga.”
“I cannot believe that those who claim the name of the Lord could not see or want to see the evil of this ‘meeting place.’”
“No Christian youth or adult can be involved with MySpace and have a right relationship with God. It simply is not possible. In all of my involvement of dealing with it I found not one thing that was even remotely God-honoring.”
“After seeing myspace.com first hand, I am convinced that believers have no business using that particular site. I would probably even go as far as to consider it a church discipline matter if it came to my attention that a member of our church had a page on myspace.com.”
“I tried to maintain a Myspace site as a means of witnessing, but was bombarded with smut and porn. So, I deleted my account.”
“I signed up for an account, mainly to use it to let those I went to high school with know that I am now saved and preaching. Many I did get in touch with that I otherwise wouldn’t have, probably. But the ads that were displayed on the site were too much flesh. Young girls, not nude, but they weren’t in modest apparel either. I canceled the account after a few weeks. Did I get in touch with others? Yes. But seeing those pictures could have led to other stuff being looked at so I thought it better to be safe than sorry.”
“I checked out Myspace.com one time only. I ran onto loads of homosexual pictures. ... I would never allow any of my children to access this site. ANYTHING GOES on Myspace.com.”
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me. A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person” (Psalm 101:2-4).
“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:6, 8).
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
“If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
“This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-25).
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:17-24).
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).
“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:30-32).
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:1-17).
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Colossians 4:5-6).
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:4-10).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?
When you read about Christian young people getting wrapped up in MySpace and other morally dangerous things, you wonder immediately, “Where are the parents?” Why aren’t they overseeing their children’s lives and protecting them from the devil? Being the parent of four grown children, I know how easy it is to get wrapped up in other things and not to have a close enough handle on what your children are doing, how easy it is to let the flesh have its way in the home so that you are not the example you should be or have the spiritual power that you should have; but we must pay any price to save our children and grandchildren from Satan’s snare.
Many of those who replied to my request for feedback on MySpace made a point about parental oversight. Following are some examples:
“Personally I believe that too many parents are living in carnality so that they themselves don’t see the damage that these things do.”
“How stupid does a parent have to be to just let their kid have free reign on the internet?”
“I think this is the important point in all of this. Our nation is full of clueless parents -- even amongst Christian families. The internet itself may not be evil, but it is too easy to exploit for evil purposes. And too many parents choose to remain ignorant about how their kids are using it, or they are misusing it themselves and their guilt prevents them from speaking up.”
“I keep asking myself if parents are blind. Are youth pastors and pastors so out of touch with the pop culture and the technological activities of their teenagers? How many parents are sanctioning these sites and excusing this rebellion as a “phase” or typical teen behavior?”
“Our kids are grown, but all I can say is that any parent, Christian or not, who allows their kids access to this website is making a huge mistake. ... Some of the kids in our church have pages, and they (their pages) seem to be fairly decent, but it’s exposing them to temptations that few kids are able to withstand. A girl who was in my Sunday School class a couple of years ago told me she stays up all night almost every night in the summer just browsing MySpace. I doubt that she’s the only one doing this. And now her parents are wondering why she’s going the wrong direction.”
“I have never gone to MySpace.com, since I am an old lady who doesn’t care about such nonsense. ... Parents should NOT only monitor kids during their computer time, but computers ought to be in the living room, in front of them so that parents can see what their teens are up to. Secondly, I believe that teens probably get up in the middle of the night to use computers and so, those computers ought to have some kind of lock on them until the parent is present. Either that, or forbid any computer at home. When I was growing up, my parents ... knew where I was at all times, and they taught me how to choose friends wisely. Parents have given up their responsibilities nowadays and let the children raise themselves, and are even afraid of them now; their idolization of children has led to godless behavior in their children, which parents do not see.”
When Baptist Evangelist Brad Courtney learned that his 13-year-old daughter was on MySpace, he did some personal investigation into the matter. Having discovered how morally dangerous this web site is, he determined to deal with the matter directly. He explained to his daughter the danger of sexual predators that are using MySpace for their own wicked purposes. He also showed her how important it is to keep oneself pure from the moral filth that permeates MySpace. He reminded her that he loved her greatly and that he takes his job of protecting her so seriously that he would go to whatever lengths necessary to do the job. He told her, “I would rather you think me bad now and years later thank me, than be your friend now and risk putting you in harm’s way; that is a risk I am not willing to take.”
He then told his young and vulnerable daughter this:
“I told her that her presence on MySpace.com will no longer be active after that evening. I would give her a couple of hours to inform her friends she was pulling her site and why. ... I told her if I found her on MySpace.com again, she would not have computer access again until she moved out of my house. No exceptions! If her friends create a site for her, she loses the computer. If she creates a site, she loses the computer. No exceptions! No discussion!”
I like the way that the evangelist handled this matter (until, as we will see in the next section, he got to the “alternative” part). He took the time to check the situation out carefully and to get the facts before making a decision. He was kind to his daughter throughout the trial and confirmed his great love to her. He emphasized that it was his responsibility before God to watch over her. He made an effort to help her to understand the moral and spiritual dangers that he saw. But he was also clear and unequivocal that she had to separate from MySpace and that if she did not there would be a serious price to pay.
Courtney concludes his article with the following much-needed challenge to parents:
“If your children have an internet presence of any kind, as parents you have a responsibility to make sure the content is acceptable. Our children are still developing decision-making skills. If we don’t teach them, they will learn from the wrong sources. First and foremost is open and honest communication. If the lines of communication are not open with your children, I believe this is the starting point. Let them see your heart, your fears, and most importantly, your love.
“Be involved in the lives of your children. The teen years are a time of coaching for parents. Tell them how the game is played, then send them into the game. You cannot play this game for them, that would be great, but it is counterproductive. Good coaches are encouragers, challengers, and even sometimes the ‘bad guy,’ all in an effort to produce the best possible results.
“Absolutely no internet activity without an adult present--this will stop a lot of potential problems. Insist that you have full access to any and all email, as a parent--no exceptions! I also recommend you use software guards on any computer your children access.
“Personally, I love my daughter too much to allow her to become a victim of someone who will physically or emotionally abuse her purity. I will take any and every step necessary to protect her at all cost. Mainly all that is needed is a parent who cares enough to be the bad guy. Sometimes love must be tough. This is no time for passive parenting” (Brad Courtney, “An Ounce of Prevention,” Baptist Bible Tribune, Sept. 2006).
AN ALTERNATIVE TO MYSPACE
After Courtney determined that MySpace would have to go, he gave his daughter the following alternative:
“We have signed her up on www.MyPraize.com. No profanity and no pictures of ill taste are allowed on MyPraize.com. I like that. I told her she could invite her friends (those who were truly friends) to join her on MyPraize.com if she would like, but regardless, MySpace.com is finished in our home!”
In my estimation, this is not a good alternative because MyPraize is a New Evangelical site that features Contemporary Christian Music groups. The first time I looked at the site an album by the group Jabez was featured and it was described as “a combination of catchy rock songs, and ballads about our savior Jesus Christ.” For those who are wise enough to know that CCM is the devil’s chum to lure young people toward the world, MyPraize is not, therefore, a good option. As one perceptive pastor warned: “I know that the CCM artists claim that they are providing an alternative in many respects, but it is obvious that the fruits of this movement have helped many young people make the transition from CCM to secular music with little effort.” The music section of MyPraize lets the user browse music by category, including punk rock, punk pop, hardcore, hiphop, rap, soul, R&B, experimental, and metal. MyPraize also advertises the New Evangelical Liberty University, which has Christian rock concerts and has featured Billy Graham, the king of the ecumenists, as a speaker. (The fact that MyPraize was featured as a proper alternative to MySpace in an article in the Baptist Bible Tribune is further evidence of the New Evangelical direction of the Baptist Bible Fellowship International.)
The best option, in my estimation, is to stay away from the “social networking” “chat room hang out” internet sites altogether. What is wrong with e-mail and SMS and instant messaging? Or that very old fashioned device called the cell phone, for that matter! You can communicate effectively with your friends with these amazing modern tools, and you don’t have to run the danger of being exposed to moral filth.
I am a missionary and live overseas and I enjoy communicating with friends and relatives around the world. I write to them and share pictures (such as from my preaching trips or of my granddaughter!) with them, and I don’t need MySpace or Frappr or FaceBook or any of the “social networking” sites. I use e-mail. It’s that simple. If I want to send one or two pictures, I simply attach them to an e-mail. If I want to share an entire batch of pictures, I post them to one of the free photo sharing sites. That might not be as exciting as MySpace, but it is a whole lot safer.
In fact, young people don’t need to spend inordinate amounts of time with people their own age. A young person with other young people is simply the immature and inexperienced and unwise encouraging others of like caliber. Young people need to spend more time with adults than with young people.
Rock and roll created the “teen culture” in the 1950s. Prior to that, while young people had some different interests than adults and while there has always been some rebellion toward the older generation and a desire to “do my own thing,” which comes from our fallen nature, there was not such a wide gulf between youth and adults. Prior to the rock & roll explosion, young people often liked the same movie stars as their parents and wore the same dress styles and even liked the same music. Top hits of the early 1950s before the onslaught of rock were “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” “Catch a Falling Star,” “The Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” “I Saw Mama Kissing Santa Claus,” “Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing,” “Mr. Sandman,” “Sixteen Tons,” “Sentimental Me,” “The Doggie in the Window,” “The Typewriter,” “This Ole House,” “Vaya Con Dios (May God Be With You),” and “High Noon.” They were morally innocent compared to today’s hits and they were loved by young and old alike.
The rock & roll phenomenon created an entirely separate youth culture with its very own clothes, music, movies, and attitude. Youth became a style. Young people began to be more influenced by disc jockeys and rock musicians and fashion designers than by their parents and teachers. For multitudes of young people, what’s cool became the be-all and end-all of their lives. Their innate selfishness and rebellion to authority was encouraged and enflamed by the youth culture.
The rock & roll youth culture is bigger and stronger than ever, and wise Christian parents will do everything in their power to keep their children out of it. Successful Christian parents today are those that not only separate their families strictly from the rock & roll culture but are also close to their children, working with them, serving Christ with them, playing with them, communicating with them, teaching them.
Never has strict separation from the world been more urgent for Christian homes and churches, and never has it been less practiced among those who claim to be Bible-believing people. We are in an awful, desperate battle for the souls of young people, and churches and families that do not get serious about this battle will surely regret it.
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