I don’t care about what you think of me…but I care about what you think of me!

Hello again, my friends. I want you to close your eyes…well don’t close your eyes because then you wouldn’t be able to read the rest of the article. But I want you to imagine this: what if all of your greatest accomplishments were posted on a huge screen for the entire world to see? What if every person who has ever loved and cared about you had the opportunity to share their sentiments about you with anyone who wanted to hear about them? What if the technology existed that made it easy to make people love everything about you; therefore disregarding your flaws? Wouldn’t that be an amazing feeling? But let’s look at the contrary. What if every mistake you have ever made was just as easily accessible? What if anyone at anytime could find out how people, who don’t think too highly of you, really feel about you and why they feel that way? What if the people that hate you the most had the power to persuade everyone that you know to feel the same? I know; it’s a scary thought. Which device would you rather be prominent: the one that can build you up or the one that can destroy you? Unfortunately we live in an era where that device is alive and well and is swiftly and decisively doing both; the Internet. Even though computer viruses and identity theft are very destructive in their purpose and various implementations, they don’t even pale in comparison to the potential for character assassination that permeates every inch of this vast resource known as the World Wide Web. After all, there are ways for you to protect you from someone obliterating your computer files and/or annihilating your credit history. But in this technological age, how do you stop someone from turning the world against you?

It is usually at this point in the article that you say, “Cobaris, what does any of this have to do with the title?” and I’m glad you asked. After hearing a recent news story about yet another teenager that took their life based on things posted about them on the internet, I ran a search to find specific information in order to prepare to write this article. What disturbed me the most was that the rate of teen suicides that have been attributed to “cyber bullying” or “cyber stalking” is so alarmingly high that a simple search for a specific incident was anything but isolated. In other words, so many teens have killed themselves based on what others have said about them that the thousands of references to the subject have literally lost face. When I was growing up, you would hear about this happening every once in awhile and you would always find some way to attribute it to some kind of justifying cause that resulted in an “It’s never going to happen to me or anyone I know” attitude and easily dismissed the tragedy from any cause to worry. But it is happening people. It’s happening to your co-workers, your neighbors, your family members, and it may become an issue right in your very household.

Why? Why now? Let’s look at the world in which our young people live. This age is the most socially aware and hyper conscious that we have ever seen. Not only do our young people have global access, but they are well aware that the globe has access to them. What that does is amplify the needs of the particular young person who engages in activities on the Internet. For example, the site YouTube is filled with videos posted by those who would have been simply disregarded as class clowns or thrill seekers. The social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter allows an insecure teen to make “friends” anywhere in the world when they struggle to do the same in real life situations. In the right hands, these sites are powerful tools that can and are used for self-expression, teaching, and ministry. Unfortunately in the hands of our young people they are avenues to leave themselves open to predators, public ridicule, and character degradation. I compare it to walking into an unsupervised daycare, leaving loaded weapons in the hands of each child, then walking out. Our young people don’t understand the dangers in providing so much information about them; whether it is accurate or otherwise. Whether it may be a death defying video, or a “harmless” profile which shares their lives with anyone who wants to see it, it all points back to one specific need by our youth; the need of attention.

As secure and confident that we may feel that our young people are the truth of the matter is that they are more sensitive now than ever before because now everyone can learn about their insecurities. A comment on someone’s “wall” can ruin what they feel took a lifetime to build, so in their minds the stakes are higher. Think about how many people you know have access to either of the aforementioned sites. Even as an adult, the wrong words said at the wrong time may cost you your relationship, job, or your life so it’s not hard to sympathize with our teens. What can we do? The Internet is not going anywhere, so we must fight the problem at its source; our children. We must monitor what they are doing online; no matter what they tell us or how many “parent-friendly” back-up profiles they create for themselves. But what’s more important is for us to remind them of their importance. The older a child gets, the more they will seek approval from their peers. I believe that more often than not a child is as smart as their smartest friend, which is why parental involvement is needed more now than ever before. We have to remind them of Jeremiah 1:5, where God reminds us that He had plans for us before we were born. We have to love them and let them know that we love them. If we don’t show them that we care, someone else worse will convince them that they do. And stay encouraged when dealing with children. They are growing up in a different world, and need our “old school” values. They’re young. They’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Think about the things that we did, and how blessed we were to have people to be there for that pat on the back or kick in the butt. Like the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6, if we train them up in the way they should go when they are old they won’t depart from it. Need proof? Look at the Prodigal son. Or better yet…..look at you! With this new surge of empowerment that you’re feeling after reading this article, go out there and become who God created you to be. Nothing beats a failure but a try and can’t is a can with too much “t”. To God be the glory!

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