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computer-kidsThe following article, “Media Safety” was published in the LDS Church News:

A children’s storybook by Jacalyn S. Leavitt, then Utah’s first lady, tells the fictional experience of a cat, “Faux Paw,” who lived at the Utah State Capitol building. The “Techno Cat” is very smart. Still, one night Faux Paw made a terrible mistake.

While playing on the governor’s computer, Faux Paw received a warning: “Don’t forget — the Internet is like a big city. Some places are safe, other places aren’t, and it’s important to know the difference.”

But the cat, caught up in the excitement he found on the computer, did not heed the warning. Instead, Faux Paw began chatting with a new Internet friend, Happy Fluffy Kittyface. The two agreed to meet in front of the Utah State Capitol building.

Before Faux Paw knew it, however, he was in big trouble. Happy Fluffy Kittyface was not what he expected. Happy Fluffy Kittyface was a huge bulldog (

Although Faux Paw is fictional, we can all learn something from this account.

“We live at a time when the adversary is using every means possible to ensnare us in his web of deceit, trying desperately to take us down with him,” said President Thomas S. Monson in his concluding April 2009 general conference address. “There are many pathways along which he entices us to go — pathways that can lead to our destruction. …

“I feel to mention one in particular, and that is the Internet. On one hand, it provides nearly limitless opportunities for acquiring useful and important information. Through it we can communicate with others around the world. … On the other hand, however — and extremely alarming — are the reports of the number of individuals who are utilizing the Internet for evil and degrading purposes, the viewing of pornography being the most prevalent of these purposes.”

Oct. 26 through Nov. 1 marked National White Ribbon Against Pornography Week. Sponsored by PornHarms/Morality in Media, the week highlighted the importance of media safety, especially for children.

Church leaders have taught over and over again that the Internet has the potential for both good and ill. “The Internet provides ways to express our faith in Jesus Christ, strengthen others, and foster what is useful, good, and praiseworthy,” according to Handbook 2: Administering the Church (2010) 21.1.22. “Church members are encouraged to be examples of their faith at all times and in all places, including on the Internet.”

The handbook states that when using the Internet and related tools, Church members should protect themselves, their family, others and the Church from the dangers found online. “Some of these dangers include viruses, spyware, and other malicious software; identity theft; and pornography. Other Internet dangers include incorrect and misleading information about important gospel principles, excessive time spent on the Internet, and misrepresentation of people’s intent and identity.”

Handbook 2 offers the following suggestions to help members effectively use technology: Place computers in commonly used areas of the home. If you use email or social media sites, consider establishing accounts on a family basis, rather than for each individual. Actively monitor website access to help family members remain safe. Discuss Internet and media safety with children from an early age. Be alert and aware of media that enters the home through computers, mobile media players, and mobile phones. Share access or passwords to private email and social media sites with your spouse.

Jill C. Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in research and clinical work related to pornography, encourages families to develop individual media profiles and evaluate their media consumption. She asked families to consider the following questions:

“If the only thing someone knew about you was the media you consume, what would they learn about you?

“Is there anything about your media profile that would cause you to cringe or feel embarrassed?

“How can the 13th Article of Faith help your family with media choices?

“How do you know when you have consumed too much media?

“Are there other media formats that could be substituted for some of your electronic media time?

“Has media use ever negatively affected something important in your life?

“Could other activities or projects fill some of your time spent using media?” (“From the Inside Out: Healthy Media Guidelines for LDS Families,” a talk on CD).

During a Church Educational System devotional address delivered at Brigham Young University–Idaho on May 3, 2009, Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles raised “an apostolic voice of warning about the potentially stifling, suffocating, suppressing, and constraining impact of some kinds of cyberspace interactions and experiences upon our souls. The concerns I raise are not new; they apply equally to other types of media, such as television, movies and music. But in a cyber world, these challenges are more pervasive and intense.”

Elder Bednar emphasized: “I am not suggesting all technology is inherently bad; it is not. Nor am I saying we should not use its many capabilities in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen the Church; of course we should. But I am raising a warning voice that we should not squander and damage authentic relationships by obsessing over contrived ones.”

It is the same voice of warning issued this week by those sponsoring national White Ribbon Against Pornography week and by the author who created Faux Paw.

When it comes to technology and the Internet, we need to remember — and remind our children — that although we think we are dealing with a cute kitty, we are more likely facing a bulldog.

Read other articles about keeping your family safe online.

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