Do you know where your children are? Of course you do. You consider yourself a responsible parent. You make sure your children know their catechism. You provide them with a Reformed Christian education. You do all that you can to provide a Christian environment for your child. Even now, she is upstairs in her bedroom writing to her friends. But what is she writing?
While investigating another matter, I came across the Xanga account of several young people who I know are members of solid Reformed churches. Nice kids. They are being brought up in nice, solid Reformed homes; they lead good Christian lives; they teach Daily Vacation Bible School; they often provide special music in various churches; and so much more. But what they are writing on Xanga will greatly shock and sadden you.
Xanga is one of many websites on the Internet where individuals share their feelings and thoughts with the whole wide world. It is kind of like the diary of yesteryear — except where teenagers of the past wanted to keep their thoughts private, today’s bloggers post them for all the world to see. Basically, what they are hiding from their parents is available to all the world.
Xanga, and other websites like it, is a wonderful way for people to keep in touch. For example, when a group of young people went to Trinidad to lead DVBS, their families, friends, and churches could log into their account to find out what activities the young missionaries were involved in each day. In such situations, the Xanga account is a wonderful tool source for relaying information without cost to those who want to read it.
However, as the popularity of the site grows, more and more young people have set up their own personal blog sites. On these sites the young teenagers pour out their hearts. They write about the parties that they throw when their parents are out of town; they write about their sexual experimentation and experiences; and they use language that would grieve the heart of God and should never enter the thoughts of a Christian, let alone be written down for all the world to see.
Parents need to be alerted to these postings for several reasons. First of all, your young teenage daughter is opening herself up to more than just her friends. Since what they write is open to the world, they become easy prey for pedophiles. Several sites that I checked out had the following response written back to them: “Hi. You don’t know be, but I’m a friend of your friend (a fellow blogger). We’ll have to get together sometime.” By checking out previous posts, the pedophile can even write about events where the two supposedly met.
Equally important is the Christian witness that is lost in all of this. Xanga could be a wonderful avenue for young people to share their Christian struggles and also their growth in the faith. And, indeed, several young people do use the site to that end, illustrating a wonderful walk with the Lord and Christian growth. The majority that I viewed, however, give no hint of the fact that they have any Christian influence in their lives at all. While several list God in their area of interest, He often follows boys and partying and He is sadly missing from their writings.
Parents, talk to your children! Check out the “history” of sites that they have browsed and contribute to. It is not all that difficult to discover where your child has been. If you are computer illiterate, have someone help you. You may find something you do not want to know about, but it is something you need to know about. Use your findings as an opportunity to speak with your child about computer etiquette, the danger of blogging, and her responsibility as a young Christian with a Reformed worldview. We must to make every effort to teach our children the necessity of having every area of their lives under the sovereignty of God and the vital importance of claiming every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
Rev. Wybren H. Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also editor of The Outlook.