The Scary World of Tech…

Years ago before Richard and I were married, we went through a lot of counseling.  We both were at a crossroads in our life, divided from each other and fully separated from God.  We were living our lives for the world and for our flesh.

Fast forward a decade and we happily talk to others about the problems we had in our lives and how The Lord has changed us.  It’s still not an easy conversation, but it’s freeing.  And I’ve come to realize that when you can talk openly about your mistakes and show that The Lord has granted freedom and forgiveness, others are not only willing to open up about their own shortcomings, but they find safety in the arms of Christ as well.  And isn’t that what we’re here to do?  Plant the seed or water the next one?

Guys, we’re far from perfect.  We still make a lot of mistakes when it comes to each other.  We make mistakes in our marriage.  We make mistakes at work.  We make mistakes in our relationship with God.  We don’t attend church every Sunday.  I still swear far more than I should and I yell like my kids are deaf.  We make mistakes in the way we parent our children.  We make mistakes with regards to relationships we have every day with people.  Family, friends, and just normal every day people we come across while we drive our cars.  We’re human.

But, like we teach our children, the most important thing you can do is to recognize failure and ask for forgiveness…immediately.  It’s never easy.  It’s hard to swallow your pride and admit you were wrong.  But, it’s so freeing to admit to someone you were wrong and ask for forgiveness.  It doesn’t mean they will give it – and if I’m totally transparent, I struggle with forgiveness sometimes, too.  Especially when I’ve been cut deep.  But, I work on it.  Every day.  And I lean back on the Lord to guide me through that and I pray about it.  Every day.  I pray when I drive.  I pray when I’m laying in bed.  I pray when I wake up in the middle of the night and sometimes just sit there and have conversations with God until I fall back asleep.  I mean, I ramble a lot.  My conversations are not always purposeful.  Sometimes, I forget I’m talking to a King and talk to Him like I’m talking to my Daddy.  I realize that my Creator, my Father, my Savior, my King…built the Heavens and the Earth.

I can barely even talk about how amazing God is without choking back tears of admiration.  I can barely get through worship songs or prayers in front of others without crying.  It’s embarrassing, but I also know it’s because I am so in love with the one who breathed air into my very lungs.  In love with His perfection.  In love with the forgiveness He offers me day after day when I fail and yet, He still opens his arms to me as if every day, I’m a prodigal son.

He stirs the very air I breathe. He puts food on our table and He signs my paychecks.  He provides for our family every day and every day, I try to remember to be grateful for it is only with His blessing that I do what I do.

Which brings me to an important conversation.

The World.

I enjoy TV.  Well, let me rephrase.  I enjoy things like Netflix or Disney + or other things that provide entertainment.  Had I any ability to do my career over, I would have been a forensic psychologist.  I find the brain fascinating.  The details that you simply can’t say is evolution.  You can’t argue ape to human to me.  I just can’t believe that evolution is the reason my DNA is so complex or my brain knows where to send air or water.  I’ve found it even more fascinating studying the various things that cause ADHD, Autism, and other metal related issues, but I also find the criminal mind very interesting.  I realize I’m treading a thin line here admitting this, but I assure you, there are normal (read:  not twisted or demented) people out there that do these jobs every day.

I feel like I’ve exhausted almost every documentary or docuseries on Netflix there is when it comes to the jail system, forensics, serial killers, missing persons, and more.  But, I’ve noticed there seems to be a fine line with me.  Movies involving children being hurt or animals make me so frustrated and make me cry.  I can’t watch them without thinking about my own children or animals.  I mean, it’s more than that, it’s helpless people in general.  I just can’t bring myself to watch it without wanting to throw up.

This morning, on Facebook, a friend posted a message about an article regarding ToTok.

ToTok has been recognized as being an app that is used for things like video and messaging similar to TikTok, WeChat, WhatsApp and more.  You can go out on the internet and find any number of law enforcement agencies warning you against these types of apps and what your children may be seeing.  You can find article after article talking about what these apps offer and the danger of what you are exposing your children to.

Richard and I (more Richard than me) have always scrutinized the games our children play and the movies and shows they watch.  We don’t have TV, so we don’t see the normal horrible reality shows that are out there and our children aren’t familiar with them unless they hear about them from friends (which isn’t likely, given the school they are enrolled in and we parent as a community – in total transparency).  Richard is an avid gamer.  He plays every game our children play, he watches every show they watch (most of the time before them in an effort to screen what is going in our children’s minds and hearts), he reads tons of reviews about things and he carefully selects what they are allowed to do.

Yes, we shelter our children from the things they don’t need to see…right now.  However, let me tell you what we DO offer to our children that some parents disagree with.

We offer technology.

Listen, my husband and I are both in tech.  My husband is more on the hardware side of things.  He’s more into security, networks and general mainframe type of stuff.  Me?  I’m on the software side.  I understand software and I understand what users are doing with it.  I also understand how software is built and the holes that can be put in.  I understand the back doors that developers put in to get access later and I understand the logging and the amount of data that developers collect from your computer and mobile devices.

Let me be clear.  Not everyone is honest.

There are malicious people out there.  There are people who are going to do more than collect what browser you’re using, what operating system you’re on, or what type of device you’re using.  They are going to collect your name, your date of birth, and your IP.  And in most cases, that’s all they need to learn everything about you.  Whether it’s social engineering or just good old fashion hacking, developers can get a world of information about you from very few pieces of data.  It’s scary.  But, my husband and I are of the mindset that it’s better to train our children how to respect the internet, TV, games, and other things than to pretend like they don’t exist and when they turn 18, throw them into a violent dog-eat-dog world.

I know that when my children leave the safety of their church, their school, and our home, the world around them is toxic and filled with venomous snakes waiting to devour them.  I know that most kids, as young as 8, are exposed to pornography. And for someone who used to struggle with it myself, the addiction is very real and very difficult to break.

“A study of university students found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls had seen Internet pornography during adolescence.” (NCOSE Study)

Huffington Post reported in 2017 that porn sites receive more traffic than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter…combined. 

In October 2018, Sandvine published a study  showing that 15% of the entire internet traffic is from Netflix alone. Following Amazon is HTTP media streams, Raw MPEG, Prime, and YouTube.  And you guys, porn is higher than Netflix, which is at the top of that list.

YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, lots of these companies with access to children are getting smarter, too.  They realize they’re going to take a bigger hit if they don’t start catering to parents who are getting smarter about what their kids are watching and doing online.  I mean, just go out and do a search on teen tracking apps and you’ll find dozens.  Your computers even come with built in security to protect against it.  But, those aren’t failsafe.

My kids watched YouTube Kids and YouTube Kids is only as good as the poster is honest.  Which means, if someone uploads a porn video to YouTube Kids, it might get out there and some number of kids will see it before it gets reported.  Scour the internet long enough and you’ll find people who can misuse Peppa the Pig to get their content into YouTube Kids. 

Anyway, back to Netflix.

Some time ago, Netflix came out with the whole 13 Reasons show.  I watched one episode of it and was pretty much so disgusted that Netflix put it out.  I vowed not to watch it again.  And I haven’t.  I’ve been pretty selective on what we watch on Netflix – and there are a LOT of great shows out there!  Netflix isn’t all bad, but just like technology, you need to guard your eyes, your ears, and your heart.  Because Satan lurks at every corner.  And just like the story of Job, he’s here to test us.

Enter the new series on Netflix called ‘Don’t f**k with cats.’

I literally had no idea what this was.  I didn’t even read the description.  My husband scours trailers and I get so bored that I just start clicking things to see if I’ll like them and give them a few minutes before I decide to turn it off.

The following excerpt is from this new show.  I’ve missed some words, but I want to show you the opening of this and the reason why I wrote this article…

Begin Movie.

The internet is boundless.  There’s the happy place where you look at cute little babies…where you watch your kids going to school…but more than anything, people love cats.

And then there’s another part of the internet where it’s a free-for-all, the seedy underbelly.

You can post porn, violence, somebody getting pushed down stairs, religious statues being defamed, cruelty to the elderly, a street fight, bum fights, defamatory images of the Statue of Liberty, and nobody gives a crap.

Baudi Moovan is my alter ego that I use online to hide my identity.  I can be anyone I want to be.

End Excerpt.

Guys, let me reiterate to you, the lady at the beginning of this movie is one smart cookie.  She’s honest about what the internet is and the reality behind it.  And she’s transparent about the alter ego she’s created.  Much like stage names or writer’s fake names, she has a different personality online as well.  And don’t roll your eyes at me.  Because I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve talked to people and I know your life.  I know your reality.  I know the frustrations of every day life.  I mean, I live them after all.  But, what we put on Facebook isn’t always the crying pictures of our babies, the profile pictures of us with no make-up or the pictures we haven’t tried 6 different ways to hide who we are.  We all are guilty of playing into this.  Every one of us.  Whether your vanity is out there – or you’re just always posting pictures of food or places you’ve been because you can’t bring yourself to post pictures of you for the above reason and wanting to not appear vain, we’re all adding some type of filter to our lives.  It’s part of why social media is so damn dangerous.  It isn’t who we are.  It’s what we want others to believe.  Whether you’re that successful blogger, the mom with perfect kids, the young girl who’s losing weight and can now fit into some tighter clothes, the guy who has the hot girlfriend and always has her make-up done to the 9s, whatever…we’re all guilty of it.

But, I LOVE it when people can admit that.  Honesty is critical.  Because it shows who you are.  Even if you have an alter ego.

I watched about 30 minutes of this show before I couldn’t get past the whole part about the kittens and I had to jump on Google and understand what in the world I was watching. I didn’t know where the show was going and from the very misleading title, I thought it would be a show about how much the internet loved its cat videos.  Not about how a guy used the internet to show how he killed and tortured animals and then turned his cruelty into showcasing a murder for the world to see…on the internet.

The guy featured in this story, Luka Magnotta, is a pretty twisted individual. But, here’s where it gets back to why I was writing this.

What Luka did was use social media to change who he was.  Editing photos, pretending to be someone else, living in someone else’s life to portray an image of himself he wanted people to believe.  However wonk in the head this guy is (though he claims to have no mental illness), I can assure you, he’s not been wired properly.  While his story is fascinating (in a brain study kind of way), it reminds me as a parent that our children are our greatest responsibility to protect.  To shepherd them from the dangers of social media and to teach them that the seedy underbelly of the internet has a reach that is far and wide as much as it is dark and deceptive.

Listen, here’s the truth.

One day, robots are going to be doing so much more than we ever anticipated.

Cars come with self driving abilities now.

Shuttles can be completely man-free.

Uber is so close to air ridesharing.

Nasa is going to Mars.

Technology is the way of the future.  Even out in our country life where my husband I like to live life a little slower, we recognize that the world around is shaped by chips and circuit boards and is programmed so that robots can do the mundane tasks for us.  First it was the vacuum cleaner, now it’s the lawnmower. 

Sloane Ryan wrote a great article about the things she learned when she posed as an 11 year old girl online.

It’s frightening.

But, where I disagree with most of the parents who share this article is that we aren’t going to shield our children from technology.  Our children will have phones.  They will have Facebook accounts (when they are much, much, much older).  They will have access to technology to include computers and gaming devices.  And with each area where we start to see gray introduced, we stop the conversation, we turn to the Bible, we pray over our kids and we try to protect them.  We teach them God’s way.  We teach them the importance of the word “No” and we teach them to respect that word when others say it.  We teach our children to respect technology and to use it to build a world that God would be pleased with.  We use it as a platform to show His love for His children, never to hurt them.

It’s a scary world out there.

Many of you will disagree.  Many of you will silently agree and be afraid to share this because of the judgment you will face when you say something that isn’t in line with the others you do life with.  And that’s okay.  My point isn’t to try and guilt you into that.  My point is to show you the importance of tech, the dangers of it, and how important it is to protect yourself from the enemy around the corner.  We can’t shelter our children forever.  We must prepare them.  The world beyond our home and our church is filled with dark shadows in every corner.  Prepare them now.  And teach them what is right.

I love you all – and I’m forever praying for the protection and guidance of our next generation!

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