February 22nd, 2006Posted by: Theo Nicolakis
In one of my previous posts, I wrote about a recent incident involving myspace.com and GOYA children at one of our Greek Orthodox parishes. Once again, myspace.com has made national headlines with two AP articles on CNN highlighting the risk teens face online and a boy who was arrested for photos showing him holding handguns.
A central feature of social web sites like myspace.com is the ability to quickly and easily upload photos. Digital photography has subtly become a dominant and staple feature of our lives over the past 15 or so years. Indeed, beginning in 2002, digital cameras have outsold film cameras. Digital photography is not simply confined to “conventional” cameras. This functionality is now built into a multitude of devices. Cell phones, PDA’s, and Apple Computer’s new MacBook Pro and iMac computers are just some examples. This is making it easier and easier for content creation; however the guidelines for what constitutes appropriate content are lagging behind the technology.
In December 2005, I represented the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese at a summit on emerging technologies and pornography. At the summit, story after story was related about how minors were using digital cameras, camera-enabled cell phones or video cameras attached to their computers to not simply photograph but also send inappropriate pictures of themselves or other minors across the Internet. I can still hear the presenter saying, “We have enabled our children to unknowingly become creators of child pornography”.
Indeed, the news headlines back in 2003 that talked about problems in Asia where individuals were taking inappropriate photos of women with camera phones gave us ample warning. As parents, pastors, and friends, we are inevitably going to be confronted with situations where a technology has been misapplied for some terrible, embarrassing, or down right cruel purpose. What is imperative is that we open up this dialogue with our children and GOYA members. It is important to convey to our children what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
Fortunately, as Orthodox Christians, the tenets of our faith provide a wonderful foundation upon which we can build upon. If we meditate upon the beautiful Biblical truth that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26) as well as Christ’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39), then we have solid guidelines as to what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate use of any technology. Indeed, we and our children should ask ourselves some basic questions such as:
1) Why am I engaging in this activity? Is it spiritually beneficial to me and/or another person?
2) Will my activities directly or indirectly hurt, harm, or embarrass another person?
3) Would Christ approve of my actions or activities?
If we answer “no” to any of these questions, then it is a good bet that the activity is something to avoid. New technologies are not inherently good or bad; rather, it is the use of those technologies that determines their appropriateness.