Social Media, Youth, and Risk

children_youth_internet_risk

Jeremy and his mom, Susan, in their living-room

J: Whadaya mean, you want my passwords?

S: How old are you?

J: Mom, you know how old I am; you were there at my birth, remember?

S: Yes, dear, I certainly remember but, at your ripe old age of 13, I don’t think you have the social wisdom you need to make completely  independent decisions on the Internet.

J: You want to censor what I say to my online friends?

S: No, I want to collaborate with you; I want to share your experience and use my  experience in the world to help you make safe decisions.

J: You’re starting to sound like a politician…

S: Jeremy, I really mean what I’m saying. I trust your judgement as long as you’re fully informed. You just haven’t lived long enough to know all the traps people can set.

J: So, I can post what I want—you just wanna see it and maybe talk some things over?

S: You got it, sweetie.

J: Well… We can try it out for awhile but, if you start cramping my style, I’m gonna change my passwords.

S: O.K., I hope we don’t have to go that far. I’ll try to be as fair as I can.

J: Mom, I’m not doing anything wrong, ya know, and what about when I’m chatting…

S: I know you’re the most virtuous son in the world, but there’re plenty of people with less virtue who can seem  to be saints. Your chat activity is something we’ll have to have deeper consultation about…

J: Whew! You really are becoming a politician…

~~~~~~~~~
Jeremy gave his mother his passwords and Susan learned that she had a very responsible son…
~~~~~~~~~

Our imaginary Susan and Jeremy have a rather remarkable relationship but there are  parents who treat their children with respect as they try to protect them.

There have been some recent reports published about social media and the risk they may pose for young users.

The one getting most of the attention now is called, Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies, and comes out of a group at Harvard.

One of the most interesting findings was:

“With all three types of threats (sexual solicitation, online harassment, and problematic content), some minors are more likely to be at risk than others. Generally speaking, the characteristics of youth who report online victimization are similar to those of youth reporting offline victimization and those who are vulnerable in one online context are often vulnerable in multiple contexts. In the same way, those identified as ‘high risk’ (i.e., experienced sexual abuse, physical abuse, or parental conflict) were twice as likely to receive online solicitations and a variety of psychosocial factors (such as substance use, sexual aggression, and poor bonds with caregivers) were correlated with online victimization.”

The report is heavy with detailed analyses of various technologies to protect youth yet does admit that technology is not the only answer.

An article from Agence France-Presse,  Technology alone ‘won’t assure youth safety on Internet’, which references the Harvard study, says:

“Risk for children appears more correlated to his or her ‘psychosocial’ profile than a particular Internet technology platform…”

They go on to identify the sponsors of the Harvard study:

“Task force members included Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, Symantec and Second Life creator Linden Labs.”

I’m sure you can see some positive as well as negative influences being brought to bear by organizations who have a financial interest in social media. Still, the bottom-line can be a significant pressure to pay attention to bad press, not to mention bad outcomes of online interactions.

An article from The Washington Times, Social networking benefits validated, references a different study that “…looked at more than 5,000 hours of online observation and found that the digital world is creating new opportunities for young people to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills and work on new forms of self-expression.”

And, to reconsider the role technologies might play, an Australian study, Developments in Internet Filtering Technologies and Other Measures for Promoting Online Safety, is referenced in an article from ON LINE opinion,  Filtering won’t deliver for Aussie kids. They say: “Although it is accepted that children do face some risks online, these risks are more complex than government rhetoric sometimes indicates. Several studies, including the government’s own research, indicate that so-called ‘content risks’—the risks associated with viewing unwanted content—come a distant third to ‘communication risks’ and ‘e-security risks’.” Which to me says that filtering content does nothing to protect youth from potential harmful effects in the actual communicating they do online.

Protecting our younger online citizens is very important but doing it in a way that doesn’t hamper their “style” is at least equally important. It’s been shown that social media is empowering youth to take up Causes and they’re showing a remarkable ability to initiate positive change. The Free Child Project  has quite a collection of links that will show the value of not only protecting our kids from predators but also protecting their inalienable right to interact and do their best to use their unquenchable energy to help our suffering ol’ globe…

Spiritual Quote:

This quote was directed to Bahá’í youth but you can replace Bahá’í with any other Faith and the quote still maintains its value…


“For any person, whether Bahá’í or not, his youthful years are those in which he will make many decisions which will set the course of his life. In these years he is most likely to choose his life’s work, complete his education, begin to earn his own living, marry, and start to raise his own family. Most important of all, it is during this period that the mind is most questing and that the spiritual values that will guide the person’s future behaviour are adopted. These factors present Bahá’í youth with their greatest opportunities, their greatest challenge, and their greatest tests—opportunities to truly apprehend the Teachings of their Faith and to give them to their contemporaries, challenges to overcome the pressures of the world and to provide leadership for their and succeeding generations, and tests enabling them to exemplify in their lives the high moral standards set forth in the Bahá’í Writings. Indeed the Guardian wrote of the Bahá’í youth that it is they ‘who can contribute so decisively to the virility, the purity, and the driving force of the life of the Bahá’í community, and upon whom must depend the future orientation of its destiny, and the complete unfoldment of the potentialities with which God has endowed it’.
From a letter of The Universal House of Justice to Bahá’í Youth in every Land, June 10, 1966

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Gaza, Israel, and Justice

You can read all our Gaza posts heregaza_israel_justice

Aaron and Julia at the Café


A: You’re totally mad !

J: Why, thank you, sir. It’s been said that to be crazy in an insane world is healthy…

A: The world sure is acting insane but a world government? Let’s just make the elite class even stronger and all become slaves.

J: I’m not talking about a dictatorial government; more like one that the whole human family elects. Just look at Gaza and Israel and the United States and Egypt and a few others. All those people in all those governments talking about justice and the citizens still suffer. The balance of world powers is off and trying to regain equilibrium by violence or embargoes or political fiat won’t ever make the scales come even.

A: Big dreams sweetie but nobody will ever be ethical enough to run a world government and the people won’t ever be smart enough to participate in a global election process.

~~~~~~~~~
Aaron and Julia talked for another hour and didn’t come to an agreement…
~~~~~~~~~

Outside my imaginary café people are saying very similar things and it’s fairly obvious the balance of global power is off-kilter and the citizens of many countries are steaming mad.

Consider the following news items:

From Al Jazeera: Fear and trauma in Gaza’s schools – An article about the adjustments in Gaza’s youthful population

From Bloomberg: Americans Sympathetic Toward Israel on Gaza in Poll – Opinion from the other side of the Big Pond

From The New York Times: The Bullets in My In-Box – A reporter discusses how he tries to maintain a balance within a highly polarized situation

The Gaza Conflict is just the latest in what seems to be an upward spiral of violent conflict and contention. It seems clear to me that the current systems of governance are not bringing us closer to global, or even local, peace.

What if there could  be an organization of human affairs that included all, enslaved none, and truly set the human spirit free?

The Bahá’ís say they’re working toward that dream and that their Universal House of Justice (which happens to be in the country of Israel) is the most important human step yet taken to lead to global peace.

By way of introduction to my Spiritual Quote for this post, I’ll let a Bahá’í poet have her say:

Look to Haifa, all Israel;
~~Look to Israel, Haifa, from Mount Carmel.

Look to Israel, all people;
~~Look to all people, Israel, from The Universal House of Justice on the holy mountain.

Look to the House of Justice, all lands and earth;
~~Look, lands homeless, hopeless, to the hope of justice in the house of man.

Susan Marie Le Mar, PsalmSpeak

Spiritual Quote:

“The physical unification of the planet in our time and the awakening aspirations of the mass of its inhabitants have at last produced the conditions that permit achievement of the ideal, although in a manner far different from that imagined by imperial dreamers of the past. To this effort the governments of the world have contributed the founding of the United Nations Organization, with all its great blessings, all its regrettable shortcomings.

“Somewhere ahead lie the further great changes that will eventually impel acceptance of the principle of world government itself. The United Nations does not possess such a mandate, nor is there anything in the current discourse of political leaders that seriously envisions so radical a restructuring of the administration of the affairs of the planet. That it will come about in due course Bahá’u’lláh has made unmistakably clear. That yet greater suffering and disillusionment will be required to impel humanity to this great leap forward appears, alas, equally clear. Its establishment will require national governments and other centres of power to surrender to international determination, unconditionally and irreversibly, the full measure of overriding authority implicit in the word ‘government’.

“This is the context in which Bahá’ís must strive to appreciate the unique victory that the Cause won in 1963, and which has consolidated itself over the years since then. A full understanding of its meaning is beyond the reach of the present and perhaps of the next several generations of believers. To the extent that a Bahá’í does grasp it, he or she will hold nothing back in a determination to serve its unfolding purpose.

“The process leading to the election of the Universal House of Justice—made possible by the successful completion of the three initial stages of the Master’s Divine Plan under the leadership of Shoghi Effendi—very likely constituted history’s first global democratic election. Each of the successive elections since then has been carried out by an ever broader and more diverse body of the community’s chosen delegates, a development that has now reached the point that it incontestably represents the will of a cross-section of the entire human race. There is nothing in existence—nothing indeed envisioned by any group of people—that in any way resembles this achievement.

“When one considers, further, the spiritual atmosphere that pervades Bahá’í elections and the principled conduct called for in even their simplest operations, one is humbled by a much greater awareness. In the raising up of the supreme governing institution of our Faith, one is witnessing a striving to the utmost of human capacity to win the good pleasure of God, a united and ardent determination that nothing whatever, in either cultural conditioning or the promptings of personal desire, should be allowed to stain the purity of this ultimate collective act.”
Commissioned by The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 92

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The Polls ~ Reprise

poll
You can take these polls without reading the series, One Common Faith ~ The Story, but if you’d rather read it first, here it is…

You can select multiple answers


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Hate, Love, and Religion

More posts on the Gaza situation here…
religion_hate_love

Jill & Olivia at the Café
after two months of not seeing each other


J: So, you signed-up, eh?

O: I became a member, yes…

J: It’s a real religion?

O: Yeah, a world religion.

J: I can’t imagine you in some organization that tells you what you can and can’t do.

O: Well, there are  spiritual laws but there’s nothing that isn’t just good common sense—well, common sense without a materialistic focus—maybe, good spiritual common sense…

J: hmmm… What’s the hardest thing about following all those laws?

O: Funny you should ask; well, not funny for you but just yesterday I had my first real spiritual test…

J: Do tell!

O: Well… it was about the situation in Gaza. I was talking to an Israeli and a Palestinian and they both kept referring to each other as monsters and terrorists and I got pretty worked up and almost started an argument but I remembered that I should treat everyone with kindness so I asked them if they thought any  Palestinians and Israelis were good people…

J: Yeah… So?

O: They both got real quiet and then got up and walked off.

J: How was that a test?

O: ‘Cause, while they were ranting about how evil the Palestinians and Israelis were, I was getting pretty mad and when I remembered a quote from the Scripture, “…should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them…”, I calmed right down and asked about the possiblity of good Palestinians and Israelis.

J: I still don’t understand the test part…

O: I wanted to slap them for what they’d been saying, pretty war-like for me, but I decided to be fair to them, benefit of the doubt and all, and asked about the possibility of good people on both sides. If I’d slapped them, even with my words, we would have been “at war”; but, maybe what I said will make them think and be more fair to each other…

~~~~~~~~~
Jill and Olivia talked for two more hours and explored some of Olivia’s new Scripture…

Here’s what they talked about:

Spiritual Quote:

“O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God’s grace. It is incumbent upon everyone to show the utmost love, rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness and sincere kindliness unto all the peoples and kindreds of the world, be they friends or strangers. So intense must be the spirit of love and loving kindness, that the stranger may find himself a friend, the enemy a true brother, no difference whatsoever existing between them. For universality is of God and all limitations earthly. Thus man must strive that his reality may manifest virtues and perfections, the light whereof may shine upon everyone. The light of the sun shineth upon all the world and the merciful showers of Divine Providence fall upon all peoples. The vivifying breeze reviveth every living creature and all beings endued with life obtain their share and portion at His heavenly board. In like manner, the affections and loving kindness of the servants of the One True God must be bountifully and universally extended to all mankind. Regarding this, restrictions and limitations are in no wise permitted.

“Wherefore, O my loving friends! Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness, that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Baha [Light, Splendor], that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity. Should other peoples and nations be unfaithful to you show your fidelity unto them, should they be unjust toward you show justice towards them, should they keep aloof from you attract them to yourselves, should they show their enmity be friendly towards them, should they poison your lives, sweeten their souls, should they inflict a wound upon you, be a salve to their sores. Such are the attributes of the sincere! Such are the attributes of the truthful.”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Will and Testament, p. 14

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Gaza and Its Civilians

Read All Our Gaza Posts Here
discussion_gaza_civilians

Miriam, Hamid, and Rebecca at the Park

Rebecca: O.K., we all have our quotes, let’s sit down and see if we have enough for the report.

They walk to the pavilion and get out their papers and books.

Rebecca: You start, Hamid.

Hamid: Well, I chose an article from the New York Times called, Many Civilian Targets, but One Core Question Among Gazans: Why?. Here are the three I ended up with:

“They hit my future with a rocket,” said Muhammad Baroud, one of the students at the Islamic University in Gaza City. “This is a university. What does it have to do with war?”

For Mr. Baroud and his friends, the bombing of the science lab building, which happened in the early days of the Israeli offensive, was a frontal attack on their future. The university is prestigious, and they said they worked hard to get there. It is one of the best medical schools in the region, and Israel recognizes its degrees.

“Are we going to study in a tent?” asked Mr. Baroud’s friend, Ahmed.

And,

The issue, in part, is about the very nature of Hamas. Gazans say that there is a range of relationships people have with the group, starting with sympathizer and ending with rocket launcher or suicide bomber. Just because someone likes Hamas does not mean that that person is necessarily working for the group, Gazans say.

Rebecca: Are there quotes in the article from the Israelis?

Hamid: Yes, do you think we need some of those?

Miriam: I  think so…

Rebecca: Yes.

Hamid: Will do.

Rebecca: Miriam, what do you have?

Miriam: I chose an article from the BBC News called, Gazans confront shattered lives, and I chose different segments from the article woven into one quote:

…for some Gazans even attempting to return home is virtually unimaginable. Amira al-Girim, 15, lies in a hospital bed with her leg in traction. She was found alone, bleeding in a house, about four days after she saw her father killed by an Israeli tank shell in front of her. Her brother and sister died – she thinks in an air strike – as they ran to get help….By the time she was found – she is not sure if it was three or four days later – she hardly knew her own name. But she remembers details…. She says she slept in the street for two days, but then found her way into another house. She had struggled some 500m with a badly broken, bleeding leg, in search of shelter as fighting raged nearby. ABC producer Sami Ziyara, who found Amira with his colleague Imad, said doctors told him she had only a few hours left to live at the point they found her in Imad’s house.

Miriam: That’s it…

Hamid: Powerful…

Rebecca: I think you found something we really need in the report. Is there a picture of her?

Miriam: Yes, here…

gaza_girl_suffering

Hamid: Poor, poor girl………

Miriam: Rebecca, what do you have?

Rebecca: Well… You guys may think I’ve flipped but I chose a quote of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, from page 19 in a book called ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London. It was written in 1911. It’s a spiritual quotation but I think we can use it at the end of the report to drive our points home:

The gift of God to this enlightened age is the knowledge of the oneness of mankind and of the fundamental oneness of religion. War shall cease between nations, and by the will of God the Most Great Peace shall come; the world will be seen as a new world, and all men will live as brothers.

In the days of old an instinct for warfare was developed in the struggle with wild animals; this is no longer necessary; nay, rather, co-operation and mutual understanding are seen to produce the greatest welfare of mankind. Enmity is now the result of prejudice only.

They went to Miriam’s home, finished the report, and sent an email copy to their teacher…

They got an A…

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Greed, Violence, and Truth

dead_child_gaza

I’m going to do something that some may find insensitive or in poor taste.

As the Gaza conflict may, or may not, be winding down and as the American presidency transitions office-holders, I want to bring to sharp clarity that there are numerous political entities involved in a many wars that have killed hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians—possibly more than any time in human history.

As I see it, we are headed for an international transition from totally sovereign nations who can decide to initiate war to a global form of governance in which nations willingly agree to leave each other alone so their citizens can live fruitful lives. Naturally, this will only come after the violence against civilians reaches a possibly much higher level—severe pain teaching the rule of love…

Also, it’s fairly obvious that the world financial crisis came from materialistic agendas which have proven their falsity and that the greed behind such agendas is a strong inducer of violence.

Following are two videos. One being crushingly sad, the other seeming to be light comedy. I see the sad one as an unyielding Teacher and the comedy as a wise Professor—hot tears and stinging laughter being natural human responses to global disaster.

I don’t want to offend, I want to uncover the Truth…

Spiritual Quote:

“[This]…issue concerns the nature of the catastrophic events associated with this period in history. The general messages of the Guardian to the world-wide Bahá’í community make clear reference in several places to a ‘retributive calamity’ which will purify the human race and knit its components into a unified whole. One of the most detailed passages from the writings of the Guardian is the following:

‘The violent derangement of the world’s equilibrium; the trembling that will seize the limbs of mankind; the radical transformation of human society; the rolling up of the present-day Order; the fundamental changes affecting the structure of government; the weakening of the pillars of religion; the rise of dictatorships; the spread of tyranny; the fall of monarchies; the decline of ecclesiastical institutions; the increase of anarchy and chaos; the extension and consolidation of the Movement of the Left; the fanning into flame of the smouldering fire of racial strife; the development of infernal engines of war; the burning of cities; the contamination of the atmosphere of the earth—these stand out as the signs and portents that must either herald or accompany the retributive calamity which, as decreed by Him Who is the Judge and Redeemer of mankind, must, sooner or later, afflict a society which, for the most part, and for over a century, has turned a deaf ear to the Voice of God’s Messenger in this day—a calamity which must purge the human race of the dross of its age-long corruptions, and weld its component parts into a firmly-knit world-embracing Fellowship…’ (Taken from “Messages to the Bahá’í World 1950-1957″ by Shoghi Effendi, page 103)”
International Teaching Centre, 1984 Jul 01, Concerns about Retributive Calamity

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One Perpetual Faith

Due to recent world crises and the important information it contains, this post will stay up till Sunday, 18 January.

world-religion-day
Emory and Suzanne at the café:

E: World Religion Day? Come on, get serious.

S: I am serious, Emory, I want you to come to the gathering.

E: Sorry, I don’t think religion has anything that will help with the problems going on in the world right now.

S: Why not?

E: Well, for one, they’re all fighting each other. How can rabid religionists help establish peace?

S: I’m talking about real religion, the kind that induces love and unity.

E: Where does that exist?

S: Come to the gathering and you just might be surprised…

E: Who else will be there?

S: Tom, Elaine, and Pete; Christian, Jew, and Muslim…

E: Well, it might be fun watching them argue themselves into a frenzy.

S: I’ll bet they all get along and that you learn something that can help in your work for peace.

E: I’ll take that bet. In a way……… I actually hope I lose…

~~~~~~~~~

Emory will go to the gathering for World Religion Day and he will lose his bet. He’ll also learn that the core of all true religions are the same and all guide humanity to the road of peace and tranquility.

There’s a statement made in the Writings of my Faith that, if religion doesn’t lead to love and unity, a person is better off without religion…

In light of that statement, I want to introduce you to a major document that was sent to the world’s religious leaders, essentially telling them to reaffirm the core beliefs of their Faiths and get down to work helping their followers practice what real religion preaches. This link will let you read and download the document.

Also, in the time remaining before January 18th, you may want to learn more about World Religion Day and various activities that are being planned.

Here’s a video from the site:

Spiritual Quote:

“O ye steadfast loved ones! The grace of God is beating down upon mankind, even as the rains in spring, and the rays of the manifest Light have made this earth to be the envy of heaven. But alas, the blind are deprived of this bounty, the heedless are closed off from it, the withered despair of it, the faded are dying away—so that even as flooding waters, this endless stream of grace passeth back into its primal source in a hidden sea. Only a few receive this grace and take their share of it…

“We trust that in a time to come the slumberers will waken, and the heedless will be made aware, and the excluded will become initiates in the mysteries. Now must the friends work on with heart and soul and put forth a mighty effort, until the ramparts of dissension are toppled down and the glories of the oneness of humanity lead all to unity.

“Today the one overriding need is unity and harmony among the beloved of the Lord, for they should have among them but one heart and soul and should, so far as in them lieth, unitedly withstand the hostility of all the peoples of the world; they must bring to an end the benighted prejudices of all nations and religions and must make known to every member of the human race that all are the leaves of one branch, the fruits of one bough.

“Until such time, however, as the friends establish perfect unity among themselves, how can they summon others to harmony and peace?”
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 277

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