If you have your finger on the pulse of new technology, you are already familiar with the wildly popular app called Snapchat. About two months ago a trusted, technologically savvy friend introduced this app to me. She explained that it was a fun, new way to send pictures to others with the same app. I did not quite understand how it was different from simply texting a picture to others with my phone. The way it was explained it to me was that this app has two unique features:
- The picture you send is only viewable for 10 seconds (maximum).
- Immediately after the image is viewed, it is deleted from the app, never to be seen again.
Over the last month, I have dabbled in the world of Snapchat – even enjoying some goofy images with my teenage children, both recent Snapchat members.
For the last two months, I have been under the assumption that this was just another innocent app created for the promotion of fun and creative communication. I hadn’t even thought about the dangers of it, until yesterday, when I was in line at a store and noticed the teenager in front of me on the app. Glancing at his screen, I realized that he was sending something inappropriate to a “friend.” And then it hit me. This app is perfect for sexting or being generally inappropriate with other members. It provides the perfect cover since it can only be viewed for a brief period of time (literally seconds) with the picture being deleted immediately after sending. Ah, sneaky creators of apps!!
And then another thought hit me… my kids use this app! Oh no!! Even if they are not sending inappropriate images, they can certainly receive one without warning!
And then another thought hit me… I have to warn others, particularly parents, who may be in the dark about this app’s subtle dangers. Consider this the Paul Revere of parenting post. “The Sexters are coming! The Sexters are coming!” At first glance, this app seems harmless. How can a cute little ghost steer you wrong? This app is not as innocent as we might think.
“Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. For example, users may take a picture of the message contents with another imaging device or capture a screenshot of the message contents on the device screen. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.”
Even if the makers of this app had entirely pure motives in creating it, it should not surprise us that others are quick to corrupt the medium. Most things created with a good purpose can be twisted towards evil. Once again, it serves as a reminder to us all that as technology advances, so does our capacity for abusing and misusing it.
As soon as I realized the potential danger this app posed to my children, I thought about immediately removing it from their phones. But then I realized they could just text inappropriate messages instead. So then I thought about removing texting as an option for their phones. But then I realized that they could just have inappropriate phone conversations instead. So then I thought about taking their phones away. But then I realized that they could just send inappropriate letters to others via the postal service. So then I thought about removing all paper, pens, envelopes and stamps from their room. While I am at it, I might as well remove happiness, trust and my relationship with them in the process.
The reality is, the app is not the problem – our misuse of it is. Similarly, guns are not the primary problem in our current culture (as some claim), people abusing them are. Could we create some additional laws that would help protect more of our citizens? Sure, but that won’t stop those committed to breaking them. Before there were demands for gun control, there were demands for sword control. Before there were demands for sword control, Cavemen politicians demanded club control. And before club reform initiatives were in place, there was a need for rock control as that appears to be the first weapon ever used.
Our first family (Adam & Eve) were misusing the intended purpose of rocks before the third generation. Just outside the Garden of Eden, Adam’s son, Cain used a rock to kill his brother Abel (Genesis 4). The patriarch Jacob used a rock for practical purposes – he needed a pillow (Genesis 28). We are told that the prophet Elijah used the cleft of a rock to hide from an enemy (I Kings 19). We know that Nehemiah used rocks to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. The church’s first Deacon, Stephen, was stoned to death with rocks (Acts 7). Rocks are not the problem. They were created by God and serve a multi-purpose. However, a rock in the wrong hands can obviously be deadly, just ask Cain. And last time I checked, no one needs a special license to use one or look very hard to find one.
While there are some out there who would just prefer to ban certain weapons or technology or “throw out the baby with the bath water”, that isn’t really the heart of the issue. Snapchat is not a bad app, even though it does allow an opportunity for bad decisions. Every generation has to address each technological advance and determine how to protect our youngest ones from its eventual misuse or abuse. The back seat of a car is a tremendous feature even if teenagers have been using it inappropriately for decades. Television can be a wonderful tool of education for some, while others choose to use it for more sinister viewing. A baseball bat, the internet, money, cough medicine and guns can be used for both good and bad, depending upon the user. Banning any of these from public use not only limits how each can be used for good, but it also misses point.
We can ban guns and rocks and those who desire to kill will still do so with a knife or club.
You can remove Snapchat from a teenagers phone and those who desire to sext will simply find another app or way to do it.
Perhaps we should invest more effort addressing the heart of the problem, which is the heart of people. As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations, alike.”
I think it is safe to say, America, though still considered a super power in the world, has lost its way. Our character, as a nation, is not where it used to be. French historian (Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville) visited America in the mid 1800’s looking for the secret to America’s success. Where He found it may shock you. His observation is profound,
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers – and it was not there. I sought it in her fertile fields and boundless forests – and it was not there. I looked in her rich mines and her vast world commerce – and it was not there. I looked in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution – and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
To truly change a nation, you must change the character of its citizens. To truly change the character of its citizens, you must change their behavior. To truly change their behavior, you must change their mindset. To truly change their mindset, you must change their heart. And to truly change a human heart, God must be involved as the heart is His domain.
A changed heart produces a changed mind. A changed mind produces changed behaviors. Changed behaviors produce changed characters. And people of character, change nations. Abraham Lincoln, William Wallace, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela are some examples, just to name a few.
We don’t need gun control or a different app, we need heart surgery, one citizen at a time.
After confessing his affair with Bathsheeba and the murder of her husband, King David penned these words in Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me.” He recognized his need for a new heart.
“If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:14)