There is no shortage of disturbing news every day, especially when it comes to stories about how evil is manifested in human nature.
We have seen an increase of accounts about adults taking horrible advantages with youngsters, including child pornography and human trafficking of all sorts, often leading to deadly results.
Consider what's happening around us: A perverse culture, video and Internet temptations, a steady slide down a moral slope in an "anything goes" world. There's plenty of blame to go around. But when it comes to those who take advantage of young children, there is no end to the disgust we should feel. We should be stirred to action, to taking charge of our homes and our families, helping to avoid slipping further into the morass.
In recent weeks, the United States government, through Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, snagged 190 new suspects and plenty of evidence. Those arrested in the global dragnet were charged with numerous offenses, including possessing and distributing child pornography. Some of these individuals lured young children via social media and most of them used the Internet to meet their sleazy needs.
One man, 35, was accused of using a 7-year-old whom he babysat to make lewd videos. Nine of the suspects lived in the San Diego area, including a 28-year-old local Marine, who is charged with possessing 4,000 images and 43 videos of child pornography, some involving bestiality. A Vista man, 32, was among the group accused of taking hidden camera images of an 11-year-old girl in the shower.
I will avoid going into any further detail about other aspects of the story. It's only one of the latest crime sweeps, and there seems to be an increase in such crackdowns. The nature of what's going on cannot be denied, and it's getting worse.
There will be no shortage of experts to explain that sometimes people are falsely accused—or set up by people who hack their computers and plant material—or that some of those arrested came from rough upbringings and haven't had a fair shake in life. I understand that there are many angles, but what is especially sickening to me is how more and more people are finding new ways—and excuses—to steal the innocence of America's children.
As hard as it is to believe, there are actually groups that promote adults having sexual relationships with young children, calling it "normal and healthy." It's not.
Too many parents also give their kids the tools that could lead to disaster, without even thinking. It's a long way from just controlling the family television set at home. New media creates peer pressure, and it's everywhere, as it's always been, but it is now high tech at hyperspeed: "Hey Mom, every one of my friends has an iPad or an iPhone—I HAVE to have one!" Today's "television" is delivered in numerous new forms, into the hands of our kids through the latest hot web device.
More responsible adults have become savvy about how their sons and daughters use computers, installing filters and having strict guidelines of where and when the system is used in the family home. But plenty of moms and dads have no clue about how pornographers and predators are trolling for new victims via mobile phones. Porn makers can spam any number of nasty images to young people, immediately stealing innocence. Smart phones have greatly sped up the process.
Camera phones are now so easy to use, along with video, that young people are "sexting" to each other. That is sharing whatever excites them at any time, all out of the view of responsible adults. Now school is out for the season, so kids have lots more free time to get into trouble. I know, years ago we Baby Boom kids had our share of free time "issues," but then temptations weren't fueled by high technology. It all contributes to loss of innocence.
On a recent Saturday afternoon, we were taking care of our little grandkids, ages 2 to nearly 5, and already growing so fast. It had been an especially hectic week, and it took me a while to wind down. After a few minutes of sitting in the yard with them, I consciously worked to adjust my thinking to their level. I prayed to get the distractions out of my mind and tuned in to where the little guys were. I really listened to the conversations, and how they played, what was important to them, and moderated an occasional dust-up.
Some of these awful stories about abusers were in the news again, and I had lots of thoughts in my mind, such as "Isn't there a special place in hell for unrepentant creeps who prey on little ones?" and "How CAN they do such reprehensible things?" I know it's pure evil. But it's getting worse out there.
I instantly felt more protective, and then thankful that I was realizing in a new way how precious innocence is. We don't really want our children to grow up too fast, do we? The culture has made it seem as if that's the goal, and too often we're right in sync with it.
Technology is important, and young people need to be adept at handling it properly, but there's no need to propel a tiny tyke into the world so fast that happy childhood moments are only a blur.
Even teens still need guidelines from parents and insulation from the thousands of criminals online who want to hurt them.
This summer let's be smart, sensitive and protective when it comes to our children. It all starts with a focus on guarding their innocence, through faith and love and active participation in their lives.
Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 6 to 9 a.m. and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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