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Friday, April 28, 2006

Our Youth, How Safe Are They on the Internet?

By Fatin Khairallah
Apr. 16, 2006

So many of you must be thinking, "Drugs, guns, pregnancies, our kids could never do these things." In fact, these activities don't even cross our minds when thinking about our MUSLIM youth. We automatically assume that, ""these things don't happen to Muslims."" Unfortunately, we need to undergo a reality check and accept that this is not the case anymore. .
Muslim youth are hooked into the same dangers as non-Muslim youth of today's society. The statistics show it all. . Ninety percent of Muslim children, as young as 11, are using chat rooms and Internet sites to contact strangers. At the same time, they are providing these strangers with all of their personal details.
As a counselor for Muslim Youth Social Services (MYSS), I handle numerous cases whereby Muslim youth have been harmed by socializing via the Internet on sites such as myspace.com, facebook.com, friendster.com, and xanga.com.

Why?

When asking youth why they are so fond of such websites, girls in particular respond emotionally when explaining that they feel this is the "safest" way to vent out their feelings. They feel their parents are clueless about how they feel and they want to reach out, even if it means talking to strangers through the Internet. From personal observations and conversations with these youth, it appears they are using these sites as a form of attention seeking.
There is a strong communication barrier between parents and children that is causing these young teenagers to search for alternatives to fill this void in their lives. They are desperately calling out to their parents for love and care. These Internet chat websites provide them with that window to the outside world without them having to leave their room or face disapproval from their parents.
Another striking factor for losing our children to the Internet is that a majority of parents assume they "know it all." They feel they are educated, active members of local organizations and masjids, so they instill in their hearts that nothing bad could happen to their kids. Yet from the cases I handled, I discovered the total opposite, and, in reality, no one is exempt from this problem. In fact, those who have busy lives have to be more cautious than others because they may be too busy, and as a result, their children might slip between their fingers when they expect it least. They may overlook clear signs of behavioral changes resulting from an unhealthy Internet addiction (try this test).
Once our children turn to this destructive resource for "enjoyment," it is not just fun, but it is in actuality making our kids lose the most valuable blessing Allah gave them - haya' (shyness). Their innocence is being sacrificed at the cost of a product of modern technology, the Internet. Not only are children stripped of their shyness, but they become easily accessible to child predators. In just the past two weeks, 9 girls, aged 12 to 14, were raped by child predators whom they had met on Internet websites.

Finding a Solution

The problem is clear, but what can we do to protect and save our youth from dangers such as these? One possible solution which parents can start with is to make sure their computer is set up in an open area of the home. Children should access it in their parents' presence and for limited time periods. Parents must establish open communication with their children and educate them, as well as themselves, about the dangers of the Internet. One can take it even further and contact the local FBI community service or juvenile division, the prosecutor's office, and the local board of education to present awareness workshops at their child's school. People from these organizations would be more than willing to come in and assist you.

Role Models

Most importantly, we need increase the desire of Muslim youth to learn about Islam and love their deen. Once our youth have a firm awareness of Allah and knowledge of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), their taqwa will increase, in sha 'Allah. Their faith will be exemplified through their actions and they will readily protect themselves from sin and the evils of this time.
One of the best ways to make sure that young people grow up as strong Muslims is to set the example as good Muslim parents and adult who also have the desire to learn about their deen and to be firm on the straight path. Youth look up to their parents who guide them through life. Children should love and respect their parents, thereby following them in their proper conduct. This is the best way that we can protect our youth from the dangerous habits and actions that arise from non-Muslim activities, which are so widespread, yet hidden in this society. May Allah raise our youth to be free from impurities, strong in their faith, and guardians of their chastity. Ameen.
May God give us the wisdom, courage, and strength to strive for change in ourselves, to guide us and to guide others through us, and make us realize and fulfill the responsibilities we owe to our spouses, children, families, communities, and the living and future generations.

Fatin Khairallah is a licensed social worker who specializes in working with troubled youth, especially Muslims. She is also the founder of Muslim Youth Social Services in New Jersey, United States.

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