To Catch a Predator

USA Today recently shared some disturbing research about life for kids today. According to University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center:¬†

  • 4% (1 in 25) of youths ages 10-17 who surf the Internet are asked at some point during the year to transmit a sexual picture of themselves.
  • 10% (1 in 10) are asked to send photos of themselves.

The study also revealed that a rising share of youths were harassed and bullied online, often by peers, and more were exposed to unwanted child porn. One in three youths saw such porn while surfing the Internet in 2005, up from one in four in 2000.

Without question, kids today encounter more predators and perverts than the kids of twenty years ago. The issues that 10 year olds are facing today are the topics that were reserved for youth groups or college ministries in the past. Elementary school children are encountering far greater problems than just being tempted to steal a candy bar at grocery store.

But addressing these problems can be difficult for children’s ministers because the gap between the “sheltered” kids and the “over-exposed” kids seems to be ever-widening. I believe that such topics can be handled tactfully, but children’s ministers must be well aware of what life is like at their students’ ages on a national scale as well as locally.

It may surprise you how often some young children are approached with cyberbullying, drugs, alchohol, or sex, but it is a sad reality for many students. And ignoring or being oblivious to such tough topics will only create a bigger disconnect between students and the church.

On a similar note, have good church security, create guidelines for teacher/student conduct, and background check every volunteer and staff member.

Also, check out these previous statistics we highlighted last August.