Teaching Kids About “Virtual” Sin

Teaching Kids About "Virtual" Sin - Parenting Like HannahRecently, I was having an email conversation with a woman who works trying to save children and teens from child trafficking. She mentioned something which stopped me in my tracks. She said one of the hardest things she does is trying to convince parents of the dangers of allowing their children to participate in virtual sin. It took me a minute or two to process what she meant.

Virtual sin is when anyone participates in a sin in a virtual environment. In other words, if your child regularly plays a game where part of the game is murdering people, that would be a virtual sin. If the characters are naked or nearly so or participate in some sexual acts with a child’s avatar, the child has participated in virtual pornography. Basically anything one does in the arena of a video game or online that would be sinful in “real” life is a virtual sin.

We could probably debate until the end of time whether or not participating in virtual sin is considered a sin in God’s eyes, just like actors have debated for years whether it is appropriate to play characters who actually do sinful things during a play or show. Although, that is an issue worth discussing, my conversation and research revealed a more serious issue.

Participating in virtual sins desensitizes the brains of our children. Having done something online in a virtual environment time and time again with no negative consequences begins to train the brain that those activities really aren’t bad after all. In fact, in some games sinful behavior is actually rewarded with more points or attaining higher levels.

Eventually, when a child spends enough hours in a virtual environment, the lines between fantasy and reality blur. What’s even worse is that some of the sins are depicted so realistically a child now knows exactly what to do in real life. Many violent games for example are based on what the military developed to help soldiers shoot more accurately in battle and harden them to the consequences. Your young child or teen is now capable of being a lethal killer as much as the soldiers those games were originally created to train.

Obviously, not everything online is horrible for your child. I would suggest though sitting down with your child. Have them show you the games they are playing. Watch them play for awhile. Ask them to explain anything you don’t understand. Discuss things you see that concern you and why they are worrisome.

Talk about the concept of virtual sin. With older teens, it is a good idea to begin talking about the dangers of pornography and violence. Teens raised on a diet of virtual sin often readily transition to pornography or violent behaviors. They excuse their involvement in online pornography, sexting, threats or sending nude photos as “not real”. They believe because they aren’t in the same room interacting with the person a sin has not been committed. Often even kids who consider themselves moral and Christian will sext or send nude photos to others using the same faulty logic. They are too naive to understand all of the repercussions their virtual sins can bring – earthly consequences and spiritual ones.

Don’t be that naive parent who wakes up one day to find their children are enmeshed in all sorts of sins. Limit screen time. Be aware of what your children are doing in virtual environments. Have discussions about virtual and real sins and the connections and consequences. Doing that early enough may prevent a lot of heartache and problems for your family in the future.

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Thereasa Winnett

Thereasa Winnett is the founder of Teach One Reach One and blogger at Parenting Like Hannah. She holds a BA in education from the College of William and Mary. She has served in all areas of ministry to children and teens for more than thirty years and regularly leads workshops for ministries and churches. She has conducted numerous workshops, including sessions at Points of Light’s National Conference on Volunteering and Service, the National Urban Ministry Conference, Pepperdine Bible Lectures, and Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration. Thereasa lives in Atlanta, GA with her husband Greg, where she enjoys reading, knitting, traveling and cooking.

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