We know that "unto whom much is given much is required" (D&C 82:3). We live in a world where access to information is unprecedented. Never before has so much been "given." We have a responsibility to use the many capabilities of technology in appropriate ways to learn, to communicate, to lift and brighten lives, and to build and strengthen ourselves, our families, our friends, and the Church. We have to discipline ourselves in our use of media to filter out all the excess and the useless. We define responsible, appropriate behavior with the use of media and technology as good "digital citizenship."
The Lord teaches us in D&C 58:27-28, "that [we] should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness." It is the following verse that helps us know the Lord has confidence in our ability, our power to choose, "For the power is in [us], wherein [we] are agents unto [ourselves]. And inasmuch as [we] do good [we] shall in nowise lose [our] reward." We have the power to do good and the agency to choose how we will spend our time.
The complexity of technology and how society chooses to address its use often makes it difficult to know what is appropriate and what we need to avoid. Elder Bednar in a CES fireside offered two questions that would help direct our use of new technologies and media in our lives:
1. Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
2. Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, to love, and to serve in meaningful ways?
(David A. Bednar, "Things as They Really Are," Ensign, June 2010, 22)
The For The Strength of Youth pamphlet teaches, "Choose wisely when using media because whatever you read, listen to, or look at has an effect on you. Select only media that uplifts you. Satan uses media to deceive you by making what is wrong and evil look normal, humorous, or exciting. He tries to mislead you into thinking that breaking God's commandments is acceptable and has no negative consequences for you or others. Do not attend, view, or participate in anything that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Do not participate in anything that presents immorality or violence as acceptable. Have the courage to walk out of a movie, change your music, or turn off a computer, television, or mobile device if what you see or hear drives away the Spirit."
Society will try to dictate the norms of what is and isn't acceptable. Even the culture of the internet, where a lackadaisical attitude of freedom of expression and property rights often oversteps what normally would be appropriate, will try to influence our decisions about our use of new technologies. We need to be honest in all our dealings with our fellowman. In a society that uses terms like file "sharing" and where technology has made copying files as simple as clicking a mouse, we need to be cautious of the blurring of what is and isn't legal. We should avoid the temptation of justifying illegal copying. President Thomas S. Monson said, "Let us have the courage to defy the consensus, the courage to stand for principle. Courage, not compromise, brings the smile of God's approval" (Thomas S. Monson, "The Call for Courage," Ensign, May 2004, 54). We will win "God's approval" when we use these tools in ways that reflect the standards found in the 13th Article of Faith:
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things" (Articles of Faith 1:13).
If we can answer the two questions above honestly and adhere to the counsel from the scriptures, we will be better digital citizens and confident in our use of technologies and media.
Digital citizenship involves more than avoiding the immoral and harmful influences that exist in technology and media, it also encompasses elements that include our rights and responsibilities in communications, commerce, and the law as members of a digital society. Like any rights and responsibilities, digital rights are accompanied by expectations and accountability. We should strive to have our online presence reflect our values and standards by being examples of true followers of the Savior.
Our digital literacy is expanded when we better understand proper etiquette, personal wellness, and security in regards to using technology safely. The Church has a website to help guide our use of social media with suggestions on appropriate use and some of the risks we can encounter when using such sites. Among the many suggestions we find these reminders:
· Remember that social media is a public forum. Messages and posts are not private and should not be used to share confidential or delicate information.
· Be aware of the security settings for social media sites you may use.
· Exercise good judgment when posting to a social media site. There is no "delete" button on the Internet. Images and posts can remain for many years and can be detrimental when you are seeking employment or admission to college, as well as other occasions in which your public Internet record may be reviewed. Ensure that your communications align with your commitment to take upon yourself the name of the Savior.
· Many social media sites have a high risk of "drive by" exposure to content that may not meet your family standards.
· Be aware of how much time you and your family spend on social media sites participating in activities such as playing games, posting meaningless updates, or holding inappropriate conversations. If you are not careful, it is easy to spend too much time on these sites, causing other important aspects of life to be ignored.
In an era where we are "given" so much access to information through technology and media, we will be blessed with security and an abundance of knowledge if we exercise our agency and choose to use these tools in appropriate ways. Just as the Liahona only worked according to the faith of Lehi's family (see Alma 37:40), these tools will only bless our lives when we use them appropriately as we seek learning, strengthen home and family, and promote our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.