by Mark Pattison
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Roman Catholics and Greek Orthodox in the U.S. have collaborated on a new website to instruct web users, primarily parents, on how young people can navigate the online world, taking advantage of its promise while steering away from its pitfalls.
The site, www.faithandsafety.org, was activated in the middle of June, which is Internet Safety Month. The site’s subtitle is “Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith.”
Even in its first days, it is loaded with news about sites that teens use, eyebrow-raising details about children’s first exposure to online pornography, suggestions on how to use technology safely at home and tips on negotiating the mobile-app scene.
The site was two years in the making. Its genesis was during a brainstorming session as part of a summit meeting of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography attended by Catholic and Greek Orthodox leaders.
“We were challenged to come up with actionable items as a result of the summit,” said Theo Nicolakis, chief information officer for the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S.
“One of the items I came up with was that we were going to come up with an initiative that would give the voice of faith in regard to online and technological safety.”
Keeping Children Safe
“It’s primary audience is intended to be parents and others who are concerned about children’s digital safety,” said Helen Osman, secretary of communications for the U.S. bishops. She noted that the Catholic Communication Campaign helped launch the site with grant funding.
“It’s intended to honor the idea that parents are probably the best ones to understand new areas. It focuses a lot on helping them understand this world where their kids are more comfortable than they are but they really need to be there to help their children understand the potential and also the risk: how to deal with bullying and how to deal with pornography.”
Osman said, “We try to provide some of the technical advice but also provide it through the understanding that Catholic teaching, the Greek Orthodox teaching is that all of creation is good.”
Nicolakis said the process of launching FaithAndSafety was “a herculean effort that took almost two years from the point of conception until today: identifying what the hot-button topics are going to be, finding strategic partners with common areas of interest, being able to build out the technology on the web and allow the platform to move forward.”
FaithAndSafety is also on Facebook and Twitter.
To keep the site fresh, “we’re trying right now to expand our partnerships,” Nicolakis said. “We don’t pre