We live in a day in which all kinds of resources are legitimately available via the internet for free — and others are out there in the form of pirated copies. Navigating our teens through this newly emerging way of accessing media can be difficult, both practically and philosophically, but it’s an important area in which our teens need parental guidance. The biggest take-home principle can lead them to a deeper understanding of the Gospel: What is free to us cost someone something.
From online coupons and blog giveaways to resources like Dictionary.com and Wikipedia and entertainment venues like Pandora and Hulu, the internet is full of opportunities to get all kinds of things for free. This phenomenon can be misleading and can promote acceptance of pirating practices. At its root, it can also overshadow appreciation for others’ work — be it creative, scholarly, or entrepreneurial. At the same time, teens need to start to understand how the world works.
Not to be cynical, but most freebies are offered with some kind of angle involved, whether it’s advertising money from page views or hoped-for continued patronage. For academic purposes, teenagers also need to know that not all resources are created equal, nor should they consider every resource to be as reputable as others, but we’ll leave that part for their English teacher.
Problems with Pirates
Pirating needs to be addressed for its dishonesty, regardless of the person or organization hindered. Due to the ease of downloading illegitimate copies of movies, music, software, etc., and the financial savings involved in doing so, teens need a major motivation to forgo such conveniences. Especially when they know major companies will never miss their $20 purchase, only ironclad ethics will be able to compete with what has become the norm.
When teens learn to make responsible choices even when they don’t like or understand the policies and probably won’t get caught, they’ll be on their way to establishing a testimony of integrity; they’ll set themselves apart from their peers in a way that can be a vehicle of sharing God’s free gift of salvation with coworkers, neighbors, and friends.
Pointing to Christ
Of course, such a witness won’t be possible if your teen fails to grasp the truth of the Gospel, in the first place. I cringe every time I hear the Gospel described as “a free gift.” Like anything else in life, just because something is free to us doesn’t mean it came entirely free: It cost someone something.
When it comes to the Gospel, it cost God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, more than we will ever understand. In His Incarnation, Christ gave up the riches of heaven to minister among us (Philippians 2:7). In His death, Christ suffered immeasurably, and it must have pained His Father greatly to have to turn away from His perfect Son.
Appreciating the Gospel starts with an understanding of what is and isn’t intended to be free and realizing the cost behind whatever we receive.