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By Susan Hines-Brigger

Your Family and the Internet


Getting Involved
Let's Go Surfing
For Teens: Sites Just For You
For Kids: Who's Your Patron Saint?

Following the attacks on September 11, stories emerged of people in the midst of terror contacting their loved ones via e-mail and instant messaging programs. Some of those people survived, others did not; but the Internet allowed many people to reach their loved ones during a time of need.

For most of us, our Internet usage is not nearly as dramatic, but is rather just one more way of staying in touch with friends and relatives or finding information. Even Pope John Paul II has begun taking advantage of the Internet’s vast capabilities. Last November he delivered his apostolic exhortation on the 1998 Synod of Bishops for Oceania via e-mail to synod participants. A month later, he logged on again and, with the click of the mouse, opened the official Web site of Mexico’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (

This year, the theme of the 36th World Communications Day—May 12—will focus on the Internet and its role as a forum for proclaiming the gospel. Pope John Paul II released the message “Internet: A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel” on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers. To read the text of the pope’s World Communications Day message, visit

World Communications Day is observed in most countries on the Sunday before Pentecost. It is the only worldwide celebration specifically called for by the Second Vatican Council.

In his World Communications Day message, the pope points out, “The Internet can offer magnificent opportunities for evangelization if used with competence and a clear awareness of its strengths and weaknesses.

“It is important, therefore, that the Christian community think of very practical ways of helping those who first make contact through the Internet to move from the virtual world of cyberspace to the real world of Christian community.”

On February 28, the Vatican issued two new documents on the Internet: Ethics in Internet, which is a reflection on the ethical issues of the Internet, and The Church and Internet, an assessment of online pastoral opportunities. The documents, which were prepared by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, emphasize the Internet’s interactive nature. That can help achieve the Second Vatican Council’s vision of communication among members of the Catholic Church. Both documents are available at www.vatican. va.

The U.S. bishops have also addressed the issues the Internet poses to families in their 2000 document Your Family and Cyberspace. You can read this document at htm. You can read a summary of the document at

Getting Involved

As most families with children know, the Internet offers endless opportunities for information about entertainment and homework help, for example. It is also important to remember that, because they are growing up in this age of technology, most kids are pretty computer- and Web-savvy.

But at the same time the Internet poses real dangers to teens and children—dangers they often may not recognize. As parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles, therefore, we must monitor and provide guidance for proper Internet usage.

One way of monitoring what our children are seeing over the Internet is through the use of filtering programs, such as CYBERsitter, CyberPatrol or Net Nanny. The Web site provides information, such as ratings and comparisons of many filtering programs, that can help you determine the best monitoring options for your family. Remember, however, that none of these programs is foolproof and none can replace parental supervision or involvement.

For more information on ways to keep your kids safe on the Internet, check out and, projects of the Online Safety Project (OSP). Another useful resource is the U.S. Department of Education’s Parents Guide to the Internet at

Let's Go Surfing

As I just mentioned, no programs can replace parental involvement in kids’ online activity. Therefore, here are some Catholic Web sites you and your family may want to check out together or bookmark on your computer:—the official Web site of the Vatican.—the Web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. This site offers a wonderful array of resources such as movie reviews, statements and documents from the bishops and the daily Bible readings. For specifically family-related topics, visit the page of the bishops’ committee on Family, Laity, Women and Youth at

www.AmericanCatholic.orgSt. Anthony Messenger’s Web site, featuring Saint of the Day, Minute Meditations, excerpts from St. Anthony Messenger magazine and a lot more.—The Web site of Catholic News Service offers the latest Catholic news from around the world.

Are there any other Catholic Web sites that you and your family visit that I missed? If so, send them to me. By sharing our resources with one another, we as Catholics can help use the Internet to proclaim the gospel.

Next Month: Being A Good Christian Counts

For Teens: Sites Just For You

There are a number of Web sites geared to Catholic teens where you can ask questions about your faith or meet other Catholic teens. Take advantage of them!

At you can play games, listen to audio clips from Catholic artists, read reviews of the latest movies or take part in online chats with other Catholic teens. This site is an effort of DisciplesNow
Ministries, Inc., and focuses on the traditions, life and mission of the Catholic faith community.

Some other sites for teens to check are and

For Kids: Who's Your Patron Saint?

Are you named after a saint? If so, what do you know about that saint? Ask your mom or dad or older sibling to help you look up information on your patron saint. Catholic Online has a saints and angels page ( that it says is the "largest collection of facts and information concerning saints and angels on the Internet."

Print out the information about your patron saint and either read it yourself, if you are able, or have someone read it to you. When your family is gathered together, such as at dinner, tell the rest of the family all about your patron saint.




Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics or ideas you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at

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