Hoping to give Christians an alternative to logging on to MySpace.com – a “social website” that has been linked to crimes against youth – a Bible college teacher has founded a site for believers that he says is much safer than his giant competitor.
Dittytalk.com, which debuted online this week, described itself as “a free online Christian community, a resource and a place of fellowship that is safe, clean and up to date with current Internet trends such as blogging, sharing music and photos, playing computer games and conversing with people around the world through forums, e-mail and journaling.”
As WorldNetDaily reported, MySpace.com, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., is the biggest social website on the Net, boasting 55 million users. MySpace participants, who are largely teenagers, can post personal information, photos and sound files while communicating with others about everything from school to movies to the opposite sex.
It’s the availability of personal information that law enforcement officials warn against, saying teens are disclosing way too much data for their own good.
In just one city, Middletown, Conn., police suspect that in the past few months, seven girls under 16 have been sexually assaulted by men they met on MySpace. In most cases, the men who lured the girls said online they were younger than they really were.
While admitting that no website can be 100 percent safe, Brian Bozarth, a teacher and web designer from Maui, believes his new site is considerably safer than MySpace.
“The main difference is the moderators,” Bozarth said. “MySpace really has lax moderation. But on this site, each user is able to flag another user” if something out-of-line is seen.
He also says some parents and youth pastors have volunteered to spend time on the site and flag anything inappropriate. Bozarth can then delete the offender’s account.
“The other main difference,” he says, “is that if you cruise around the site you’ll notice that everything has to do with something Christian.”
Bozarth says he knows people will join who are not Christian and that some might try to lure youngsters – “but hopefully the moderators will really pick up on that.”
A father of a 1-year-old girl, Bozarth says he wants his daughter to be able to safely go on his site when she’s older to play the games and participate in forums.
The name for the site is taken from Ephesians 2:10, “We are His workmanship.” The Greek word for workmanship is “poiema,” which is the basis for the English word “poem,” or song –hence “ditty.”
Bozarth said he has been concerned about his students at Calvary Chapel Bible College being involved with MySpace.
“Finally someone said, ‘Why don’t you just start a Christian MySpace?’ … So I tinkered around and finally put together dittytalk.com,” Bozarth said.
Dittytalk has very little advertising now: “You won’t see banners all over the place like on MySpace,” the site’s designer noted.
Though he initially set an age limit of 18, Bozarth says he does not have an age minimum for users now and wants people of ages to be involved.
Said Bozarth: “I want the whole family, from the 80-year-old grandma that signed up to a 5-year-old kid, to be able to jump on and talk about what the Lord’s doing, as well as share in groups.”
Groups are online cliques where only a specific set of friends can communicate with one another.
When people sign up to be members, they are warned about divulging too much information and informed about the possibility of online predators.
Bozarth says that while a person’s location is divulged on their main pages, which are accessible to anyone, he may decide to take that information off to help protect vulnerable youth.
“How much information is really necessary?” he asked. “It’s still the kind of stuff I’m praying about and seeking counsel on.”
Bozarth says there are many parents who are praying for his project, a fact in which he takes comfort.
“There’s a very bright light shining throughout this site,” he says.
Rather than completely avoiding social websites, Bozarth believes the technology can be used “for the glory of the Lord,” just like other advances that have been used for good or ill.
“I hope parents, too, will jump on the site,” he says. “Most parents don’t want to go on MySpace, but my hope is that dittytalk.com will be a family thing, where everyone can share their hearts.”
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