Our youth group has a box with a square cut out at the top. The purpose of the box within the youth room is the students are allowed to write down questions and queries they have that I am not addressing through our Bible studies or that they are a little nervous to ask in front of fellow students. Each week I choose a new question and briefly give my thoughts. I frequently open up the floor for discussion and a good dialogue happens between us. One question that continues to arise in my ministry is the issue of illegally downloading music. It has become an ongoing dialogue within my youth group as well as the Christian school I sub at from time to time. By and large, the generation of today does not see anything wrong with downloading music off the internet without purchase. This is a complex issue but I think I understand why. Below I list ten reasons for this phenomenon. The purpose for this list is for parents and youth ministers to adequately address this topic with their students. There’s a disconnect from what they hear from us and their own personal beliefs. These ten reasons are why that divergence exists.
1)- Because it is not a physical item, they do not see it as theft. In the eyes of youth today, intellectual property is about as real as ghosts. An mp3 downloaded off a torrent site is different than a physical CD. Ask them about plagiarism and you will be enlightened.
2)- The indirect way they steal leads them to think of it as something other than theft. Because it is easily downloaded off a site and not taken physically from a store, the idea that it is wrong is lessoned. After all, the internet is a place where knowledge and music are proliferated. If asked, most would never agree with walking into Target, stuffing a CD in their bag, and scooting out the door. Yet, they have no problem going on a website and taking music and movies.
3)- They lack a robust, ethical system. For the youth today, something is wrong only if it causes physical harm to another individual. Downloading music, homosexuality (or what two consenting adults do in private), or smoking reefer do not directly hurt others so youth do not see it as wrong.
4)- Even if it is known that stealing from music companies harms labels and artists, it would not be relevant in such a way that it would stop the practice. Why? Those people have so much wealth that it is inconsequential if they lose some products here or there. There is no respect for personal property or the free market system.
5)- There is not a valuing of hard work. If a youth can easily take music off a site instead of having to go work at Publix or Rouses to get paid and purchase what their heart desires, they will always take the easiest road. This generation is defined by expediency, technology, and laziness.
6)- There is confusion concerning the legality of downloading music. They think because there are websites where music can be downloaded at the drop of a pin, it must be alright. The fact that there are no immediate consequences to their actions leads them to dismiss the immorality of the act.
7)- They see adults doing it. We become what we behold and this is true for today’s youth. When adults do not have a problem with it, why would the youth?
8)- It is never addressed by youth ministers, pastors, Sunday school teachers, or Christian parents. Some youth are genuinely ignorant of the rightness and wrongness of certain actions while their leaders have remained silent. We decry the “big” sins and ignore the “small” sins.
9)- They see no problem with it because all their friends do it. It cannot be wrong if everybody is doing it. There’s strength in numbers.
10)- If you want to check the barometer of a culture, you check the arts. For this generation, music literally defines their existence. They always have their headphones in their ears or something playing in the background as they procrastinate their homework. To keep up with others, they flee to the internet to get the latest track. Older generations had to keep up with the Joneses. This generation has to keep up with the Kardashians, the Gagas, and the rappers.
If taking something intended for purchase without an exchange of funds is wrong, then this issue must be addressed within homes, schools, and churches. Youth ministers and parents, your work is cut out for you.