I read a statistic the other day that about made me cry. Are you ready for it?
Before they are adults, only 3% of boys and 17% of girls will have never seen pornography. My mind cannot even begin to grasp how many young minds are being forever imprinted with these destructive images. They are just a click, a tap, or a friend’s house away. I look at my children, and particularly my son, and my heart is so grieved to think of all that is stacked against them when it comes to keeping their hearts and minds pure in this world.
As parents, we work so hard to be mindful of the influences that surround them. Some may say that we shelter them too much, but God gave us the responsibility to shelter them, and my husband and I don’t take it lightly. I so wish that all of our efforts to guard them from the problems that can be found online would be a fool-proof guarantee to land them in the 3 and 17% minority, that they’d never run into an internet bully or potential cyber predator, but I know it would be foolish to think so.
However, I do believe that there are certain safeguards we can follow to help protect our children while they are online. I’m going to share what our family does, and I hope that if you have additional tips, you’ll share as well.
Our Family’s Guidelines
Our children are almost 9, almost 7, 4, and almost 2. (Side note: the “almosts” have birthdays within a month of one another. Makes for a busy season!) At their ages, we haven’t found many reasons for them to spend much time on the computer. Some schoolwork is done online or with a DVD, and they are occasionally allowed to go on a few selected websites with supervision, but for the most part, we try to encourage books, outdoor play, arts and crafts, and other activities that put their creative minds to greater use.
We do try to keep in mind certain guidelines for the times when our children are online, on the computer, or on the iPad/iPhone.
- Our family’s computer is out in the open in the living room. No one can shut a door and hide what they are doing.
- When the children earn time on the iPad, they play on apps that we have selected in an area where they are not alone. They do not go online on the tablet or smart phone.
- Any free time or play time spent online is timed to prevent us from losing track of how long they’ve been staring at a screen.
- We try to stay nearby when they are online. Even on child-friendly sites, there may be something that goes against our family’s convictions and we want to be able to talk about it with them as the need arises.
- I use the “hide” option on Facebook, and sometime a lot. I feel that my children should be able to look over my shoulder when I’m on a social media site, so if a friend or company is posting something that I wouldn’t want my children to see, they are hidden. Sometimes it’s just that post, but if it happens more than once or twice, then it is permanent.
- When our children are going to go online for a game or child-friendly site, we go to the site for them. My oldest is able to navigate pretty well on her own, but I don’t trust what one accidental click can do, or where it could go.
- We’ve opted to not give our children their own gaming or smart device, like an iPod. There are lots of reasons for this, and safety is one of them.
We’ve also started observing how parents of older children and teens are handling technology to start to get a feel for what we think it best for our family. We aren’t watching to be critical, but to learn and try to be more prepared for the teenage years.
Extra Online Filtering and Accountability
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We were also recently introduced to a company called Covenant Eyes that offers both internet filtering and an internet accountability service. While internet filtering is nothing new (and I do believe it to be quite valuable), their accountability service is very unique.
My husband and I set up accounts for ourselves and made each other accountability partners. Each week we get a report based on the other’s internet use. These reports show the maturity ratings of sites that were accessed, what times of the day we were online the most, and our most frequently visited sites. The reports are fully customizable, and as our children get older and start to do more online work independently, we can add an account for them to see their online habits. The goal, as the company states, is not to try to catch someone doing something wrong, but to keep or start an open dialogue about internet usage.
My favorite thing about Covenant Eyes so far is their commitment to educating parents and spouses about the real dangers that lurk online. They have a fantastic assortment of ebooks, many addressing the problem of pornography. These ebooks are so informative, and I plan on spending more time becoming familiar with them, especially the How-To Guide for Parents. While I feel that our guidelines have been a good place to start, I think there is a lot more that we can learn about internet safety.