Tech Tip 6
NOTE: Although this tip is mostly for parents to use with children, there are ideas that adults may find helpful as well.
I had a great internet filter and thought I had every safeguard in place. There was no way that my child could stumble onto anything inappropriate because I had done my research, paid the money, and my child was protected.
Then there was the fateful day when I was told, ”Mom, I’ve been watching YouTube videos without you knowing it.” What??!?! How could this happen? Who knew that even with safeguards in place, my child could access YouTube by embedding videos into a Microsoft Word document. It made me realize that in dealing with technology, my kids are way ahead of me and probably always will be. So what can we do to protect our kids in a technology world that is moving faster than our ability to keep up?
- Do put age appropriate safeguards in place. What are good safeguards? There are many out there. We have used two different filters when our children were little: Safe Eyes and Net Nanny. Each had their own pros and cons. My preferred one was Net Nanny for ease of use, but both did similar things. Covenant Eyes is our preferred product at this point in our family because it isn’t so much a filter as an accountability tool that can be used for all members of the family.
- Do not completely trust the safeguards that you put in place. Kids are smart and curious. If they want to get around your safeguards, they probably have the ability to do so. Don’t trust an internet filter to completely protect your child from inappropriate content. Be present while your child is using a device. Look over his/her shoulder. Ask questions. Review history. Be involved. I googled “how to get around internet filters” and found a lot of ideas. I’m guessing your child can do the same.
- Do not allow your child to take a device into a closed room to use. Devices are best used in the presence of others as a means of accountability and openness about what is being searched on the internet. Researchers at Focus on the Family say that the average age of first exposure to pornography is now 8 years of age. (To read more about this, see this site). Being in a room with others helps eliminate the temptation to go places on the internet that are best avoided.
- Talk to the younger generation. For me in my 50’s, I find that 20 and 30 year olds are a great resource for helping me keep up on technology. They know a lot more than I do.
- Keep avenues of communication open. Your child is quite likely, no matter how many safeguards you install or what accountability measures you use, to stumble across inappropriate material at some point. Make sure your child knows you are a safe person with whom to talk. Most children at age 8 aren’t looking for porn, but stumble across it or are shown it by someone else. Be available and open to talking to your child about these issues. Don’t automatically jump to conclusions if your child confesses exposure to something inappropriate. Remember James 1:19 “…let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (ESV)
- Password availability. Parents should have passwords to kids’ devices. Spouses should have passwords to each other’s phones. One couple I know have given each other permission to ask for the other’s phone at any time and search history, text messages, etc. It is a wonderful means of accountability.
- Know what apps your child has and research the dangers they bring. Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Although many of the apps to which we have access are wonderful communication tools, they can also bring a lot of trouble. Know what the apps are capable of doing. Talk to your children about the dangers. Set guidelines for age appropriate use. Check out this link to gain a better understanding of how certain companies are using websites in ways you may not be aware of and may be surprising to you.
- Remember the heart. We can put safeguards and accountability measures in place, but the bottom line is that only God can change a heart. If your child or spouse is bent on searching out inappropriate content on the internet, pray that God would turn his/her heart toward Him. Pray that the Holy Spirit would bring conviction and that repentance would result.
In Philippians 4:8 we read, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” It seems the world is bent on flooding our senses with the very opposite of what we are supposed to be thinking. Safeguards and accountability are ways that can help us hold true to this verse. There are times though that we or our loved ones will fail. We have this great promise from 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”