I remember the first time I realized what the Internet was. I was in college (yes I’m old, shush) and my then boyfriend, now husband, showed me this page on his computer where I could search any word and it would pop up. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. I had no idea tthe impact that the Internet would have on the world.
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Fast forward 21 years and I’m now raising 3 teenage boys and that thing that was so cool in college is now a creation that I have to vigilantly protect my kids from. Now, don’t get me wrong. The Internet is an amazing creation. But like everything, it can be used for GOOD and EVIL.
The Internet is super handy in our household. The kids can research projects for school without us having to take a trip to the library. They can play educational games, we can research vacations and when there’s a disagreement over what exactly a solar eclipse is or who played running back for the Bucs 6 years ago, everyone runs straight to Google for the answer.
But the Internet also has dangers that can have a lasting negative affect on our kids. And the biggest danger is pornography. Yep, the P word. For a lot of parents, this topic makes them uncomfortable, but let me be clear. This topic is too important to ignore or be embarrassed about. Get comfortable with it, so that you can educate yourself and your child and protect your family from the effects of it.
Let me give you some statistics from The Guard Child that might surprise you:
- The largest group of Internet porn consumers are between the ages of 12 – 17 (this blew my mind)
- 90% of kids ages 8 – 16 have seen online porn.
- 70% of kids ages 8 – 18 accidentally encountered porn while using the internet for homework
Are you surprised by those numbers? I was. But maybe you’re thinking that’s not your kid. And maybe it’s not. But if you don’t have safeguards on their phones or computers, there’s a good chance it is. And it doesn’t mean that they’ve gone searching for it. Like that last stat indicates, a lot of kids come across porn accidentally. Which is why safeguarding their internet access is so important.
And how does viewing pornography affect ours kids? The American College of Pediatricians has found that looking at pornography at a young age increases the risk for anxiety and depression and even for violent behavior. Adolescents who are exposed to porn are more likely to have sex at a younger age and with multiple partners. Their study found that our society’s acceptance of porn is having a negative effect on our kids and parents must take steps to protect their children’s exposure to it.
So in our house, we’ve decided to safeguard our kids (as much as we can) from viewing pornography. When our kids got their iphones (hand me downs from us), we took the internet off. My husband frequently says that grown men don’t need the internet on their phones, much less kids and he’s right. We literally deleted Safari off of their phone. Now, because they still need access to those helpful parts of the internet for school, we use a paid app, called Mobicip, which acts as an internet filter. It filters out X-rated sites and lets them search sites that are G rated. Are they the only kids at the bus stop who didn’t have Safari on their phone? Yes. Do we care? No.
But the internet isn’t only on our phones. We have 2 laptops in our home and we placed them in a central location. Our computers are in our office and the screen faces out, so that anyone can walk by at any time and see what’s on them. Listen, this is not because we think our kids are constantly searching for porn. My twins still think girls are gross (or at least that’s what they say). We do this for accountability. There is no need for secrets in our home. If anyone in our house, my husband and I included, are looking at something on the internet, it should be something everyone can see.
In addition to keeping our computers in a central location, we also use a filtering software. There are a lot of options out there. The software I mentioned above, Mobicip, can also be used on our computer. We’ve used this program for 4 years and have been very happy with it. Searching for software to protect your kids online can be overwhelming, so check out my blog on different ways to keep your kids safe online.
As parents, there are only so many things we can control (which is super annoying, right?). So while we have done our best to make our kids phones and computers safe, we are well aware that their friends parents might not have any of these safeguards. We know that our boys could see something on their friend’s phones at school or on their friend’s iPad when they’re having a sleeping over. So we talk to them about porn. And they hate it. And it makes them uncomfortable. And we don’t care.
We tell them that once those images are in their brains, they don’t go away.
We tell them that viewing porn can make you feel guilty and bad about yourself.
We tell them that porn is a misrepresentation of sex and of women.
We do our best to educate them on why pornography is bad so that, even when they’re not with us, they have the information that they need to HOPEFULLY (please, Jesus) make the decision to look away.
As parents, our job is to protect our kids from things that could harm them. We make them wear seatbelts and helmets, we tell them not to touch a hot stove and not to dive head first into a pool. We teach them how to safely cross the street and not to talk to strangers. We do these things because we love them and we want to keep them safe. So why aren’t we protecting them when they’re online?
Maybe it’s because we think access to unlimited Internet is just normal. Maybe it’s because we don’t know how to go about finding the right software to keep them safe. Maybe the topic makes us uncomfortable. Maybe we don’t want to be ‘those parents’. And maybe it’s because we don’t want to think about our kids looking at porn. Guard Child says that only 15% of parents are aware of their child’s social media habits and only 1/3 of households with Internet access are using some type of software to protect their children when they’re online.
Whatever is holding you back from protecting your kids when they’re online, I’m going to gently tell you to GET OVER IT. Think of the Internet as a big sexual predator trying to gain access to your child, not as a normal part of society that they should have unlimited access to.
Take these steps today to protect your kids:
- Move all computers to a central location
- Research filtering software for their phones and computers. Visit my blog for a short list of software that is available, so you can start there. But don’t just research the right software. Decide that by this time next week, you will select one and have it installed.
- Once a week, check your child’s phone for texts, pictures, etc.
- Talk to your kids about why porn is bad, how you’re protecting them from it and how they can protect themselves when they’re not with you.
You are an awesome parent. You wouldn’t have clicked on this blog if you weren’t. And you have everything that you need to protect your kids from pornography. So go do it! They’ll be glad you did.
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