Many of us are in the season when our kids are going back to school. If you’re like me, your kids may be in a school district where their schools distribute devices like iPads or Chromebooks. Also, if you’re like me, you’re feeling some concern about what they may be able to access using these devices.
Thankfully, many school districts are fairly vigilant about monitoring how kids are using the devices. But just because they may say they’re keeping tabs on it, we are not abdicated of our duty as parents to be the main line of defense for our kids against dangerous online content.
I know that a lot of us worry that our kids are much smarter than we are regarding how connected they are. We’re sure that by high school (maybe Jr. High or even late elementary) they’ve learned how to mask their online activity. So how do we do what we can to stay on top of things? Here are some suggestions…
- Have a conversation, not just a “talk”: If we never talk to our kids about what’s out there and what they’re looking at, then when we actually do it will be awkward, uncomfortable, and possibly unproductive. We’ll have no idea whether or not they’re just telling us what we want to hear. And they may fight against us because we’re all of a sudden showing an interest in an area where they’ve had free reign.
- Give them a safe place not to be perfect: Our kids need to know that we KNOW they’re going to see porn. (Side note: If you don’t KNOW that your kids will eventually see porn, let me tell you something. Your kids will eventually see porn – if they’re 12+, then most of them already have.) Let them know that it’s important, and that you will not tolerate them looking at it, but that you will NOT FREAK OUT if they confess or if you discover it. If they know you’ll respond, not overreact, they’ll be much more likely to be honest with you. Even if they’re not, you have an opportunity to model grace to them when they fail, and that’s a good thing.
- Set real boundaries: Way too many of our kids have unfiltered, unrestricted access to every bit of online content that’s out there. Remember, WE’RE THE PARENTS. We can set boundaries. I don’t know why, but I get so intimidated when setting boundaries for our kids. If you’re like me, let me say to all of us…we need to get over it. Some good boundaries include:
- Tell your kids they’re not allowed to erase their text messages, and that you reserve the right to check them. They’ll have the right to absolute privacy when they’re an adult and paying their own phone bill/internet bills. Calmly explain that if they don’t honor this requirement and you catch them, they’ll lose the privilege of having the device for awhile.
- Make them tell you their login ID’s and passwords for everything (Facebook, Instagram, Email, passcode on their phone, etc.). Help them understand that those security measures are intended to keep out other people, but not you as a parent.
- Don’t let them take their phones, iPads, or laptops to bed with them. They are teens (or pre-teens) with still-developing brains. Why in the world would we assume that they won’t get sucked into dangerous online behavior while we’re sleeping in the other room?
- Install software on their devices that reports and/or filters content. Two great options are Covenant Eyes or X3Watch. Is it a pain sometimes? Yes. Will it require some extra work on the front end getting things set up? Yes. Is it worth it? YES!
Obviously our kids won’t always understand or appreciate the lengths we need to go in order to protect them. But be encouraged to “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Gal. 6:9) We’re in this for the long game; and being willing to deal with the gripes and conflict now will save them from having quite as many items on their “I wish I hadn’t done that” list later in life.
The Author: Greg Oliver
Greg Oliver was a worship pastor for 15 years before his secret addiction to pornography and sex was exposed in January of 2009. Since then he has been on a journey of recovery, coming to know God better and experiencing His grace like never before. He and his wife Stacey have experienced deep healing & restoration within their marriage, and through the ministry of Awaken they walk with individuals, couples, and ministry leaders to help them experience connection and healing in the midst of sexual brokenness.