Protecting Your Children Online

by Trey Tracy

The average age a child first sees porn is age 11.1   Did I get your attention?  The sad reality is that this is the truth.  So what are we doing as parents to help protect our children from the harm that is easily accessible on the internet?

No child is immune from accessing pornography on the internet.  My Sunday School class recently watched a video series by Pastor Chip Ingram.  In a two-part section entitled “Is Technology Helping or Hurting Our Kids?”  he discusses how pornography hit his family hard.  His son, Ryan (now a pastor), had an addiction to pornography as a pre-teen.  It lasted for quite some time and was not discovered until Chip took the computer to the church’s technology director to repair.  The technology director found the pornography and approached Chip about it.  As they looked over the timestamps of the pornography sites, they discovered the sites were visited when Ryan was at home alone.  Chip approached Ryan, and the truth came to light.

To this day, Chip blames himself for putting Ryan in this position and feels that he did not protect him as a father should.  Most parents, while thinking they are high-tech, are really low-tech in a very fast-paced technological world.  In many cases children are smarter with technology than we are and can easily stumble upon pornography unintentionally.

We have already talked about ways to protect our children, but as I discover more tools that can help, I feel it is prudent to share them with you.

In Chip’s series he mentions these resources that I am considering integrating at home:

  • Covenant Eyes – Filtering and monitoring/accountability software – especially good if you, as the parent, has an issue with visiting inappropriate sites or you are an accountability partner for someone who has an addiction
  • Safe Eyes – Filtering and monitoring software (also works on mobile devices)
  • XXXChurch – XXXChurch provides resources for those who are dealing with an addiction to pornography or those who know of someone who is dealing with an addiction.  There are resources for teens, parents and individual men and women.
  • Enough-is-Enough – Free information for parents on how to keep their children safe online

Here are some of my suggestions to help protect your children while online:

  • Know where your children are going.  Remember the analogy “you wouldn’t drop your child off in a downtown area by themselves, so why would you let them explore the internet without knowing where they are going?”
  • Talk with your children about the importance of being safe online.  We have all talked about “strangers” with our children in the real world, but they need to know about strangers in the “digital” world.  This includes social sites, video game systems, email, etc.  Children, including teens, need to know not to give out personal information online.  Horror stories have been told of predators imitating teens who have gone after other teens and children because of personal information shared online.
  • Set parental controls on all forms of digital media in your home.  This includes TV, computer, iPads, iPods, etc.
  • Have filters in place on your home network.  If you, yourself have an issue with an addiction, have your spouse hold the password to the filter.
  • Do not let children use digital media in ‘private’ areas of your home where you cannot constantly keep an eye on them.
  • Know the passwords to their devices, social/email accounts, etc.
  • Do not allow children to download apps by themselves.
  • Have a contract with older children specifying what your expectations are while they are online and using digital devices.

This isn’t meant to take away fun for your children.  This is meant to help protect them.  We have to remember we are our children’s parents, not their friends, and it is our responsibility to make sure that we protect them at all times.  Think of the long-lasting effect that pornography addiction had on Ryan Ingram and his family.  Now, put yourself in Chip’s shoes – how would you feel knowing your child had this problem?

If you have questions about these resources or any other ways to help protect your children or have concerns about some of the places your children are visiting online, please feel free to contact me or someone who can help.  Don’t let it get out of hand before it is too late.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)