I’d like to begin this post with a warning from the U.S Justice Department:
Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent and obscene material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.
If that sounds about right, it will be sobering to consider that it was written in 1996—before wireless broadband, before iPads, before selfies and sexting. Before pornography took over twelve percent of the Internet, with more than 25 million sites today raking in over $5 billion a year. Before it was considered common practice, as it is today, for porn consumption to begin with a first encounter around age 11 and go on to radically shape the ideas that teens and young adults have about sexual intimacy.
Now, before you tell me that there’s no way your child is looking at porn, consider this: Porn is made, not by back alley perverts peddling nude photos to dirty old men, but by multimillion dollar companies that have a vested interest in getting kids—your kids—into porn when they are young.
Two week ago I was contacted by a prominent leader in the Church. He told me that his teenage son just confessed to him that he had been looking at porn regularly for the past year. The man said to me, “I talk to parents all the time about why it’s so necessary that they protect their children, that they get accountability and filtering software, but I never did.” You might be surprised at how many times I hear that from people who should know better.
So here are six things that you need to start doing if you want to protect your children from porn:
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Educate yourself about the dangers of pornography. If you aren’t convinced that porn is harmful, you won’t be motivated to protect your family from it. Here are three free resources that can help. 1) A free ebook with up-to-date pornography statistics, 2) Bishop Loverde’s recent pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, and 3) a great article by Dr. Donal L. Hilton, Jr. on how porn affects the brain, Slave Master: How Pornography Drugs and Changes Your Brain.
2. TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT PORN
Talk to your children about pornography. One former pornographer, Martin Daubney, after having researched how pornography affects the minds and lives of children, wrote this:
“Like many parents, I fear that my boy’s childhood could be taken away by pornography.
So we have to fight back. We need to get tech-savvy, and as toe-curling as it seems, we are the first generation that will have to talk to our children about porn.
We have to tell our kids that pornographic sex is fake and real sex is about love, not lust. By talking to them, they stand a chance. If we stick our head in the sand, we are fooling only ourselves.”
One way you can learn how to talk to your children, in an age-appropriate way, about the dangers of pornography is by getting the book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.
3. PUT PROTECTIONS IN PLACE
You need to put all the proper protections in place. You need to use technology to your advantage to block access to pornographic images. There are places online children (or anyone for that matter) have no business going to, and there are technological ways to prevent children from accidentally or purposely finding these places.
When I meet parents and speak to them about the destructive nature of pornography, I never ask them if they have internet filtering and accountability software on their computers, phones, and tablets. I ask them what internet filtering and accountability software they use. In other words, it’s if you want to protect your kids from porn, filtering and accountability is not an option, it’s a necessity.
4. KNOW EXACTLY WHERE THEY GO ONLINE
Parents need to access accurate information about what your kids are already doing online. You need to be monitoring all the places your kids go online, all the choices they’re making. This is what distinguishes accountability software from filtering. Filtering blocks the bad stuff but it doesn’t tell you where your kids went online, or what they searched for. Accountability software does.
5. A REGULAR REMINDER TO TALK TO YOUR KIDS
It’s not enough to know that you should talk to your kids about pornography, or even how you should do it. You need a regular reminder to do so. A kid’s time on a computer tends to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind for most parents. It’s easy to let weeks or months go by without a single conversation about what kids are doing online. So we need to have a built-in reminder because it is so easy to forget.
Steps 2-5 can be accomplished by downloading Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes has a great filter but its claim to fame is that it invented accountability software.
What is accountability software? Here’s how it works: Once you sign up to Covenant Eyes, it asks you to enter the email(s) of an accountability partner. Since you’re installing this for your children, you would be the accountability partner. You may then choose to receive a complied report once a day, once a week, once a month; you decide. From that point on, if your children visit any websites they shouldn’t, you’ll know about it.
Learn more by watching this short video.
6. SPEAK TO OTHER PARENTS
Finally, would you ever allow your kids to play at a friend’s house whose Dad kept piles of porn about the place? Of course not. And yet if the parents of your child’s friend do not have the proper protections in place on their own computer, game consoles, phones, etc. then there’s a strong chance your child will be exposed to pornography. I personally will not allow my child to play at friend’s house who does not have good filtering on all devices.
By Matt Fradd