Some time last year, Phil discovered that one of our boys had completed a search on his iPad for an inappropriate word that he had heard. He didn't know what the word meant, but knew it was inappropriate from the tone of the conversation, and so wanted to look it up less he feel stupid. When Phil discovered this by looking at his search history, we both kinda freaked out but had the good sense to remain level-headed when approaching our son. Truth be told, I let Phil take this task for the team! Phil talked to him and found out that he hadn't known what people were talking about, was too embarrassed to ask us because he knew it was bad, and as soon as he saw what it was he said he felt gross and turned off the iPad right away. Phil was super calm and understanding and just explained that we have to be careful what we view online because there are bad things and bad people out there and certain images can get stuck in our head and mess with us. The boy understood and was embarrassed but thankful to be caught because it had been weighing on him.
So of course, as a parent, we want to protect our kids in every way possible, including their eyes. Especially with boys, who are more visually stimulated. The world may say that porn is normal or doesn't hurt anybody, but we all know better right? Any act done in secret that leaves you with a sense of shame cannot be good for the soul, your mental state, or society in general. It doesn't make you happier, more productive or lead you on the path to Heaven. It's an addiction, much like a drug, that we are hoping to prevent early before it becomes a habit for our kids. So how do we do that?
Well, first it's about having conversations with them once they are age appropriate. We probably missed the perfect window to talk to our son before he searched online, but that opportunity gave us the chance to bring it up. Actually, there probably is no "perfect time" just time. I admit this whole topic was something I would brush off when Phil would discuss it, as I didn't want one.more.thing. to have to worry about. But don't be like me. It is too important to be laissez faire about kid's Internet safety. We read this book for ideas on how to communicate with our children and Phil read this one for an in depth look at how to approach porn from a non-religious standpoint (more for teaching his high school students). The Chastity Project website has great resources too. We try very hard to monitor all their screen time, having our family computer in the dining room and taking the internet off their Kindles and JP's cell phone. We don't allow screens upstairs (where their bedrooms are) and we don't allow them to have social media accounts. They have to ask us if they can go online and even though we have all these rules in place, bad stuff can still happen. A simple search for Roman Statues for Latin class can turn into photos of naked women! Now that JP needs to be online on his own laptop during school hours and when he does homework (electronic books) we aren't able to watch over him very closely.
The biggest change we made was to get Covenant Eyes on our computers as an accountability program that sends us a report of what our kids are searching online. *not an ad, just happy customers* Phil talked about doing this for years and I'm glad he finally bit the bullet and ordered it. It costs $14.99 per month, which adds up, but we really do think it's worth it. Now each child has their own login through Covenant Eyes, and both Phil and I get a weekly report of anything possibly dangerous they are viewing online. So far so good! The kids know that it helps keep them safe online, and if anything interesting pops up in one of our reports, we just talk to them about it. (So far it's only been the roman statue issue!)
Is all of this overkill? Maybe. But we need to answer for how we loved and protected and raised these kids when we are at the final judgment, and this helps us to feel like we are keeping them as innocent and holy as we can for as long as we can. Could they sneak away on a friend's device or once they get to high school/college and look at porn online? Yup. We know this won't protect them for their whole life, but we hope that we are instilling good values, giving them good chaste habits, and teaching them lessons that will stick with them even if they make the wrong decision someday, which I'm sure they will.