With how easy it is to connect to the internet, how do you put proper guards and guidelines in place to protect your family?
The Internet, social media, mobile phones, tablets, and movies have become a noticeable part of daily family life. With all the benefits of being digitally connected, there are also some challenges for parents. How can we help protect and guide our children from inappropriate images and messages? How is technology changing the way our families communicate and interact with each other?
Focus on the Family's media and internet filter resources are intended to equip parents with the information and the tools needed to answer these questions and more. Our current preferred providers, Net Nanny and ClearPlay, offer software for online protection and movie filtering.
In addition to using filtering controls, talk to your children about the importance of safe boundaries online. Get smart about how technology can have a positive or negative impact in your relationship with your children. If you need help with this or with other family topics such as finances, please contact us.
Important guidelines to help protect your children online
1) Establish rules and healthy age- appropriate boundaries with your child. Sign and agreement that includes things like time of day, how much time, as well as some of the other guidelines covered in this list. You might have different boundaries depending on the device (tablet, laptop, smarthphone, mobile game, etc).
2) Have open, honest and ongoing discussions with your child about online safety and the need for discernment when using technology. This is a great time to build trust and responsibility with your child.
3) Proactively invest in Internet filtering software such as Net Nanny that protects multiple devices and allows you to know where your child is going online, who they are talking to and what they are saying. Net Nanny offers protection against pornography, online predators, cyberbullying, and more.
4) Don't let your children give out personal information on the Internet or social networking. This includes addresses, telephone numbers, name or location of their school, their parents' names or photographs.
5) Set boundaries for video game consoles in regards to multi-player options where language and other content is not regulated.
6) Learn about technology's impact on the brain from our broadcast "The Digital Invasion" - Part One and Part Two.
Review Guidelines for Family Movie Night
With movies and media available to your family 24 hours a day through network and cable television, DVD and online streaming providers, it's important to be discerning and make informed choices about what constitutes acceptable entertainment in your home. While popular movies can be entertaining, uplifting and inspiring, they also can war against the very values you as a parent are trying to instill in your children. A number of studies have found a correlation between viewing violence and aggression. The same goes for sexual content in entertainment and teens acting out sexually. So, it only makes sense that parents take a proactive approach when it comes to today's media.
Here are a few guidelines from Bob Waliszewski, author of Plugged-In Parenting:
1) Have an honest and ongoing discussion with your children about the importance of protecting their minds. In fact, Waliszewski recommends having this talk at least twice a year.
2) Use a filtering software like ClearPlay for playing DVD and streaming movies in the home. Set it to remove unwanted violence, profanity, nudity, and sexual dialogue and content.
3) Make it a habit to read movie reviews from PluggedIn.com to find out about what is in the movie before choosing it to view in your home or at the theater. You can also follow up with a discussion about the movie afterwards. If you are making decisions on the go, get our free mobile app.
4) Model wise entertainment decisions. It's an absolute certainty that if you say one thing and do something else, your children will pick up on it sooner or later.
5) Consider putting your family media guidelines down in writing.
Security is our first core need, and it’s defined by the question Who can I trust? We’re healthiest when we meet our need for security in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, in trustworthy people, and in ourselves as we learn to be right and do right even when the burden is heavy. Security is rooted in forgiveness—from God, from others, and especially for ourselves.
Everybody has this core need for security; it only becomes a problem when we begin looking for security in all the wrong places. Some young people try to meet their need for security in their technology and its availability. Many believe technology will never let them down (as human relationships often do!).
Perhaps we trust in technology because our computer disasters usually aren’t disasters at all. Click a key to “Undo” the keystroke that was a mistake. Power down and reboot, and you’re good to go. Have you been with teenagers who are “suffering through” power outages or coping with being at Grandma’s house, where the cell signal is weak? Such interruptions of digital connectedness are big deals to them no matter how often we say they shouldn’t be. When teens don’t have instant access to their technology, their security feels threatened.
Many of today’s teens are secure in things being quick, perfect, and easy. They trust that the access they need will always be readily available. They don’t need directions to get anywhere because they have a phone with a GPS app. They don’t need to remember a friend’s phone number because every number is stored in their phones. They don’t need to know Bible verses; they can easily look them up on a Bible app, too.
Teens are also secure in their ability to win and to be happy. It’s what they trust that matters, not who. This is potentially very damaging because technology is not how God designed this need for security to be met.
Trusting people doesn’t come naturally to young people partly because they’re relating through social media and texting. It’s hard to truly know people and develop friendship and discernment skills. They may be attempting to meet this need with the number of “friends” they have. What they don’t understand is that security is not found in quantity (multiple online connections). It’s discovered in quality (real and faithful relationships).
Christian parents cherish the hopes that their teens will ultimately have this need for security met deeply, once and for all, by God. But whether teens will rely on God to meet their need for security may be influenced by technology. The Web provides easy access to ideas about many religions and many gods. Some teens follow people we don’t know through services like Twitter. They can access information without us being aware. Information could be presented to them (without their looking for it!) via advertising or links in their social feeds. People they follow and sites they visit may report things about the God of the Bible and the way we’re choosing to raise our children that might cause them to think we’re wrong and our God isn’t the only One worth worshipping.
What is worship, after all? It’s assigning lordship to God and giving him our attention and praise—and giving him primacy in our days. Have you ever seen teens with their tech tools and wondered if they almost worship their technology? It’s where they turn for answers to their questions and to solve their problems. Others unwittingly downgrade God, treating Him casually like a friend on Facebook who may or may not like their status update. As teens become increasingly acclimated to speedy answers via the Internet, will it be harder for them to wait on God for an answer to prayer, if they do pray? Will young people be satisfied with a Bible app that provides a devotional each morning, considering that bit of Scripture as all the spiritual nourishment they need?