Protecting Your Kids on the Internet

By Dr. Rebecca Huizen D.O.
PDF Version
(More information and resources are available at www.gcfchurch.net )

 

The Internet has dramatically changed how most children interact with the world. 
Along with the benefits of the Internet come significant potential risks to children including easy access to pornography, online predators, cyberbullying, and exposure to materials encouraging dangerous activities.  Despite these risks, only about one-third of parents set up parental controls and monitor their children’s online activity.  Almost half of American teens report that their parents have “no idea” what they are doing online and about two-thirds of teens admit to hiding their online behavior from their parents.

 

Being vigilant to put up safeguards to help protect your children from Internet dangers is a big responsibility and time-consuming.  
However, neglecting to do so may have very costly consequences for your children.  If you are not willing to monitor Internet use on a device, then do not make that device available to your child or disable Internet access.  Start with Internet safety measures when your kids are young.  As your kids grow-up, strive to be involved with and familiar with their Internet use so you can help to train them to use the Internet responsibly and avoid dangers. 

 

 

INTERNET SAFEGUARD RECOMMENDATIONS

·     Install Internet filtering software on internet-enabled devices to decrease the likelihood of inappropriate access (see Internet Filters & Monitoring Programs section).  This type of software is designed to prevent a device from allowing access to inappropriate material and typically has settings where you can choose to allow different levels of access for different family members. Consider a program that will also help you monitor your kids’ Internet activity.  Also, check out parental control settings on Internet-enabled devices, where you can often set parameters for features such as app installation.   No filter blocks out all offensive material, so even after installing an Internet filter, monitoring is still important!
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·     Set ground rules for your kids about Internet safety including instructions and consequences.  Consider having some type of Internet use contract for tweens and teens.  Examples of rules may include parents know all passwords, get permission before downloading an app, no chat rooms, and only instant messaging/texting with people parents have approved.

·     Place your computers and game consoles in public areas (like the family living room) so you can better monitor your kids’ online activity.
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·     Communicate with your children often about being safe and wise on the Internet.  Take time to surf the Internet with your child and dialogue with them.  Discuss not sharing personal information and what to do if someone asks to meet them face-to-face.   Make your kids aware that dangerous people may pose as youth online or otherwise not be honest in the way they portray themselves.  Ask them to share with you if they encounter something that makes them uncomfortable.   Also explain to your kids that another important reason to show discretion in what they post is that future potential employers and colleges will likely review their posts.
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·     Know your kids’ usernames and passwords for their e-mail and social networking sites.  Be your kids’ friend or follower on social media.  On at least a weekly basis, review their social networking posts, status updates, downloads, music, blogs, etc. and discuss the content with your kids.   Keep in mind that some kids will create secret social media accounts.  If your children are making poor choices, use that for a learning opportunity or administer consequences to help train your kids.
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·     Social Media sites have privacy features that you should review and set before your kids use the sites.  Configure the privacy settings on your kids’ social networking accounts so that their photos and information is only accessible to people they know.  Also, keep in mind that according to the Children Online Privacy Protection Act, children under 13 years old are not allowed to have profiles on social media such as Facebook or Instagram.
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·     Communicate with parents of your kids’ friends about Internet safety at their homes before your kids spend time at their homes.
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·     Familiarize yourself with Internet safety rules at your children’s schools.
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·     Password protect your home Wi-Fi.
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·     Be a good example!  As you use social media, avoid posting or liking things that you would not want your kids to.
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·     Ask for help from someone tech savvy if you are having difficulty figuring out how to implement Internet safeguards for your kids.  Many teens find ways to circumvent Internet boundaries, so try to educate yourself on how to prevent this.   For example, you may have blocked Internet browser searches for porn but make sure that your teen cannot access inappropriate material on websites such as YouTube or eBay.  Consider consulting with someone technologically experienced to double-check your Internet filters and parental control settings. 
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·     Seriously consideration using an Internet filter such as Net Nanny, lock kids out of the control panel and move any individual app with a search function to the control panel such as eBay, play store, or YouTube.  Then a parent password is required for actions such as downloading a game.  If your kids have access to the control panel or a play store, they will be able to download apps that contain search engines and go around your settings.  Also, in the control panel, parents can disable specific apps.

PORNOGRAPHY & THE INTERNET

·        Internet pornography viewing by children and teens is extremely common. 
First exposure to pornography on the internet comes at an average age of 11 years, almost half of kids have viewed pornography by age 13 years and by age 18 years, 73% of kids have been exposed to pornography. Kids ages 12-17 years are the largest Internet consumers of porn.

 

·        Both Genders are at risk, although more common among males, a growing number of females regularly use the internet for porn viewing, so don’t forget about risks to your daughters!

·        Percentages of American youth who have viewed specific types of porn:

- Group Sex (83% of boys/57% of girls)

      - Same-Sex Intercourse (69% of boys/55% of girls)

      - Bestiality (69% of boys/32% of girls)

      - Child Porn (15% of boys/9% of girls)

·        Porn can be highly addictive and exposure at any early age is a risk factor for addiction and hard-core porn use.  Porn is so addictive because a person’s brain releases powerful hormones and neurochemicals that give a quick buzz when porn is viewed.  Like other addictive “drugs,” the brain gets used to this over time and then harder core porn is needed to get the same “fix.”

·        Major Harms of Porn:

- preference for quick fix from pornography over fostering meaningful
   relationships with real people

- difficulty having a fulfilling marriage

- society-wide: promotes adultery, prostitution, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking

·        Start talking with your children in the preteen years about the dangers of pornography and keep the conversation going through the teen years and beyond.  Warn your children about the addictiveness of porn and that it can ruin their lives.

 

INTERNET BULLYING

·        Internet bullying (cyberbullying) is common and can have serious consequences.  Examples of online bullying are making false accusations online, posting mean or threatening comments and public sharing of personal information or images.

·        Over half of today’s adolescents state they have been bullied online and over 25 percent of adolescents state they have been bullied repeatedly through the Internet.  However, only 1 in 10 teens will tell a parent about the bullying.

·        Sadly, some victims of cyber bullying resort to suicide to escape the embarrassment. Scientific studies found a definite relationship between cyber bullying and suicidal ideation and behavior.

 

SEXTING

·        Many teens and tweens text nude or otherwise sexually provocative pictures or videos of themselves from their mobile phones, which is known as “sexting.”

·        These images often get shared with others then the intended recipient.

·        Police consider this activity “creation and distribution of child pornography,” which is a felony.

·        Start communication when your children are young on a healthy God-given view of sexuality and keep the dialogue going as your kids grow about healthy relationship practices (both online and offline).

References & Recommended Reading on Internet Safety:

·        Protecting Your Family Online: A Parent’s How-To Guide, free downloadable book from CovenantEyes.com

·        Selfie: A Parent’s Guide to Social Media by Tommy McGregor

·        Tech Savvy Parenting: Navigating Your Child’s Digital Life by Brian Housman

·        Unfriend Yourself by Kyle Tennant

·        The Digital Invasion: How Technology is Shaping You and Your

·        Relationships by Dr. Archibald D. Hart and Sylvia Hart Frejd

·        Screens and Teens: Connecting with our Kids in a Wireless World by Kathy Koch

·        Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary

·        Chapman and Arlene Pellicane

·        www.challies.com/articles/the-porn-free-family-plan

·        www.netsmartz.org/InternetSafety

·        www.safekids.com/kids-rules-for-online-safety/

·        www.internetsafety101.org

·        www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm
(parent’s guide to Internet Safety from the FBI)

·        sos.fbi.gov/ (interactive web site, “Safe online surfing,” to teach children from 3rd – 8th grade Internet safety)

 

Internet Filters & Monitoring Programs:

·        www.NetNanny.com

·        www.CovenantEyes.com

·        www.internetsafety.com (Safe Eyes)

·        www.ScreenRetriever.com

·        www.MyMobileWatchdog.com  (for mobile phone monitoring)

 

Resources on Pornography:

·        Every Young Man’s Battle: Strategies for Victory in the Real World of Sexual

Temptation and Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn

·        “Matt Fradd: 10 Myths Pornography” on www.YouTube.com

·        Our Hardcore Battle Plan: Joining in the War Against Pornography by Jay Dennis

·        Somebody’s Daughter: A Journey to Freedom from Pornography, DVD

·        When Your Child is Looking at Porn, free download from CovenantEyes.com

·        When Your Teen is Looking at Porn, free download from CovenantEyes.com

 

Resources on Sexual Purity:

·        Passport2Purity Getaway Kit by Family Life

·        Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

·        Stepping Up: A Call to Courageous Manhood & Stepping Up DVD Series by Dennis Rainey

·        The Resolution for Men by Stephen and Alex Kendrick

·        I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris