Today’s post is a subject close to my heart . . . and one I’m likely to climb onto a soapbox over.
It’s been close to two decades since I watched someone close to me self-destruct because of pornography. What started out as innocent preteen curiosity grew into something far more sinister and consuming, wounding countless people and eventually destroying a family.
If I thought porn was a problem back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, I had no idea how big monster pornography would become with the boom of the Internet. What was once difficult to acquire is now accessible with the click of a mouse. Even an accidental click. In the past twenty years, I’ve watched Internet porn grown like an out-of-control weed, becoming a 4.9 billion-dollar industry (http://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce_and_infidelity/pornography_and_virtual_infidelity.aspx).
Contrary to prior belief, it is far from being a male-only issue, with more and more women getting tangled in its frightening web. On average, teen boys are exposed to pornography by the age of 14. (http://www.focusonthefamily.com/socialissues/pornography/sex-trafficking/cause-for-concern.aspx) As a mom of three teenage boys, all of whom are past this age, I am simultaneously heartbroken and sick with terror. I know they face a daily battle, and as a mother I want to help them.
Nearly every household owns at least one computer, many with three or four. It is almost impossible to live in our current culture without Internet access. Academia now centers on teacher web pages and online courses. My sons can’t go to school without access to a computer and the Internet. To do so would mean failure.
As beneficial as the Internet can be, it’s littered with dangerous mine fields. Even I’m not immune. Recently, while doing research for an inspirational article, I stumbled onto a web page covered with images I won’t recount. Completely accidental, but it sobered me to the danger at our doorstep every day.
You can’t eliminate every threat. School computers, library computers, and friends’ computers. Your son will not always be within your reach. That means your chief defense is maintaining an ongoing conversation and establishing a safe and supportive environment in which to have those conversations.
Second to those conversations, however, I’ve put together a list of must-dos to make the Internet a safe place in your home:
• Keep the computer out of the basement and the bedroom. Part of our job as parents is to make it easier for our children to make the right choices. Ephesians 5:11 says sin thrives in darkness, the remedy being exposure to light. Putting the computer in a public place (i.e. the kitchen or family room) makes it more difficult for darkness to thrive.
• Purchase an Internet filter. This is an absolute must. If you haven’t already purchased and downloaded an Internet filter, do it today. We use Safe Eyes (http://www.InternetSafety.com), but Net Nanny, BSecure (formerly BSafeOnline), PureSight, and CYBERSitter are a few others. You can read about different products and reviews here: http://internet-filter-review.toptenreviews.com/.
• Use OpenDNS on your wireless router. I talked about this last week. Check out October 19’s post for more information.
• Use keystroke tracking software. This is Internet security on steroids. With this software, you can actually records keystrokes on the computer as well as Android, Blackberry and other smartphones. An example is SpecterSoft (http://www.spectorsoft.com/).
• Monitor the web history for each user. This is pretty easy to do, but it’s also easy to erase. After your son has been using the Internet (or preferably during), go to the web browser and click on “history.” It will bring up a list of recently visited sites. Internet filters will often keep a list for you, as well.
• Allow personal accountability. To reinforce the need for ongoing accountability with our boys, my husband and I regularly tell them they’re welcome to check out Internet history as well. We open ourselves up for review to teach them that accountability is not only good for teenagers, but also for adults.
• Keep the conversation going. It’s easy for the emotions to peak when it comes to this subject, especially if you catch your son doing something he shouldn’t. It’s shocking, disappointing and terrifying all at the same time. The tendency is to react first, think later.
But overreacting will end up closing the door on further dialogue. And what he needs more than anything is a safe place to learn and grow. Keep your head. Have a conversation. He needs your understanding, your coaching, your wisdom, as well as your boundaries.
Take the shame out of the conversation, and instead use Godly instruction blanketed with love.
How have you made the Internet a safe resource in your home?