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So, You Think You Can Trust Your Kids On The Internet?

Updated for 2013

“We don’t need to install filters, we trust our kids.”

“Our kids wouldn’t be interested in that, and know that it is wrong, so we trust them with their computers in their rooms.”

Those are two common sentiments that I encounter as I do seminars on Internet safety around the country.  Sometimes it is voiced by a seminar attendee.  Sometimes by the person on the plane next to me.

I understand their feelings, but I think that they are “trusting” their kids…
in the wrong way!!!

You see, there are two ways that we have to trust our kids, and parenting is a delicate balance between these two, especially in the teenage years:

  1. We need to trust our kids to make more and more mature decisions as they grow up, and
  2. We need to trust our kids to be…KIDS!

The problem is, many parents use TRUST #1 when dealing with the Internet and with new technology.  This is based upon a parent’s understandable desire to think the best of their kids (and that they, the parents, have done a good job raising them) as well as a degree of intimidation (and ignorance) that some parents have with all this new technology that kids seem to understand before it’s available!

This type of trust works great as kids get older.  We trust them to behave when home alone, or when they are at the mall.  We trust them to choose wisely when spending money (hopefully theirs and not ours).

While this is all well and good for learning how to make the decisions that they will need to make to be successful adults I feel that TRUST #1 is the WRONG WAY TO TRUST KIDS when dealing with sin and temptation.

And there is a whole LOT of sin and temptation on the Internet!

In giving them free reign on the Internet, either through lack of filters & monitors or by letting them have “privacy” when online, we are doing them a grave disservice.

You may disagree and feel that your kids can be trusted on the Internet, all by themselves.  Well, that’s understandable, but I would like for you to consider the following scenario:

kidz_room

  • Go down to Wal-Mart and buy your kid a new flat-panel TV.
  • Stop by your cable/satellite TV provider and get a control box with EVERYTHING turned on:  HBO, SHOWTIME, PLAYBOY, THE EROTIC NETWORK, THE SPICE NETWORK...ALL available channels
  • Now, go install the TV and control box in your child’s room, and
  • Tell them that you TRUST THEM to only watch NICKELODEON and TV LAND!!!

You can do that because you know that:

  1. They will NEVER be tempted to view “adult” material, even though it is listed on the Channel Guide!
  2. They will NEVER accidentally be exposed to inappropriate material just by channel surfing.
  3. They will NEVER succumb to the urgings of their peers to view ‘those channels”.

See, you CAN trust them! RIGHT?

Probably not, if you are honest.  Shoot, I wouldn’t trust ME with that scenario!

So, ask yourself this:


“If I wouldn’t trust my kids with unrestricted access to 200+ channels on TV,
why would I allow them unrestricted access to millions of web sites
and other Internet technologies?”

Maybe that puts it in perspective.  I hope so.

At Knights’ Quest, I recommend that parents do the following to protect their kids on the Internet:

  1. With children 10 and under:  Install and use OpenDNS and other parental controls (as appropriate to the devices) in order to filter your entire network….for free!  Find out more HERE!
  2. With children 11 and up: Add monitoring software, such as SPECTOR PRO, that will record and monitor ALL computer activity, not just the Internet.

PARENTAL CONTROLS

Parental control software gives parents the ability to control what their kids do online.  It can restrict access to the Internet to certain times of the day, or a certain number of hours (ala an “Internet allowance”).  The most important thing it does is filter web sites.  That keep younger kids from accidentally going to a porn site.  (We’ve all heard about www.whitehouse.com, which is no longer a porn site!)

But, kids aren’t just using computers to access inappropriate material.  They are using tablets, game systems, friends’ laptops that come over with the friends, and more.  That’s why filtering your network, AT THE ROUTER, is essential, and OpenDNS does that…for free!  Check out this article for more info:

Filtering Your Home Network via OpenDNS:
What Parents Need To Know Part I – What is OpenDNS?

Even if you do not have kids, this type of protection helps a COUPLE stay pure by protecting them from accidents and sinful temptations.

MONITORING SOFTWARE

When kids get older and can be tempted more it is important to install a good monitoring package.  But, I can hear some parents, now:

“I don’t want to invade their privacy!”

You already do that.  When they leave the house, don’t you ask:

  • Where are you going?
  • Who are you going with?
  • What will you be doing?
  • Who else will be there?
  • Who is driving?
  • Who is paying for it?
  • When will you be home?

Just as you need to know these types of things when kids leave the house and go out into the world, you need to know these things, and more, when your kids are going out into the online world!

This type of software not only lets you know what they are doing online, but also monitors e-mail, chat, Facebook, Twitter, game playing, homework, etc.

(It was comforting a few years back to hear my younger son tell his sleep-over guests to be good on the computer because “my Dad will know EVERYTHING that you do!“)

A lot of parents feel uncomfortable with this.  But, the stakes can be very high when we consider:

  • Pornography involvement/addiction
  • Development of deviant sexualities due to exposure to online material,
  • Contact and/or involvement with predators.
  • Drug use (kids use the net to get drugs, too)
  • Depression & suicide.
  • Illegal activities (which they may not even know are illegal!)

As parents we need to know what our kids are up to, online and offline.  That way we can protect them, and guide them.

Here’s one parent’s story:

“We  didn’t know anything was wrong with our 15 y.o. daughter.  She made great grades.  She was active in extracurricular activities, church youth activities, and was earning her own money.  She showed a lot of responsibility.

Everything was going great.

Until we discovered what she was doing on the computer.  It turns out that she was seriously depressed and having suicidal thoughts.

Once we knew we were able to get her the medical help that she needed.  Today she is fine and no longer needing treatment for her depression.  She is successfully on her own, serving others and God.

If we hadn’t started monitoring her computer use,  I’m convinced we would have lost her.”

This is one of many examples of how “cyber-parenting” has paid huge dividends in the lives of parents and their children.

Trust your kids . . . to be kids, and act accordingly.

After all, what would YOU and your peers have done if you had the Internet when you were 11-17?

NOTE

For those who are curious, we use OpenDNS, Net Nanny, and Spector Pro in our home.  The ministry laptop that I am typing on, right now, also has Net Nanny installed.  My wife maintains the passwords except when I am doing R&D.  She also has the password to our router.

Like I said, earlier:
Even though I am a Christian and a minister,
I
don’t trust
ME!

If you have tips that could help adults with these issues, leave us a COMMENT, below!

Check out these other popular posts:

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