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Sex, Kids, & The Internet:
What NOT To Do!

When kids get involved with bad stuff and/or bad people on the Internet it is hard to know what to do.  Our first reactions, our NATURAL reactions, may actually be some of worst things we can do to help our kids.  And, sometimes, we go ‘WAY overboard!

Let’s look at a couple of common reactions parents have to inappropriate Internet activity (predators, cyberbullying, pornography, sexting, etc.) and look at what NOT to do, and why!

The first thing that parents tend to do is: DETONATE!

Yep, we explode in a mixture of anger, frustration, and embarrassment.  And, our outburst immediately results in our kids’ shields going up and then no meaningful communication follows.  Anger never helps, so parents need to put a lid on it, run around the block, and confront the child in a calmer manner.

TIP:  Instead of exploding, have the child go to their room, sans electronics, while you get it together.  Talk to your spouse, if possible/feasible, and then CALMLY but FIRMLY confront the child.  Mentally rehearse the conversation so you can anticipate their responses and then be ready to deal with them.

ConfrontationThe second most common reaction (in my experience, of course) is for the child to lose technology privileges for a while, usually for days and often for weeks.   They are grounded off the Internet, game consoles are removed, and phones are either taken away or cancelled.  Essentially, they are put in SOLITARY.

This is, by far, one of the most counter-productive, and even harmful, things you can do.  While an initial removal of Internet, et al, from a child’s life may be called for in the first hours after discovery of improper behaviors, such isolation can be harmful in the long run and can harm both the child (social isolation) and the ability of parents to guide them.  Plus, 21st Century life REQUIRES technological connection, and our children need to grow up learning how to use technology properly, just like they learn to drive cars safely.

It is also very hard for us, as parents, to understand how different our children’s world is from the one we grew up in.  Sure, we know that these new technologies are far more advanced than what we ever dreamed of, but we seldom can appreciate how integrated technology is in the outer AND INNER lives of young people,especially emotionally.  When we “MEGA-GROUND” them, or even completely remove technologies (phones, etc.), from their lives, we are isolating them, socially and emotionally, from both peers and support groups (youth pastor, etc.).  If a child has emotional/behavioral problems then such isolation can have very serious consequences.

Most importantly, such times as these are when we have the opportunity to exploit teachable moments and create levels of trust with our children.  MEGA-GROUNDING, instead, fosters rebellion and resentment and, most likely, will drive a child to seek ways to get around our restrictions.  Instead, it is important to bring them into the process so they can begin to learn to set, and correct, their own boundaries.  After all, we won’t be there when they are in college, and beyond.

TIP:  Instead of placing them in the household equivalent of Amish Country, take steps to control the technologies that were being improperly used while still dealing with the improper behaviors.  This may include:

  1. Setting up OpenDNS to filter the home network.
  2. Using software, such as NET NANNY, to establish time controls, both in terms of when they can access the Internet and for how long each day or week.
  3. Placing limits on game system use, possibly taking the system/console away and issuing it to them for play during times parents can monitor.
  4. Installing monitoring software, such as SPECTOR PRO, to allow you to track what is being said and done on your computers.
  5. Consult with your cell phone provider to see what parental controls are available to filter and limit cell phone use.  (This varies widely by provider and by phone!)

Yes, these take work, and may require family-level changes (new phone carrier, if needed, for example) but our kids are worth it.

So, next time your kids mess up (and they probably will, in some form or another) take a deep breath and parent…WISELY!

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