Most of us know the dangers of the digital world by now. If you don’t, let me quickly tell you how devastating it is to hear stories of 13-year-old girls creating secret profiles to solicit sex from adult men, or innocent 8-year-old boys being exposed to the most graphic porn imaginable because of a simple Google search. With countless stories like this in mind, I have laid out an approach for safety that should help prevent most of the dangers that are out there.
As you consider what I am suggesting, keep in mind the value of these 2 things:1. Philosophy of Internet use: it’s important to have an agreed upon approach to family Internet use established as early as possible. Discuss this with your spouse. Doing this before your kids are using it is vital in order for it to be implemented immediately rather than retroactive changes being made.
2. Graduated system: rather than opting for a “no internet use” philosophy, or perhaps a philosophy of “no restrictions” of any kind, consider a progressive process and approach. After all it seems to work for drivers licenses! Consider things like what ages are appropriate for phones, iPods, computers etc…
Check out this article for both developing a family value set toward cell phones and for considering a graduated system: http://www.doingfamilyright.com/cell-phone-sanity-for-children/
Real protection requires 3 layers:
- Parental controls to allow initial access
- Device filters to control content once access to device is granted
- Router filters to control content accessible on a device that hasn’t been filtered (such as a friend’s iPod)
As you can see, if you don’t take all three protective measures, your children, or guests are almost guaranteed to either stumble on or intentionally access inappropriate content in your home on either your devices or theirs.
Layer #1: Parental Controls
Parental controls help you decide if/when your children will get initial access to a device. There should NEVER be a device in your home that does not have parental controls and settings placed on it. That includes Nintendo Wi, Xbox, PS4, Nintendo DS, tablet computers, IPods, Smart TV’s (including Apple TV or wireless enabled Blu-ray players) and especially cell phones and computers.
All of these devices have Internet access and you must learn enough about them to know what they are capable of and what you need to prevent in order to properly protect your children as they grow, learn and absorb.
A Google search like “Parental controls on iPod” will get you all of the information you need for any given device and will usually even provide a 2-3 minute YouTube tutorial video that walks you through each step.
A simple way to start is to put passwords on all internet capable devices, while mandating public use by permission only, that way they know unrestricted access is never an option.
Layer #2: Computer/Device Filters and Software
Even parental controls won’t remove risk of your kids running into something unhealthy online – but working with the base truth that we need to equip and grow our children towards mature use of technology means we also can’t simply cut them off from the Internet altogether.
For this reason it is vital that every home and every computer your kids will be using MUST be filtered. This includes tablets and phones as well if they will have access through those avenues.
Our recommended filters include covenanteyes.com and internetsafety.com (safeeyes). Both of these options have family package deals that include all of your computers AND your mobile devices through their provided browser apps that allow you to shut off “safari” and other browsers on your phone and only use the safe option that is filtered and tracked.
Remember that any portable device can access the internet at most restaurants these days, make sure they are filtered for when they leave the home! Parental controls are NOT enough.
Layer #3: Router Protection
Our kids have friends who have iPods and computers, not to mention our adult friends who may visit. In order to erase worry about what will be accessed by others in our homes, we need to filter the router!
This may sound complicated but it isn’t as bad as it sounds, and it’s FREE!
Essentially we need to filter the Internet at the source so that any device that connects with the Internet in our home is not accessing things we don’t want them to.
There are simple and easy tutorials at opendns.com that can walk you through the process.
It is possible that you may need to buy a second router in order to do this (this basically means plugging a second one into your current one so that you have 2 wireless signals) unfortunately some Internet providers don’t provide routers that can be filtered. We have a second one in our home and it works great.
Responsible Internet use is something that we can actually do today – unlike the early years of the Internet. So, lets help our kids develop an appropriate lifestyle of Internet use while their brains are still developing!
Our homes need to be sanctuaries, not digital brothels and war zones!
The following article is a resource list provided for your use. It has all of the links you should need to get started. Don’t worry, it just takes a few hours and you can spread that out over a week or two if needed.
A few hours of your time today to protect your children from years of hurt, addiction and counseling is well worth it!
Assistant Director @ DFR