(This is part 5 of a seven-part series)
A Guide to Safe Surfing
1. Consider a quality Web filter for young children and young teens. This is not the only answer, but it’s a good start.
2. Keep the computer with online access out of children’s rooms or any backroom that is out of the way of people traffic. I believe all computers in the home should come with family expectations of boundaries and accountability. Because so many teenagers have their own computers today, it complicates the issue of viewing privacy. However, I believe that even if your children have their own computer, there must be set rules and boundaries about use. My personal opinion is that it is just too tempting to allow your children to have Internet access on the computer in their bedroom. You may need to bring filters and other accountability software into the home to help manage this growing concern.
3. Remind your child not to give out personal information over the Web without your permission. With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and other online social networking opportunities, it is even more important for parents to help their kids understand the dangers of offering too much personal information. HomeWord is the nation’s largest provider of parenting seminars, and the number one question we receive from parents (regardless of the topic of the seminar) is, “How do I create a media-safe home?” This usually includes questions about Facebook and social networking. Many parents today tell their children that if they want to have Facebook, Instagram or any other social networking site, they must “friend” their parents. This doesn’t mean that parents should ever make comments on their son’s or daughter’s Facebook page. While it is good for kids to know that their parents are their social networking “friend,” a parent will always do better if he or she has a conversation about a concern rather than post it on a Facebook wall.
4. Teach your kids that if someone interacts with them offensively online, they should report it to you right away. Sexual abusers and predators lurk in some unique places. Don’t hesitate to report any—and I mean any—questionable Internet activity to the local authorities. Didn’t someone once say, “It’s better to be safe than sorry”? As a parent, you’re in the protection business.
Another one of the greatest influences in your children’s lives is the music they listen to. Don’t buy the story that your children don’t listen to the words. Music and musicians have a great deal of influence on our culture. MTV is not a music channel; it’s part of youth culture. Learn what’s influencing your kids during these very vulnerable years.
The music industry has rapidly moved from manufacturing CDs to placing songs for download on sites such as iTunes and Spotify. The convenience is much greater and purchasing the music is sometimes cheaper, but parents must keep up with what kind of music is influencing their kids. Listening to your children’s music downloads and, frankly, monitoring some of it is a necessity in the home today. Obviously, as your children move into the later teen years, they will have to make responsible decisions for themselves.
We tried to listen to all the music on our kids’ CDs and all their music downloads from iTunes and other sites. Sure, it took a great deal of time, and we got to listen to some styles of music that weren’t our favorite, but we had to become students of the youth culture. We believe that as parents, we have a God-given responsibility to review and, yes, even approve what words our children listened to in our home.9
I suggest that while your children still are young, you develop a music agreement and a media-viewing contract.