Technology & Child Safety

If you’ve got internet at home, chances are you’ve thought about using a filter.  Whether you’ve got kids or not, the internet throws images in advertising at us on a regular basis that most of us would agree – we don’t need to see.  Even more urgent, however, are the many homes where children and teenagers access the internet, learning and growing in their communication, but also surfing – oftentimes unaware of where some links may lead.

There are many choices when it comes to software you can install on your computers and laptops.  This covers the computers you have at home, and can sometimes come with a hefty “annual subscription fee” for every computer you use!  But when someone brings their own laptop, or their own iPod touch, smart phone, or other wireless device…they can access whatever they want, unfiltered.

Recently, we’ve begun using “Pandora’s Hope” at our church.  It’s a wireless router, with internet filtering built in.  We installed the router where the internet enters the church, and connecting the existing network from there.  Now, every access point in the church, both wired and wireless, can only access filtered internet!  Their web-based account maintenance program is easy to use.  If we ever discover a site we need, we can add it immediately to the “White List”, and if there’s ever a site we want blocked, we can add it to the “Black List”.  But most inappropriate sites, and advertising is automatically blocked already!

After the initial purchase fee, it’s a subscription of only $20/year for your router.  That includes protection for any device that accesses the internet from your home!   Protection like this is definitely worth that amount.  I recommend getting protection like this for anyone who has internet, but especially those with teens and young people who have access on a regular basis.

But I will also add a caution – this is not the magic pill that will keep your child/teen from danger.  Be an ACTIVE parent when it comes to your children/teens getting online.  Know who is online, and what they’re doing.  Have access to their accounts, and regularly check on their activities.  I know my teens may not appreciate my opinion on this, but still.  With teens accessing the internet and texting at all hours of the day and night, you cannot depend on their morality keeping them safe from others who have learned their way around teenage morality.  Even with the great filtering offered above, I still recommend:

1. NUMBER ONE – TALK AND PRAY WITH YOUR CHILD/TEEN about God-honoring use of technology and communication.  Talk about the dangers possible, and remind them that you love them.  Your active involvement as a parent is healthy, reasonable, warranted, and is meant for accountability.

2. Internet can only be used in a public room, when mom/dad are awake. (Including iPods/smartphones) Hard to enforce?  Take the router’s power cord to bed with you. 🙂

3. Have access to their e-mail, social network, and chat accounts. Once a week, unannounced, check-in on their activities.  Keep a file where you have a list of all their accounts and passwords, and update as needed.  The filtering software above also tracks every website visited/requested, so you can know what sites your child spends time on.

4. Choose a short time period, sporadically, every week, to possess your child’s phone.  You have the right, and responsibility to know who is saying what to your children.

5. UNPLUG!  Choose a time each week, “Sabbath” is a great time for this, to “unplug”.  Meaning, turn off the router, and every other device that doesn’t help someone stay alive.  Read a book, tell stories/play games as a family, go for a walk. bake cookies, whatever!  Tell your electronic devices they do not control you. 🙂

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