There are so many dangers in today’s sexualized culture, and working to protect your family can be daunting. You need God’s wisdom to guide you, His grace to sustain you, and a few allies of your own to help you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.¹
My challenge to you through the Ally Series is:
- Devote yourself regularly to studying and applying God’s Word and praying for your family
- Connect at an emotional level with your kids and utilize good resources
- Find a good friend or counselor to help with any deep issues you or your child may have
- Be a strong parent with deep conviction, deep love, abounding grace, and great compassion
Last week we covered the importance of prayer as a protection tool. In addition to praying regularly, you should also:
- Recognize threats and minimize risks
- Set good boundaries
- Use tools like filters, monitoring, parental controls, and password maintenance
Recognize the threats and minimize the risks (a few considerations among many):
1. Screen time that steals real time
Screen interactions cause a release of dopamine and a craving for more. Set limits on screen time, and be a benevolent dictator. Your house. Your rules. They won’t understand because they are children. Consider all that your child is NOT doing while he or she sits alone, quietly looking at a screen…. things that children for centuries have been doing, things necessary to becoming an emotionally healthy, thriving individual. Consider delaying the smartphone or tablet. These are formative years. Give your child the gift of a childhood by freeing up time to discover real life, be challenged, and grow emotionally.
2. Apps that are dangerous or not necessary
Your child doesn’t really need any app, so allowing a few may be good, but the latest may not be the greatest. As the controller of the password for downloads, you have power and authority. Do your homework and err on the side of caution. Even apps like Instagram can be avenues for porn and predators. Many apps reveal the phone’s location to others, and some apps masquerade as one thing but are actually another. Online predators and cyber-bullying are real. Social media can be very isolating. Be prudent, but also discuss the dangers so your children will know more about the apps their friends are using.
3. Childhood sexual abuse
The vast majority of abuse victims know their abuser. Minimize the risk by reading a book together like God Made All of Me: A Book to Help Children Protect Their Bodies. Create an atmosphere where children can talk about uncomfortable people, situations, or experiences. Children are most vulnerable when they’re away from you, so carefully consider sleepovers, babysitters, playdates, etc. Have better conversations with other parents, and share what you’re learning. Use this as an opportunity to discuss the safeguards that are in place in their homes as well.
Abuse can happen even in your own home and even among siblings or other relatives, so be vigilant and equip your children. Have a code word your child can use to alert you if something doesn’t feel right or they need you.
After time apart, ask better questions privately. Rather than “Did you behave?” or “Did you have a good time?” ask “What was the best part?” “What was the worst part?” “Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about?”² Abuse is quite significant, but seeing porn or being bullied or threatened can also be harmful to a child. Create space for these types of conversations.
4. Seeing porn
More than a risk, seeing porn is virtually inevitable for children today. Read this post for preparing your child to see porn and equipping him or her with a plan for when that happens. An unprepared child is much more likely to hide in shame upon seeing something so alarming yet so interesting.
5. Threats via the internet
If you’re thinking of giving an internet-connected device to a child or teen, please read this earlier post for some good considerations. Having the world at their fingertips is a lot for a child to handle. We also recommend the book Screens and Teens, Connecting with Our Kids In a Wireless World by Kathy Koch.
6. Band together with other parents to become more aware of the threats and minimize the risks
The threats are real, the risk is great, and it’s impossible to be an expert on everything. But you can circle the wagons and find your own allies.
Meet regularly with friends and learn from each other. Brainstorm a list of relevant topics, then divide and conquer. Technology changes quickly. Having only one or two areas you’re responsible for can lighten the load. In the process, you’ll build relationships with others with similar goals. Here are some possible topics:
- Filters and monitoring internet use
- Video games
- Parental controls
- Social media
- Virtual reality
- Sexual abuse
- Teaching healthy sexuality
- Talking about homosexuality or gender dysphoria
7. Other resources
There are many websites devoted to protecting children. For the latest information please sign up for one or more of these emails:
- Protect Young Eyes: https://protectyoungeyes.com
- Counter Culture Mom: https://counterculturemom.com
- The Ultimate Guide for Protecting Your Child on the Internet: https://www.vpnmentor.com/blog/the-ultimate-parent-guide-for-child-internet/
Set good boundaries:
It’s easy to let things slide or turn a blind eye, but your children need limits. They need to know that you love them enough to have rules and enforce the consequences when rules are broken. While there are many areas where rules are needed, social media is an important one.
Social media may seem relatively tame based on all you see, but for a child or a teen, it can be vastly different. Porn, cyber-bullying, feelings of inadequacy or FOMO (fear of missing out), and sexting are just a few of the things kids encounter in the virtual world. You might consider delaying social media until you’re having consistent, honest conversations about these culprits. So, create boundaries for your child’s protection such as:
- Screen-free times and zones
- Delaying the smartphone
- No devices while friends are over or in a friend’s home
- You maintain all passwords and approve all apps
- Utilize apps to limit online time (https://happyyouhappyfamily.com/limit-screen-time-kids-and-technology/)
- No corresponding with someone you don’t personally know, even if a “friend of a friend”
Consider how your child is spending his or her time. Keep a log for a couple of weeks. Require activities that ensure face-to-face time. Studies of teen behavior reveal a sharp decline in activities like working a job, doing homework, hanging out with friends, and getting a driver’s license since 2007 when the smartphone was released. But depression, negative self-thinking, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have been on a steady incline for teens since then.³ Kids may believe they’re more connected, but the reality is they are wired for real connection, and social media doesn’t provide that. As a side note, remember that your kids will learn much from how you’re prioritizing your time.
Use tools like filters, monitoring, and parental controls:
We recommend Covenant Eyes for filtering and monitoring internet use for everyone in your household ($14.99 covers every device). Reports of sites visited or words searched go to a designated person. Use these reports to guide conversations about making good choices online. Learn from their great articles and ebooks. Also, utilize parental controls on televisions and internet connected devices.
Kids can get around protection. They can set up proxy servers, use hidden apps, and delete browsing history. If they can’t, their friends can. Of course, we all believe our child would never do this! But remember some of the things you did that your parents still don’t know about? Yes, your child could do this.
I’ve just scratched the surface here. There’s lots of information online about protecting your family!
Remember, all the protection in the world will mean nothing if you’re not engaging emotionally and intentionally with your kids. Emotional connection is great protection.
One day your child will leave you. Mine did! When that day comes, I promise you will not think:
I REALLY wish I’d…
let her have more apps… given him a smartphone sooner… relaxed on the whole screen time thing… allowed screens in the bedroom… let him play more video games… not enforced the rules…
But you will probably have some common regrets like:
I REALLY wish we’d spent more time together…
camping… biking… talking… discovering… playing… baking… reading… learning… creating… laughing… serving… praying… doing almost anything besides looking at a screen!
So with your kids, figure out how to free up screen time and enjoy real time together. Talk about it and make a list and a plan.
As you engage in more real time activities, you’ll minimize the natural risks prevalent in a sexualized culture. Then, pray and trust God to lead you. Though you cannot protect your loved ones from every danger, you can protect them from many of the dangers. And you’ll have fewer regrets.
Are you finding this series helpful? Please share it with a friend. Let me learn from you! I welcome your comments or suggestions! In addition, if you’re in the Atlanta area and you’d like to hear my talk: Gatekeeper: A Guide for Parents in a Sexualized Culture, email me.
Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia
¹ Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
Photo credit: Leo Rivas