3 Things Parents Must Do to Protect Our Kids Online

We are the first generation of parents figuring out how to protect our kids online. Here’s why it could be the most important thing we ever do for our children.

kids online

This week, my husband and I attended a movie called “Over 18”,  which is a documentary that talks about the harmfulness of the porn industry, particularly to children and youth. We both came away from the film rather discouraged.

It’s a big system, designed to create addiction so that it can make more money.

Studies show that 90% of boys and 60% of girls have been exposed to internet pornography before 18. Say WHAT? I just want to put masks over my little boys’ eyes forever.

The most powerful testimony in the movie was the 13 year old boy who became addicted to pornography at age 8. ← That’s not a typo.

Age 8.

And it all happened on the computer in the kitchen, while being homeschooled by his loving Christian parents. These were not negligent parents. They were normal, loving parents, just like you and me. And their boy spiralled into this horrible addiction, feeding the monster in 30 second to 5 minute intervals when his mom had turned her back.

Many kids online stumble on pornography accidentally, or because a kid down the street said “guess what you can look up on the internet?!”. But while it may start out innocent, children and youth are extra vulnerable to addiction because of the way the human brain develops.

Why is that?

I had to do a little research, and here’s what I found out:

Exposure to pornography stimulates the pleasure centres in a the brain. Dopamine is released, which helps the brain remember what made it feel so great, and can lead to cravings for more of the same. (This is the same thing that happens when brains are exposed to drugs.) <–This is really simplistic, and if you want to read more stuff that sounds a lot smarter, you can check out these articles

This reward system is fully matured in the early teens, which is not so great because the part of the brain that makes good choices (the prefrontal cortex) doesn’t fully develop until our 20s. This cautionary part of our brain is what keeps most people from getting thoroughly addicted to drugs or pornography. It’s the part that says “wait, this might feel good but it’s not good for me”.

(Here’s a good article about addiction in teens)

That, my friends, is a recipe for a cultural disaster.

Faithful young men walk into the pastor’s office, stating that they’re addicted to pornography. Teen boys get arrested on their first date because they thought girlfriends got turned on by choking. Husbands feel no attraction to their wives. Women can become addicted too, but even if they’re not, women of all ages feel degraded and objectified. This industry is POWERFUL.

Doesn’t it make you want to scream? It makes me want to scream and vomit at the same time.

What can faithful parents do when faced with this horrifying monster?

How to protect our kids online:

  1. Pray

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

Our fight is not against the humans who run the pornography industry, it’s not against the actors, and it’s not against the internet. It’s against the enemy, the thief who comes to kill and destroy.

He has already been defeated (remember, in John 16:33 Jesus said he has already overcome the world!), but the enemy is going down kicking and screaming.

As believers, one of our jobs is to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

So friends, we must pray. Pray for the innocence of our children, pray for the healing of our sexual lives, pray that those who are trapped in the industry would be freed.

You can snag my free prayer resource to help you get started by clicking here.

2) Get a good internet filter

We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend this issue doesn’t exist. Not putting guidelines on our child’s internet use is like taking them into a war zone in beach clothes.

So far our family has depended on the free filters that come with Google, YouTube, and Netflix, without incident. However, we just purchased a Circle to up the ante a bit. Several of our friends use and love this product.

(PS The Circle is on sale from Black Friday to Cyber Monday!!) 

BUT WE CAN’T STOP HERE.

Most articles on this topic will stop right here. They’ll tell you to buy a good service and let that do the work.

My friend, it is a mistake to believe that technology is going to save you from technology.

ANY filtering software you buy can be hacked or bypassed by a motivated teen, and there’s nothing to stop them from simply using someone else’s device.

We must also teach our kids to develop an internal filter.

That part of the brain may not be fully developed, but it’s still there, and it can be trained.

3) Teach healthy sexuality, starting VERY young

I’ve heard a lot of parents with 10 year olds who haven’t said anything to their kids about sexuality yet. I’m going to give you a little tough love here: that is a mistake. (but there’s still hope! Keep reading!)

Whether your 10 year old is homeschooled, Christian schooled, or public schooled, they have heard dirty words and been curious about them. They may have even seen pictures or pornographic movies already. They might have a friend down the street who’s shown them the interesting stuff that can be googled. There might be a kid on the bus or even at church who wants to show off what he learned from his older cousin.

So what can be done?

We need to open up conversation in our homes, teaching our kids that this is no longer the taboo subject that it was when we were kids. We need to teach kids that sexuality is a good gift from God, but we need to do this in age-appropriate ways.

I have researched a lot of books and resources, trying to find the best ones for my own family, and for those in my church, and the books and courses from Intoxicated On Life are the absolute BEST. They’re even endorsed by the CEO of Covenant Eyes. Yes, they’re that good.

OK, so you’ve got your 3 points of action. You’re going to start praying intentionally (snag your prayer resource here), you’re going to install a filter (like this one), and you’re going to get talking about sex with your kids in an age-appropriate way so that it becomes safe conversation in your house. Get it? Got it. Good. Let’s do this together.

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This article originally appeared at ChristieThomaswriter.com.

 

Christie Thomas
Christie is a science-loving, zumba-dancing Christ-follower with a passion to help families cultivate authentic faith in their homes. She is the Director of Children’s Ministries at her church and blogger at wiseforsalvation.com. Her favourite people in the whole world are her husband and three young boys, who just happen to be the most interesting, creative, and precious boys on the planet. They are far from a perfect family (and they drink a lot of coffee), but by God's grace they are learning what authentic faith looks like for their family.

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