There has been a topic floating around in my head for months now and after several conversations about it this week alone, it's time I pen it out. If you have kids, you have had this same conversation in your head. You can't hide from it. You can't pretend it isn't here. You have to face it and make your own set of ground rules. You will probably change the rules as you go. The world has changed. It is the New Age, like it or not!
When my oldest child was 13, he was sure he needed a cell phone. That was almost 7 years ago and they were still fairly new in the teen world. Not only did he think he NEEDED one, he was sure he was entitled to one. Needless to say, that didn't go over well with me. Entitlement is not something that will ever go over well with me. I decided that he wouldn't get one until he understood what he really NEEDED in this world and that no one is ever ENTITLED to anything. Also, I was a bit scared to let this into my parenting world. His own phone would mean that he had more discretion when it came to who he was texting and calling. I wasn't ready for that. Well, grandpa surprised him (and me) and got him one for Christmas. I was sort of happy about that because I didn't have to give in and the battle ended. He ended up getting the point. No way was I going to let him have a smart phone or the internet on his phone. He didn't get a smart phone until he was 18.
Fast forward, I now have another 13 year old and he has a smart phone with the internet. I have changed the rules a bit and let me tell you why.
For better or worse, we live in a different world. No, we don't always have to change with it but on this point, I have chosen that I need to adapt my set of rules. Why? Well, your child WILL have access to the internet no matter what. Their friends have phones. They can even get on the internet on their phones at school. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram will all be part of their teen lingo. You can hate all of that but missionaries are now starting to use Facebook as a tool to spread the gospel. It is just part of our new world. It seems scary that the same tools that can be used for good can also carry with it such evil. Teens will most likely encounter pornography at some point in their youth. They don't even have to search it out. It is there. Everywhere. I feel that as a parent, my job is to teach them how to live in this world without falling prey to it's pitfalls. If you simply remove all temptations (which you can't) and keep them away from all technology (which you can't), are you teaching them how to use self control and prudence? If they don't practice restraint now, what will happen when they get out on their own and mom isn't there to monitor? I am a firm believer that kids must be taught the importance of being obedient, not just how to be submissive. They need to learn that with bad decisions comes natural consequences in life. This is what we need to teach them.
So, how do we teach them? I think the very most important thing we can do is talk, talk, talk! So many parents can't even say the word "pornography" let alone have a discussion about it. If you can't talk to your child about sensitive subjects, they will never feel comfortable talking to you about it. These words shouldn't be taboo. Kids need to understand why we don't want pornography and immorality in our lives. Yes, it should be obvious but remember, we are talking about teens. Their brains don't always tell them the right information. I have had very open conversations with my kids about what pornography will do to you. We discuss why it will destroy a marriage, a family, a person. We discuss how images will never leave your mind. I am open with them about when I was 8 years old and saw the cover of a Playboy magazine at a neighbors house that was left on a table. To this day, I can still see the front cover. I want them to know that even though it wasn't my fault that I saw it, it is still there, permanent in my mind. I want them to know the very dark part of what pornography will do to a person. I want to paint the clear picture of why they never want to participate. Teens will be curious. That is all part of the plan. Things will pop up and they will see it but you need to teach them what to do when it does. Talk, talk, talk! I ask my son all the time if he has seen any "boobies or naked ladies" lately. Maybe blunt but if he does, I want him to be able to say those words back to me and not be scared. I hope he always can say he hasn't but I am not naive ...anymore.
Just because I allow my kids to now have smart phones doesn't even for one second mean we don't have rules. Yes, they need to practice some self- government but not without some limitations. They aren't ready for complete self-government yet. They do need a little help. Here is how it goes down in our household:
1. Our home computers are in open spaces. We use K-9 parental controls. It is a free filter download and we have used it for 9 years. It works great and the kids can't get past it. No naughty stuff allowed.
2. I have parental controls on their phones. They can't delete their history even if they tried or go to inappropriate sites. You can access this on an iphone by following these steps: (at least on ios7)
Go to "Settings"
Go to "General"
Go to "Restrictions"
Click on "Enable Restrictions"
Create a passcode.
Tap on "Websites"
Tap on "Limit adult content"
You're done. That will also make it where they can't have private browsing or delete their history. That is a new feature. Before this was allowed, I had check history all the time as noted in rule 3.
3. If I ever saw their history deleted, the phone was gone. I am allowed to have random phone checks at any time. If anything is every questionable, the phone is gone. I can read texts, instagrams, whatever. Nothing is private. They need to learn that what they put out there can be read by anyone! Forever.
4. Overuse of the smartphone is a disease. I have to remind myself of this sometimes also. Life will happen without them if they are always on the phone. If they are on it too much or late at night, it is time for me to either take it away or for them to use their own restraint and put it away. They need to learn this to carry into adult hood. I am trying to practice this as well.
5. I have made sure that photos cannot be streamed back to them. Location services need to be turned off so some crazy hacker can't find my child. Go to their settings again and turn off location services for anything that can track them. It's an easy fix. I use scare tactics when teaching. I want them to hear real world stories of what can happen to you if you put all your info out there for anyone to see. Being a little scared is good.
6. Reevaluate as I go along and per each child. The New Age will keep changing. Ugh.
I remember when my oldest was 11 and we didn't have a filter on our computer yet. I was completely caught by surprise when he saw a horrible image pop up on our computer through a game site. I was totally naive in thinking that was possible. EVERYONE should have a filter. I hated the fact that I let that come into my home. However, it was a caveat for an amazing discussion I had with my son on pornography. Use everything as a teaching tool. We both learned a lot that day and I met K-9 for the first time.
Everyone has their own rules. No matter what your rules are, make sure your child understands why we need to have rules and the dangers that come with disobeying the rules. Please keep the dialogue open. Keep it open in all things! When my boys first started kissing, I made sure we talked about where their hands should be and that they had absolutely no right to ever put them in the "Strike Zone". "Safety Zone", not "Strike Zone." My husband even blushes when I talk to my kids but they can tell me anything. Don't be afraid. Being open may save them from the world.
What are your rules? Feel free to share and I am perfectly aware that some of you may disagree with my point.