The “Why” and “How” of Basic Internet Safety at Home

My name is Brian. I'm a Christian, a tech nerd and a father of three little girls. And I've battled a pornography addiction for years.

Topic : Technology

My name is Brian. I’m a Christian, a tech nerd and a father of three little girls. And I’ve battled a pornography addiction for years.

A few weeks back, I was listening to our pastor preach when something he said hit me right in the face:

“Parents, don't give your kids unrestricted access to the Internet. It's like letting them play with your pistol…I'm trying to help you here. In the end, so much of what we deal with in regards to 20 and 30-year-olds started when they were 12 and 13-year-olds with moms and dads who just didn't care what was going on in their shut bedroom.”[1]

Even with my past addiction and my technological expertise, I had never put an Internet filter in place at home.

I’m too busy. It would take time to research. It might cost money. I could give you more reasons, but you’ve probably made similar lists yourself. I realized that if someone like me hadn’t taken the time to address this, how would non-nerd or tech-challenged moms and dads stand a shot?

The Holy Spirit convicted me that it was time to act, and not a moment too soon. The following week, our local school district sent home every first-grader in the district with an iPad. It was time to get a plan in place for how to guard my family’s best interests in the area of technology.

A Few Statistics

Did you know:

  • 34% of Internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to porn either through pop-up ads, misdirected links or emails.
  • 70% of men ages 18-24 visit porn sites in a typical month.

Did you also know:

  • The average age at which a child first sees porn online is 11.
  • 90% of children ages 8-16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. In most cases, the sites were accessed unintentionally when a child, often in the process of doing homework, used a seemingly innocent word to search for information or pictures.
  • 42% of parents do not review the content of what their teenagers read and/or type in chat rooms or via instant messaging.
  • 50% of teens ages 13-18 often communicate through the Internet with someone they have not met in person.[2]
  • 20% of teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude images of themselves or posted them online.

These numbers are pretty scary, but you can take some simple steps to protect your family from exposure to unwanted content in your home.

Basic Safety Measures

Let’s start with a few basics that don’t involve filtering. First, your computer needs to be in a public spot in your home. Set rules that all laptops and mobile devices like tablets and phones need to stay in shared living spaces (no bedrooms or rooms where you hang out alone). The simple fact is that community helps with accountability, while isolation more easily leads to trouble.

Second, practice open accountability with your kids and spouse. You should know all passwords for every online account—email, social media, instant messaging—that your teenagers have. You should also share with your spouse each of your own passwords for every online account you use.

Are you concerned about your child’s privacy overall? Educate yourself about privacy concerns on popular social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine. Have a conversation with your child about why they use each of these and warn them of potential privacy risks. You can quickly use Google to find parent guides for these services. After you read those, spend another five minutes reviewing the actual privacy settings for each app.

Filtering Made Simple

Okay, down to the more technical piece. What if you could have an Internet filter that was free, effective and simple to set up? The Technology team at The Village recommends OpenDNS because it offers all three of these benefits. Open DNS filters at the spot the Internet comes into your home, the router. That means any device that is connected to it with a cable or over Wi-Fi will have filtered Internet.

Follow these step-by-step instructions to have filtered internet in less than 20 minutes:

  1. Create a free account.
  2. Choose to change settings on your router.
  3. Select your router’s brand.
  4. Select your router’s model.
  5. Follow the instructions to add OpenDNS to your router.
  6. Go to OpenDNS and add your home network.
  7. Select what to filter and save the settings.
  8. You’re done!

Open DNS is useful but limited—it does generate a report of what sites have been visited, but it won’t automatically notify you when someone visits a site they shouldn’t. For that, you need a service like Covenant Eyes. Covenant Eyes is accountability software. Instead of preventing you from getting to a questionable site, it logs the site and then automatically sends a report each week to a designated accountability partner. It’s not free, but it does add another layer of protection.

Do It Now

Because others are determined to get unwanted content into our homes, we as parents must show determination to keep it out. Educating yourself about privacy issues and setting up an Internet filter are two very basic steps toward protecting what your family sees within the walls of your own home. What parent could be too busy for that? Commit to set aside time to love your family in this way. Whether you’re a tech nerd or not, you’ll be glad you did.

Suggested Resources

Porn is an Elementary School Problem by Adam Griffin

Giving Your Child a Cell Phone by Matt McCauley

Navigating Media in the Christian Home by Jen Wilkin

Underage Tweeting by Matt McCauley