04 Jan The 4 Worst Places for Kids to Use the Internet
Internet Safety Nightmares!
It’s impossible for parents to control all of the doorways that exist for a child to access the web. Creating an internet safety strategy for home is one thing, but how many other ways exist for your child to watch YouTube without you knowing? Although parents can’t control all of the environments where their kids spend time, there are a few high-risk environments that warrant more attention. This list is based on stories I’ve heard from real parents just like you. Here are the four worst places for kids to use the Internet.
Many of my most sacred childhood memories are from spending time with both sets of grandparents. Each lived in towns that were much different from mine. One close to the shores of Lake Michigan south of Traverse City and the other on 40-acres of farm, complete with a red barn, sheep, and a pony named Pat in central Michigan. I loved weekends, summers, and entire spring breaks spent with my grandparents. Unfortunately, today I often hear from kids that when they are with grandma and grandpa, they can do whatever they want with their electronic devices. The combination of lax rules and a lack of digital know-how often create a perfect situation for kids to know they can get away with more.
The Solution? Help grandma and grandpa set up OpenDNS on their router, Covenant Eyes or Mobicip on their devices (click the logos below to learn more!), and have a joint conversation with grandparents, parents, and kids to lay out the internet safety expectations. Have a straight talk with your kids – I mean, what kind of kid takes advantage of their grandparents? Make sure they know that if you mess with Grandma, life gets really ugly 🙂
The Bus Ride
Protect Young Eyes began in 2015, and the first parent that came to me with their horror story of how their sweet, 6th-grade son was introduced to pornography went like this. Their son was on the morning bus ride to school when another kid on the bus started showing porn to everyone on an iPhone. One of the many sad aspects of this story is that the iPhone belonged to the kid’s father, which had been passed down to his son, which meant this was actually dad’s porn that just didn’t get wiped from the photos on the phone.
When I step back to think about the entire bus experience, there are many things that concerned me. The student-to-adult ratio is usually about 50-1, and the adult has little ability to observe anything happening on the bus due to his/her focus on driving. There’s typically a range of kids from 11-year-old 6th-grade girls through whatever high school kid can’t find a ride, which means the risk of unsavory language and influence is high. The lack of seat belts always has bothered me, but that has little to do with digital safety! My point is this – the bus ride is high risk.
The Solution? Have consistent and persistent conversations with your child, asking him/her what they are experiencing on the bus. Internet safety is essentially void on the school bus. Does your child know what to do when he or she sees pornography? If they’re old enough to ride the bus, then they’re old enough for you to have age-appropriate conversations about porn and digital dangers.
During 10 years of junior high ministry, I spoke with quite a few kids who struggled with various digital issues. Whether it was cyberbullying, sexting, pornography, or just plain vamping (staying up all night staring at a screen), all of these issues occurred most frequently in their bedrooms. It’s a kids domain. His safe haven. Her kingdom. It’s the one place where your kid might be able to get away and just be alone with her thoughts…and that’s the problem. All alone. And, the temptations for a whole list of issues lurk heavier at night. There’s just something about the night time that brings out personal demons for most of us, young or old.
The Solution? Have rules for when and where technology is used. All internet-safer homes guard their digital devices at three levels – the location level, the router level, and the device level. Get these right, and you’ll create a safer technology experience for your kids. This probably means little to no Internet access behind a closed bedroom door.
I’ve written extensively about sleepovers in my most popular blog post, which can be read here. More and more parents just don’t allow them anymore. Four teenage girls, Internet access, up at midnight live streaming through their Live.ly app – what could go wrong? What are your thoughts?
The bottom line is that if your kids spend time in any of these environments, then the only effective filter is the one they take with them in their mind and heart. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “train a child in the way he should go.” It was true over 2,000 years ago, and it’s still true today! Parent well, my friends.