Digital Vigilance for Parents
Monitoring the home computer may not be enough
By Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D.
Tom and Barbara came to my office seeking help for their teenage son, who was caught viewing online pornography. Though they continuously monitored the home computer, they were shocked to discover that he had been viewing pornography downloaded onto his Kindle. He and his friends had also been viewing porn on their Playstation system. Tom and Barbara were unaware of all the places people can view online pornography today.
In order to protect yourself and your family from pornography, you must purify your environment. This means removing anything that could be considered pornographic from the home, work, school, car, etc. This includes books, newspapers, magazines, catalogs, DVDs, videotapes, computer/video games, television programs/networks, and even clothing. After this, all media that enters the home, work, school, car, etc., must be thoroughly screened. Anything that could be considered even slightly pornographic must be weeded out. Although this may take a lot of diligence at first, it will prevent many problems later on.
All electronic devices must also be monitored and time spent using them must be limited. Many people believe that only the home computer needs to be monitored; however, many other devices can be dangerous. Pornography can also be viewed on laptop computers, netbooks, tablets, and cell phones.
For children, I recommend an internet blocking service. A blocking service strives to prevent inappropriate material from being viewed. While these services are helpful, they are not fail-proof. They can be circumvented by savvy computer users. Because of this, I also recommend that parents supervise all online activity of children. Remember, leaving your child alone with the internet is like leaving him alone with a stranger.
For teens and adults, I recommend an internet accountability service. This type of service does not block anything. It acts as a “big brother” who is always watching. When a consumer subscribes to an accountability service, he/she provides the email addresses of trusted friends and/or family members. If anyone enters any questionable sites, those people receive email reports – what website(s), what day(s), what time(s), and for how long. This not only acts as a good deterrent, it also helps people get into the habit of not going to inappropriate websites in the first place.
Internet monitoring and accountability services can be added to desktop computers, laptop computers, netbooks, tablets, and cell phones. The service I recommend most is CovenantEyes.com.
Other digital devices can also be dangerous because pornography can be downloaded onto them. These include iPods, MP3 players, e-Readers (Nook & Kindle), and video game systems (Xbox, Wii, & Playstation). Parents need to continuously monitor minors’ use of these devices to make sure they are not downloading pornography onto them.
Furthermore, parents need to have full access to all social media outlets used by their kids. This includes Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, chatrooms, email, and text messages. Many predators will use social media to lure victims. While minors may complain about this monitoring, viewing it as an invasion of privacy, they need to realize that it’s for their own safety.
In limiting the use of computers and other electronic devices, I recommend that minors have no more than two hours of screen time per day. By 9:00 p.m., all devices should be collected by parents and locked away until morning. The only exception to this is teens doing homework, and even then, internet use should be monitored and limited.
Finally, teens need to be educated on the dangers of pornography. They must be taught that, like drugs and alcohol, pornography is an addictive substance that can ruin their lives. They must also be taught that viewing pornography is a mortal sin because it defiles the beauty and sacredness of sexuality. Teens must be taught about healthy relationships and sexuality. This can help teens say “no” to pornography.
Pornographers are very technologically savvy. They are constantly looking for new ways to electronically pedal their goods. Because of this, parents need constantly to be aware of their kids’ use of technology to ensure that pornographers won’t capture their hearts and minds. While this may seem like a daunting task, it’s not impossible. Simple monitoring of electronic devices and social media, along with limiting time spent using those devices can protect our kids.
We can’t avoid the responsibility. In this day and age, digital vigilance is part of being a good parent.
Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Pa. His new book, “The Pornography Epidemic: A Catholic Response,” is published by Johnette Benkovic of EWTN’s Women of Grace program. Copies can be purchased by calling 1-800-558-5452.