Parents: Block your child’s portal to sin

Children should never have unrestricted access to the internet in the privacy of their bedrooms. There are several applications available that allow parents to restrict access to questionable material. (File photo courtesy Bark.us)

Parents should do everything they can to protect their children from pornography, according to Jake Samour – but they should also set an example.

Samour, the director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family Life, said, “Parents need to monitor what their children are watching on the internet, and monitor the phones they’ve given them, particularly do not let them have their devices in their bedrooms.”

Furthermore, there are many applications available for parents to scrutinize their children’s web usage, he said. “Now, no filter is 100 percent sure, but at least parents should do all they can to protect their children.”

He also recommends a booklet, Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure, which explains how dangerous pornography is to children but more importantly, helps parents to engage their children in meaningful conversations.

Porn today is ‘aggressive’

In the booklet, Clay Olsen, the co-founder and CEO of Fight the New Drug, tells parents: “This material (pornography) is more aggressive, more harmful, more violent, more degrading and damaging than any other time in the history of the world. And this generation growing up is dealing with it to an intensity and scale no other generation in the history of the world has ever had to.”

The most important step a parent can take is to have a heart-to-heart talk with their children about the beauty of being created in the image and likeness of God, Samour said, even if it’s awkward. “The booklet is a useful tool for parents. It explains, step-by-step, how parents can talk to their children about the dangers of pornography.”

It helps create a more intimate relationship that parents want with their kids, Samour added.

Parents: Set an example

Parents should be setting an example, too, he said, recommending that parents struggling with pornography consider using CovenantEyes.com or another internet accountability application to protect their homes from being exposed to inappropriate websites.

Covenant Eyes monitors internet usage and sends reports to an “accountability partner,” which helps dampen the temptation to visit pornography websites. The accountability partner also provides counseling when needed and praise when appropriate.

How to keep children safe

Titania Jordan, Bark’s chief parenting officer, said last week that children are connected to the internet for up to eight hours a day. “Not just on smartphones but on school-issued devices and accounts, gaming platforms, etc. We’re in a connected world.”

Just as parents take measures to protect their children from physical and real-life threats, she said, they should also consider other kinds of hazards.

“Part of being a parent in today’s world is assessing the dangers of children’s digital interactions and communications and taking steps to protect them in that realm as well,” she said.

Internet safety challenging

That can be difficult for parents, though. “Those dangers are not as obvious. They’re hidden deep within a device, an app, or direct message folders. The ways in which a child can be exposed to danger online is very different and very nuanced.”

Parents can turn a blind eye and hope for the best, Jordan said, adding that parents can spot-check phones and peer over their children’s shoulders when they’re gaming online.

“More often than not, it’s not only inefficient, it’s ineffective,” she said, “because children can hide or delete things long before you have a chance to access them.”

Protect your children from the internet

Information about protecting youth from internet dangers along with software recommendations and reviews are available at ProtectYoungEyes.com, which offers these three recommendations:

• “Bark.us” for monitoring social media, texting, and email monitoring.
• “Covenant Eyes” for accountability and device-wide monitoring.
• “Gabb Wireless” phone for children.

Booklet for parents available

The booklet, Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure, is still available both in English and Spanish through the Office of Marriage and Family Life. To arrange for a copy, call 316-685-5240 or email samourj@CatholicDioceseOfWichita.org.