Safe Haven Sunday to be observed on the first weekend of Lent

The computer and the internet have made pornography easily accessible. (Unsplash)

By Bishop Carl A. Kemme
We all know it’s there and probably have some idea of how we could access it. Pornography affects some of us more directly than others, but there’s no doubt that it’s a problem impacting all of us, and regrettably, it’s not going away anytime soon.

Pornography has created a culture of its own, and it’s influencing each one of us spiritually, physically, emotionally, and relationally to a greater or lesser extent, depending on if we directly participate in the use of pornography. There are immense moral, social, and spiritual dangers for us and even for our children.

In 2016, the Barna Group published a study, The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography in the Digital Age, wherein they state that 88% of teens (youth ages 13-17) have a phone and 82% of teens sleep with their phones in their bedroom. Further, the survey explains that 48% (nearly half) of preteens (children ages 9-12) have a phone, and of those, most (72%) sleep with their phones in their bedrooms.

A few years back, a large U.S. Catholic high school anonymously surveyed students on pornography use. The survey showed that a high percentage of pornography consumption by the students happens on smartphones (57%), in the bedroom (61%), or when they’re bored (48%). Thankfully, these are things parents can control.

Many of the parents I have the privilege of knowing ask God to guide them in their role as the first and primary educators and protectors of their children, to make their children the saints they’re called to be.

They want to be good examples for their children and at the same time protect their children from negative influences, including a culture that tries to shove itself into children’s faces at younger and younger ages. Parents desperately want to keep these distractions from creeping into their children’s lives, but they’re just not sure how to do that.

If you’re a parent, does this sound like you? If so, then I have good news! Through some survey findings and a bit of research, here are a few practical steps that any parent can take regardless of your technical knowledge.

Lead by Example

Parents influence their children at every level. Parents need to be a model of accountability to help their children see the value of it. Download an accountability and filtering software, like Covenant Eyes, that monitors websites visited, search terms used, and videos watched, listing them in an easy-to-read reports designed to start a conversation about healthy online habits.

Find others to be your accountability partners as well. These might include your spouse, but they can also include any trusted friends or colleagues. These should be people you trust to receive regular accountability reports of online activity.

Why is this critical? Children, and especially teens, need to know they are not being targeted because they are kids. Accountability is valuable for everyone. This is ultimately something you hope they will continue to use into their adulthood. Show them how valuable it is by starting with you. If you don’t feel equipped on this topic, a great resource is a book that will be distributed at Mass on Safe Haven Sunday on the first Sunday of Lent, Feb. 29-March 1.

No Computers in the Bedroom

Use parental controls, and if a device doesn’t provide or allow parental controls to be downloaded, don’t buy it for children or teens. Don’t allow smartphones, tablets, computers, or TVs in the bedroom. Keep computers in an open room. Don’t allow devices in your children’s bedrooms that can access the internet or cable.
Talk to Your Children

Sit down with your children to explain why you have installed parental controls on their devices. Begin by talking about the problem you are trying to solve. The aim is to manage small issues before they become big problems. Parents have the biggest influence on their kids’ behaviors – more than their friends, school, or parish church. Put that influence to use. Set aside times to talk to your kids about their God-given dignity and the need to respect themselves and others. Be prepared to talk to your child or teen on the fly when opportunities present themselves. Talking isn’t preaching. Be willing to listen, too.

Give Your Kids Responsibilities

It’s a more and more common occurrence that our young people aren’t given responsibilities at home or in the broader life of the community. God has given them many gifts to use and share, so we must give them the opportunity to do so! Pay attention to what they enjoy and what comes naturally to them, and cultivate that in the child. Are they good at drawing? How about the guitar? Do they enjoy woodworking? Maybe they like taking photographs?

Encourage growth in these areas and other hobbies they have interest in. This will get them away from the TV and smartphone, which decreases their likelihood of exposure and ongoing use of inappropriate material.

In our digital age, it’s not a matter of if your child will see something inappropriate online. It’s only a matter of when. Although no plan is 100% safe, I believe these steps above will significantly decrease the opportunities for our culture to have an undue negative influence on the hearts and minds of our precious children.

By observing this awareness day with the 2020 theme “Equipping the Family: Having Critical Conversations”, we as a community are once again saying that we want holy and healthy, homes, free of pornography and other online threats that deprive the home of its role as a safe haven. It’s my hope that the resources provided on Safe Haven Sunday will both encourage and teach parents and individuals how to effectively address pornography in the home and encourage the steps it takes to make our homes safe havens for all.

Resources to Be Provided

To provide you with the tools you need to protect your marriage and family from pornography and to make your home a safe haven, the Diocese will celebrate its second annual Safe Haven Sunday on the first Sunday of Lent (Feb. 29 – Mar 1). Within the context of Mass, parishes will provide teaching and resources that will support and protect individuals, marriages, and families in making all homes a safe haven.

Many will be given Covenant Eyes’ newest book, Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure. You can also join a seven-day text-to-opt-in program: The Equipped 7-Day Email Challenge. This Challenge provides practical tips any caring adult can take to create safer digital environments for themselves and our young people.

For more information visit