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World Wide Web
The internet is frightening to me as a mom. Quite frankly, if I could pick one thing that I wish I didn’t have to parent through, it would be internet usage. I regularly have to cast my fear on God, though, for I know what is out there waiting to prey on my children but I also know who holds them in the palm of His hand. I see the benefit of the resources contained on the world wide web, but I have also seen the devastating effects that the evil it contains can wreak on individuals and families. Our family strives to incorporate a balanced, and well conceived internet plan.
This is not to be an article on the dangers of the internet. I hope you know those. If you have not researched this topic, please do. Covenant Eyes has some ebooks that are very informative and helpful to families trying to protect their children from being exposed to information and images that they should not be exposed to. Unfiltered is a good one to start with, for it introduces the dangers that are out there and how you can combat those.
Instead of writing about the dangers of the internet, I wanted to share how our family handles internet usage and activity. This approach has worked for us, and I hope it will at least spark discussions of ways that your family can start putting more safeguards in place as well.
Internet Browsers and Time Online
The internet is a fabulous source of information. I firmly believe that every student needs to have solid knowledge of how to navigate and extract the information they need. Since so much of the world’s commerce and information is shared on the internet in today’s economy, we are not doing our children any favors by keeping them completely offline.
Although we want our children to know how to handle the internet, we do not want to set them up for failure or for exposure to unwanted material. With that in mind, we use a couple of tools that allow us to control the time they spend on the internet.
Our router allows us to give or take away access to the internet directly from the source. There are no computers or tablets in our house that have internet access overnight. This has given us incredible peace of mind, and has allowed my boys to listen to audible books, etc. on their tablets while they are trying to go to sleep. Here is an Amazon search for routers. Since pricing and updates happen so often, I didn’t want to list just one. We have used Netgear routers for years, because they allow me to control them through an app on my phone, have strong parental controls at that level, and have been incredibly reliable.
Every device in our home is equipped with Covenant Eyes. For my older children, the settings are for accountability. We know that if they do not learn to regulate their internet usage on their own while they are at home, we cannot expect them to do it when they find themselves in a less protective environment. The younger ones still have a filter on their computers. For our older children, we get reports daily from Covenant Eyes informing us if their report looks good or if they need some attention. With that level of accountability, we are able to jump on any problems that may be building as soon as they are forming. If you use discount code TTD, you can get a free month to try out Covenant Eyes. I truly believe you will love it and want to stick with it indefinitely!
I recently recorded a video interview with Sam Black of Covenant Eyes on our Teach Them Diligently 365 platform. Check it out here to learn even more.
Time Limits, Usage, and Boundaries
Computers are a fabulous help, but I have found that my children are not writing well, because almost everything they do is on the computer. For that reason, we took one school year and made it “going old school”, and kept lots of notebooks… with actual notebook paper and pens! This helped us manage our time online and on the computer quite a bit. Still, though, there are many things they need to do on their computer, both for their classes at home and at co-op.
“People Matter” is a mantra around our house. I have found that the more time we spend on social media, the less “real” people (as in the ones that are right here, able to be actually touched by our lives and share experiences) get our attention. We have also found that unlimited access to social media at a young age sets our children up for making mistakes and mis-managing their time.
For that reason, we don’t allow social media of any kind until our children display the maturity to handle it. When they are allowed access, it is with the understanding that I always have their password and am their “friend” on that platform. There have been a few times that I have sensed a heart change and have been able to find explanation or confirmation of it on their social media. Being tuned in has allowed us to approach the child about the issue quickly and thankfully each time disciple them through the issue.
The upside of social media is that it makes the world a lot smaller. Our oldest is able to build on friendships that were started at camps or at Teach Them Diligently. This is a great benefit of social media usage, and one that I am thankful my children can enjoy. Currently, the only platform any of our children are allowed to be on is Instagram, since that is the platform that most of their friends are on. On that platform, they are required to have private profiles and only approve followers they know. David and I can easily see who they follow and who follows them.
This level of accountability is important. It was not born in a vacuum, though. Rather, we have been building a strong relationship with our children since they were young. They know the reasons for the accountability, and we know and respect their need for privacy. For the most part, there has been no need for me to go into direct messages, email, etc., and honestly they show me their feed most of the time voluntarily. There are some funny things on Instagram that need to be shared with Mama, you know.
If you have not built a strong relationship with your children, this may be perceived as threatening and intrusive. I urge you to work on strengthening that relationship. Become closer as a family by spending time together, talking together, playing games together, worshiping together and more. There is no greater privilege you will ever have than building strong relationships and discipling your children.
Our children understand that practically speaking, anything they put on the internet is public record and can be uncovered if someone goes looking for it hard enough. We have spent time talking to them and training them about giving the right opinion of The Lord and of themselves in everything they do and say, even on the world wide web.
If you have children or teens that are using the internet in any capacity, please take the time to talk to them about the pitfalls and dangers as well as the opportunities and resources available there. This presents a great opportunity for discipleship in so many ways, and we have found that sins committed on the internet just like sins committed elsewhere will generally be found out, and generally pretty quickly. That is truly a mercy from The Lord who loves them so much that He will not allow them to continue indefinitely in sin.
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In this fallen world we live in, the internet can naturally be a scary place. However, that doesn’t give us reason to fear! I’ll share with you what precautions my family has taken in regards to internet safety, and I hope this will give you some ideas for how to best protect yourself and those you love from the dangers of the internet.
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