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internet safety + media in the home

Hey guys, Molly here! I have been sharing with people I know for about the last year some crazy statistics I’ve learned about internet and media use in the home. I’ve seen the harmful effects that too much media use / the wrong kinds of media can have on people. Because of this, I wanted to educate myself as my kids have gotten older. I wanted to do what I could in my power to protect them. As I was preparing to allow my son to have his own phone, I came across a few articles and these points really stood out to me:

The average age of exposure to explicit material is 11 years old. Years ago, we were warned of the drug dealers who lurked around schools and provided free drugs to children. Once the children experimented with their free dose, they would be hooked and the dealer then had a steady clientele. Studies show a very similar effect when viewing pornography. It only takes a small amount to get someone hooked.

Pornography’s effects are nearly identical to those caused by other drugs in that pornography overloads the reward pathway with pleasure chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and many others. The tidal wave of pleasure chemicals porn creates is much more intense than the reaction that would be produced by other, more natural activities such as playing sports or hanging out with friends.

I realized that with electronic devices being so readily available, I needed to do everything within my power to protect my family from the effects of negative materials online. I could not just pretend this stuff isn’t out there.

Let’s talk about filters and monitors.

Begin at the Device – Phone filters/Tablet filters

  • Do you know how to turn on restrictions on your phone/tablet? Go to Settings>General>Restrictions. We took off the ability to add and remove apps. We also took off the News App and Safari from our kids’ devices. They aren’t allowed to have YouTube, though we do allow YouTube Kids. In addition, I also limited all of the content. ALL of our devices are restricted. We all have access to all of our phones, and thus I don’t want anyone to come across something accidentally on my phone that is inappropriate. I am not sure how restrictions work on Android. I do know that they have an app called Kids Place which filters most content.
  • Computers: Turn off “Incognito” mode and instead enable safe search.
  • Filtering content from internet provider. We use Circle with Disney, but there are others such as Open DNS and K9. Speaking specifically about the Circle. . . 
    • It allows for individual profiles.
    • Anyone who gets on our wifi is being filtered by Circle.
    • It allows for time limits and bed times where the internet shuts off to that device.
  • Monitoring – There are several out there. We use Accountable2You. Keep in mind this is not a filter. It will monitor everything being looked at on the device it is connected to.
    • This allows me to see what websites are being visited, what is being searched for, etc. This works great for Android and on computers but is in beta testing for iOS.
    • We have had some great conversations based on things that have been searched. It monitors for key words and sends daily reports. It sends a text immediately when something highly questionable has been searched.
  • The very best filter is YOU!
    • I strongly encourage open communication with your kids. Be educated. Know what is out there.
    • Social media platforms allow for explicit content. It is VERY easy to find, especially on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Be aware of what is out there and check your kids’ devices OFTEN. We currently don’t allow social media for our kids. My oldest is 14 and I am not sure if/when he will be allowed to have social media.

Explicit content isn’t my only concern. I have also been concerned about the amount of time spent on devices/screens in general. I recently watched an interview with Simon Sinek entitled Millennials in the Workplace. This is a great watch for so many reasons, but specifically he talks a lot about Dopamine and how when we receive a text or a comment or a like on social media, it feels good. It is highly addictive because of that dopamine. This generation has a lower ability to cope. They don’t know how to form deep, meaningful relationships. When they are stressed, they turn to their device and thus there are higher rates of depression.

I looked at my own use and we decided as a family on some rules that we would put in place to help lessen our dependence and our desire for electronics.

  • Phones are put away at meal times
  • Phones are plugged in when we get home from work and not used again until the kids are in bed.
  • No phones in the bathroom.
  • No phones out at restaurants.

The bottom line is this — electronics are addictive, but they are not going away any time soon. We need to teach our kids to have a healthy relationship with their electronic devices. Even if your kids are not looking at explicit material, video games are addictive and social media is addictive. I have witnessed lives ruined and families torn apart because of these addictions. I want to make sure that I am doing my best to raise kids who are able to form deep, meaningful relationships by doing what I can to limit their screen time.

If you want to hop over to YouTube, I recently talked about all of this on Facebook Live!


4 Responses

  1. This is a great post, Molly!
    I have a son, who loves to use his tablet and computer (no phones yet!)… Besides those you mention, one of my great concerns is related to the public chats (or even the chats in the games)… My son does not have a Social Media profile yet, but he plays some online games that has in-game chat – I fear those people that start asking many questions, and wonder if they are really children on the other side, or bad people digging information from innocent children.
    I talk to my son about safety, not sharing information, and if possible even not participating in these chats.
    So far, he is a good child, and follows my advices. But I am looking for other security/safety possibilities/measures/tools, to prevent anything from happen.
    Thanks for the tips on this post. I will revisit my actual safety measures and update them!

  2. Cheryl Caska says:

    This is such a wonderful idea. You have looked at this issue from such different angles and have provided practical tips that can be put to use right away. Thank you!

  3. Angela H says:

    This is a topic I’ve been thinking about (my oldest is only 6, but so many kids his age already have phones!), so thank you for sharing what you’ve learned and what you’re doing. I’ve also been noticing that I spend too much time on my phone, so what message does that send my kids? And what am I going to do about it? And why aren’t I following what I expect of my kids? Anyway, lots of things to consider. Thank you.

  4. Karen Stout says:

    Thank you so much Molly!
    I have an 11 year old and I am trying hard to let her develop her “techie” wings while protecting her from the negative out on the internet. I have been setting time limits and restrictions on the websites she can and cannot go to, but I have been at a loss as to how to follow up on this. I am looking forward to exploring the ideas of filters and monitors listed above. Though you must stay on your toes, I think the ideas above certainly add to having a certain “piece of mind”.
    I absolutely agree on the “addiction” aspect. I see this with her already, and am working actively on promoting “a time and place” for tech and not to ignore all the other wonderful ways to spend free time!
    Again, thanks. If any other new ideas or products come out, please share some more!