This is Part 2 of 2 of the most important articles I’ve posted. Please read Part I if you have yet to. It quickly became by far the most popular article on my blog (and the most shared as well), showing how truly urgent this topic is.
In Part I we looked at some of the incredibly destructive effects of pornography on our kids and how we must connect with them regularly about this issue, equipping them for this battle that they face every day.
As I share two other very practical action steps we can take, let me start by saying this:
If we are not taking steps to protect our children from pornography, we are partnering with this predator to destroy their lives.
I don’t say that solely for shock value but as a perspective on the reality of how bad this situation has become. It would be like living on the street in your city known for the worst gangs, drugs, murderers, sexual predators and pedophiles, and simply unlocking your door at night and keeping your kid’s bedroom doors wide open. With a plate of cookies on their night stand.
Pornography (in video, violent, and hard core forms) is actively pursuing your children—not to mention you as well—and will prevail if you don’t take corresponding action to keep its tentacles out of your home, off of your electronic devices, and out of your mind and soul.
#2. BUILD AN HONEST, OPEN RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR CHILDREN
When it comes to porn and sexuality, equally as important as the information you share with your kids is the transparent heart-to-heart relationship you build with them.
This is one reason why making the time to read with them is so powerful, because it combines so many elements of success in one activity:
1. Making the time to connect specifically with your child screams love, affirmation, and value to them. There is nothing more impacting and life-giving for our kids than when we make time to focus solely on them—it fills their “love tank” to the brim.
2. Close the door when you have these reading times together. Closing the door is a subtle but powerful message to your child that what you are about to discuss together is important, private, and deserves their utmost focus. It shows that you believe your child is mature enough to handle this information and it causes them to step up to the plate.
3. Don’t just read, but share your personal stories with your child. Sharing mistakes or dramatic events from your life not only allows the moral of the story to stick like glue in your child’s mind, but it makes you more vulnerable, real, and human to them—it allows them to feel like they can approach you with their problems because you understand what they are going through. Recently my wife was talking with a handful of middle schoolers at the end of a conference that featured speakers who shared about pornography and sexuality, and all of them agreed that what they loved the most was when the speakers would tell stories about their own struggles when they were that age. This is a powerful key to help unlock your child’s heart.
FAKE IT ‘TILL YOU MAKE IT
And here’s a point that I cannot stress enough because I know that the majority of you reading this are saying to yourself, “I can’t do this. I feel way too awkward and embarrassed by this topic. My parents never did anything like this with me—it’s just uncomfortable and scary!” Well, first of all, that’s another great reason to start by reading books together, because you’re so flippin’ freaked out that you’re even talking about this with your 11 year-old that you don’t even know what to say. Books definitely do that heavy lifting for you. But secondly, you have to dig deep into the WHY of what you are doing and find that overcoming, compelling reason that will supersede the uncomfortableness and compel you to speak. And that motivation, of course, is your love for your children.
But here’s the real point I”m trying to make:
You have to fake it ‘till you make it.
I’m not going to lie, although it does get a bit easier and you will grow in confidence talking to your kids about these issues, it still is awkward for the vast majority of us discussing wet dreams, menstrual cycles, breasts, erections, pornography, puberty, and masturbation with your tweens and teens.
That’s the reason why I’m saying you’ve got to fake it ‘till you make it. For the love of your children, you have got to pretend that this is normal talk between parents and children and that you feel honored and privileged to be the one who first shared this information with them.
Trust me, I know what you’d rather do is go throw up in the bathroom. But your kids don’t know that! And I’m not saying not be transparent and real with them—you’ve got to be. What I am saying is that to create a new culture in your family (which is what you are doing) you have to be bold and start to normalize what is not normal feelings for you. Embarrassment and awkward feelings will creep in… resist them, take a deep breath, and open your mouth to speak anyway. Just read the freaking book out loud!
#3. DON’T WAIT—SECURE YOUR HOME WITH FILTERING SOFTWARE TODAY
When you are finished reading this, don’t think, delay, or use the bathroom, simply go here (which is on the site: opendns.com) and read through the Parental Controls. Then scroll back to the top of the page and click on the orange Parental Controls button to get started signing up for FREE for this whole home internet filtering software.
We’ve been using OpenDNS for a couple years and I think it’s a great starter package for filtering for your home because it gives you personalized control over what categories of content is allowed into your home’s WI-FI system, allows you to see what sites are being viewed on the devices in your home, and covers every device that is logged on to your network through your home’s router, including video game consoles and your kid’s homeys who you log on so they can play Minecraft together.
Understand that it is a filter on your internet router, which means every device that connects to your wi-fi (or hard-wires in to your internet) is protected by OpenDNS, so it is not software you have to install onto each device in your home.
If you don’t use OpenDNS (again, it’s free at its most basic level, which is what we use) then make sure to install something similar—and do it today.
One of my sons even thanked me the other day for protecting his eyes and heart with this system. And let me tell you, it’s for your protection too!
GETTING SERIOUS WITH EVERY DEVICE IN YOUR HOME
After you install OpenDNS (or something like it), then your next step is to physically obtain every electronic device in your home, sit down with your spouse, and talk through protections, guidelines, and rules for each one of them. I’m talking every computer, laptop, tablet, data phone, electronic reading tablet, everything.
If you have to make a chart or some kind of spreadsheet to be a reminder for your family on the guidelines of usage for all of these devices, you go, big daddy.
1. Set times for your internet access in your home. For example, Holly and I turn off our router (which is located under my work desk in our bedroom) at 10pm every night and don’t switch it back on in the morning until one of us begins work or needs to use it.
2. Set times for internet usage for the kids. Our general rule is that they should be finished with homework or connecting with friends over the internet at least a half hour before bed time. This allows them to slow their soul down and read, filling their minds with “good food” as they sleep. They also know there is no internet (or “screen time” for that matter) in the morning before school.
3. Data Phones/Tablets: here is a serious question: does your child really need to have a data plan on their phone (or tablet)? Now this gets in to a whole bigger discussion on parenting and slowly releasing our teens into responsibility/freedom, etc, but for kids/tweens/young teens, is it worth the risk? I totally understand being able to call and even text your kids when they are out of the home, but does any young person you know under the age of 16 really have the internal self-control and wisdom to handle managing the onslaught of filth, hard core porn, and child predator activity swirling through that device in their little innocent pockets 24/7? Something to seriously discuss.
4. Apps and Protections on devices: go through each device (do this part with your kids) and explore everything. Ask about communication apps (deleting Snapchat is more about protecting them from freaks, not that you don’t necessarily trust them to not send stupid crap) and go through the Settings on the devices, applying Parental Controls whenever possible. On the laptop our kids share, for example, the computer itself is set to lock them out at 10pm.
Okay, there is a ton to discuss when it comes to all of this and so we’ll have to talk more about all of this later. The important thing is to get involved and start today. Get your hands, dirty, momma—it’s just a part of the job description these days.
Here’s one philosophy we use with our kids and technology I strongly suggest you adopt as well:
There is no such thing as privacy on the internet.
So don’t fall for the argument that this app is private or this texting program is off limits. Hell, no. You having unlimited access to your child’s digital and online life is completely normal and healthy. And here’s the truth you can share with them when they throw a fit over that: even as adults, everything put out there on the internet or shared through a device can be made public. Everything. So as a parent, it is our responsibility to equip them for that reality.
So, let’s take some action today. It’s never too late to start. Apologize to your kids for not protecting them and loving them properly, ask for forgiveness… then start cleaning house, yo.
This is simply a part of loving our kids in the 21st Century, boss. I know you’re busy, but this cannot wait.
You got this. I believe in you.