Dark deeds thrive in secrecy. The National Security Agency knows it, but do parents?
The Online Disinhibition Effect is the concept that secrecy removes your inhibitions, making a person more likely to engage anonymously in questionable activities online. It’s the belief that it’s okay to say or do harmful things online if nobody knows it’s you. It’s a big factor in all sorts of questionable behaviors online. Such activities include illegal file sharing, cyberbullying, viewing pornography, and the NSA’s main concern: conspiracy and terrorist activities. And it explains why the NSA has been spying on people online: they are more likely to misbehave if they think their activities are secret.
While most children will not be involved in such extreme activities, kids especially are vulnerable to the Online Disinhibition Effect. For example, 51% of male students and 32% of female students were using porn by age 12, and among college-age adults, 68% of men and 18% of women use pornography every week.
In short, if Mom and Dad aren’t keeping an eye out, there’s no telling how far a kid will go. Even good kids make bad decisions.
Spying is not the solution.
The fallout from the NSA scandal should make one thing clear: spying is not the solution, as it only breeds mistrust. Neither is filtering alone, which blocks harmful content but does not naturally lend itself to a discussion about inappropriate behavior online. In fact, as British regulator Ofcom reported, 18% of 12- to 15-year-olds know how to deactivate filters anyway.
That’s why it’s so important to protect your whole family with Internet Accountability, not just yourself. Dads especially are often concerned with breaking free from their own porn habits that they forget that their kids are susceptible to temptations as well. But if you start protecting your kids soon enough, it’s as simple as receiving a report of the websites your kids visit, the search terms they use, the YouTube videos they watch, and the sites that are blocked, and then having a conversation about it. After all, when parents actually know what their kids are doing online, it makes it a lot easier to have informed discussions. It helps them be specific, and catch problems before they start.
Barriers to protection
We’ve heard the horror stories, like the dad whose honors student, athlete son got arrested by the FBI for soliciting a minor. (“I wish I had met you a year ago,” he told us at a conference.) Such stories are fortunately few and far between, but they do raise an interesting question: if getting a report of your kids’ activities is such a simple step, why don’t more parents take it?
There seem to be two big reasons.
1. The cost can add up.
First, there’s a cost barrier. Never mind that 10 years of Covenant Eyes for a family of 4 costs less than a single month of college expenses, many families, especially large ones, still struggle to make ends meet. If they decide to protect their kids at all, they often protect them under a single username, which greatly diminishes the value of Accountability, which works best when each person gets a unique Report.
As just one example, one large family had opted to save money by sharing a single username. They knew that someone in the home was accessing pornography based off the single Accountability Report that they shared. The parents assumed it was one of the older children, and didn’t discover it was actually one of the younger ones until the behavior had been going on for years and the child had become addicted.
This Spring, we plan on making it much more affordable for parents to protect their entire household. We’re introducing a new pricing plan for families: for a flat $12.99/mo., every person in your home can have a unique username. That means a unique Internet Accountability Report for everyone in the family, with the option of adding Filtering to everyone at no extra charge.
Want to know when it’s available? Just fill out the form and we’ll keep you posted.
2. Parents don’t know how to start the conversation.
Even when cost isn’t an issue, parents don’t know what to say to their kids about Internet use. The sex talk is awkward enough, after all. What should parents say about normal Internet use? At what point should they start talking about porn? And what happens if porn shows up on the Report?
We’ve got two resources to help out with that. If your son or daughter has already viewed porn, then start with When Your Child is Looking at Porn to understand where they’re at developmentally and how to respond.
In a strange way, the conversations around a child’s porn use can be easier than general proactive conversations. After all, pornography spurs very specific conversations about morality. But it’s still important to talk about Internet use when nothing is wrong. These proactive conversations lay the groundwork for your child’s response when he or she eventually will see pornography (and they will). Download this one-page guide for parents to get some specific conversation starters.
The NSA monitors millions of people online every day. You, as a parent, only need to protect your “quiver” of one or two or five or ten or twenty. So what’s stopping you?
Photo credit: tanelteemusk