Recently, a dad proudly told me he put Covenant Eyes on his son’s iPod.
“What about your iPhone?” I asked. It didn’t take this dad long to connect the dots: (1) As a man, he is also susceptible to online temptation, he admitted, and (2) his son would embrace accountability more if his dad did it too.
Most people know the adage of “do as I say, not as I do” is a warning that our actions speak louder than our words. But it’s also backed up by numerous studies that kids mimic their parents’ actions more than their lectures when it comes to smoking, abusing alcohol, and other bad habits.
As dads, we have an amazing opportunity to champion our beliefs, but it requires us to be intentional about how we live.
“Our kids learn by watching,” Jeff Randleman, of DeliberateDads.com, said. “Our example is the most consistent and persistent that they see in the home. If our kids only see us telling them what to do, and not exemplifying it ourselves, they won’t understand the important nature of it, and will come to see us as hypocrites.”
Ouch. I’ve never met a dad who wanted to be a hypocrite, but I’ve met many dads who want to aspire to be a champion in the eyes of their kids.
Being a champion doesn’t mean being perfect. The Apostle Paul was so bold as to boast about his weaknesses, for it revealed the power of Christ’s grace (2 Corinthians 12:7-19). Yet, he was a champion who fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).
In today’s culture, our sons and daughters are bombarded with sexual content from highway billboards, to mall advertising, to television, to movies, to the Internet. How do we help our kids process this sexualized culture? Do they see us turning our eyes away from provocative ads or changing the TV station? What do our intentional actions say about our beliefs?
When my son was younger, I would intentionally point out a mall cookie shop when we passed by a well-known lingerie store with its billboard-sized posters on the opposite side of the walkway. Recently, we were walking through that same mall. He smiled big, bumped my shoulder, and said, “Dad, every time we walk by here I point out the cookies when we go past that store, so that we both won’t look at that store.”
What? When did this become his idea?
Modeling Internet Purity
The same is true for the Internet. For years, my kids not only used Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering on our computers, they also watched their parents use it. My son has watched me turn over my phone many times to a brother in Christ, because I didn’t hold the parental passcode. When he asked why at a young age, it gave me the opportunity to explain the value of accountability. This discussion has been repeated in different ways and reinforced because my kids know my accountability partners.
When my son begged for an iPod for Christmas last year, he had the process all mapped out. He described how I could set up the parental controls, download Covenant Eyes, and receive a report about his Internet use.
When you adopt a standard for the Internet in your home and put in place measures to practice and model that standard, you give your kids love and protection that most are missing today. Consider these stats. Microsoft says that 67% of kids do something to hide their Internet activity from their parents. 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to pornography before 18, and many will become psychologically dependent on porn use.
Frankly, it’s possible those statistics, though alarming, are low, according to Dr. Heath Lambert, a counselor, professor, and a founder of the Biblical Counseling Coalition.
“I am going to try not to cry when I say this, but I am aware that my two boys, 8 and 3, have zero percent chance of making it to 18 without seeing pornography. That is the reality,” Lambert told The Christian Worldview. Using Covenant Eyes and being cautious of where your kids spend time, can delay and limit exposure to pornography, but somehow, somewhere, our kids will see pornography at school, on a playground, at another home… or worse, they could find their father’s hidden stash or the leftovers he forgot to delete from a computer or mobile device.
The most significant thing dads can do is to pursue and openly model purity in their own life, Lambert told me in a recent discussion. How you live and the actions you take on a daily basis, he said, enable kids to mimic and embrace purity in their own lives. And, when you have discussions with your kids about sexualized ads on TV or billboards or their Internet use, your words will be reinforced when you practice real-life preventative actions.
Filtering Is Not Enough
When it comes to action, filtering alone is not enough. It will help protect young kids and accidental exposure, but most pre-teens, teens, and adults get around filters. They treat it like a fence, walking the perimeter and knocking on it until they find a loose board or even an open gate. Filters are coldly mechanical. They either block or fail to block. And thus, they don’t teach anything, except which sites, portals, or activities are not blocked.
Internet Accountability is different. It encourages openness and transparency, removes secrecy, and encourages a relationship where online temptations are discussed. Accountability software (which can be used with filtering for kids and young teens) provides you continuous reminders to have good conversations with your kids about their world, their interests, and the temptations that they will inevitably face. Practicing Internet accountability in your home will help you talk about the most daunting of subjects with age-appropriate wisdom, and that is key in preparing them for the times they are exposed to pornography.
Accountability is a tool of preparation for what might come and preparedness when your kids face those temptations.
As parents, we set the standards of the home. As a dad, if you want your kids to go to church, that means you go to church. If you want your sons to treat others and their future wives with respect, you treat the people you meet and your wife with respect.
When it comes to Internet Accountability, I encourage every dad not to miss the opportunity to lead by example. Don’t ask your sons and daughters to do something you are unwilling to do.LEARN MORE ABOUT COVENANT EYES