Everyone’s heard of Internet filtering. For children using the Internet, filtering may be one of the best tools we have to protect their young minds from stumbling on questionable, objectionable, and pornographic content online.
But even the best filters only address part of a widespread problem. Many children can easily learn how to get around a filter: they can learn to bypass it, disable it, or when this proves difficult, they can simply go next door or to the public library. The real issue children face is their natural curiosity to see objectionable content in the first place. We don’t fault children for their curiosity. We take note of the curiosity, and then we prioritize the responsibility of teaching safe Internet use to our children.
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Will the real role models please stand up?
An integral key to Internet safety is modeling for children that which we want to see them do. We live in a day where good role models are scarce. We rely so much on filtering to keep little eyes from seeing violent and sexual stimulation, that we sometimes forget that parents and educators first need to model for children the behavior and attitudes we want them to grasp. This is where a new software solution is needed: accountability software.
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Accountability software is something specifically designed for adults who use the Internet. Accountability software isn’t like a filter. It doesn’t block any Web page from being viewed, and it doesn’t slow down your Internet connection like some filters. Instead, accountability software will monitor where you go online. It catalogs your Internet browsing history and then sends that information to individuals you have chosen to see it. This is why it is called “accountability” software: you are providing an account of everywhere your eyes are going online for another individual.
What Does this Solve?
(1) First, those who choose to use accountability software recognize that the Internet is filled with content that is not only hurtful to children, but can be damaging and addictive for adults to see. Accountability software users also understand that curiosity is not only a childlike trait: it can be tempting for even adults to view pornographic content online.
(2) Second, those who use accountability software are tapping into the power of allowing someone else to hold you “accountable.” This isn’t a technological approach to clean Internet use; it is a relational approach. When you are accountable for what you see online to another person, this avoids the “secret life” that can develop around private Internet use.
Plus, if an adult has developed a compulsion to view pornography online, being accountable to another person who cares is a great first step to break that compulsion.
(3) Third, when an adult relies on Internet “accountability” only without blocking or filtering, he or she can develop and maintain self-control with online viewing habits.
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Back to the children
As children watch this sort of responsible Internet use, this will accomplish far more than a filter can do. It demonstrates to children the benefits of accountability for what they do. When children see adults taking responsibility for what they see online, this will shape the desire to do the same. When children see adults taking measures to avoid pornographic content online, they won’t see porn as an “adult” thing that is forbidden until they turn 18. Instead, they will understand that pornography is damaging across the board, regardless of age.
Now, filtering is still a wonderful tool for children. Most filters allow parents and guardians to adjust the levels of a child’s Internet access based on age and maturity. This is a very responsible thing for online families to do. But as children get older, as they watch their parents develop good accountability relationships with others around them, this will model for them what we desire from them as they mature. It can encourage them to engage in open and honest communication with those they trust about what they see online.
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Accountability + Filtering
Covenant Eyes has developed a dynamic rating system for Internet content and an accountability software tool that tens of thousands of adults have begun using. In addition, Covenant Eyes has a filter based on the same rating system. When used together, families can effectively monitor all Internet use, and filter the Internet where necessary.