When my son was 12 years old I came home one day to find the phrase “sexy nude girls” typed in to our family computer search engine. I wasn’t shocked or even disappointed. I knew at some point I’d eventually catch my son trying to look at naked girls.
Of course I knew he knew better. But I also knew he had the healthy curiosity of a boy entering puberty.
I quietly asked, “Son, how would you feel if somebody looked at your mom or your daughter that way?”
Before my sentence was finished his head hanging so low I thought his neck might snap. The next day I bought some really strong blocking software. The way I saw it, it’d been my fault for not protecting him in the first place.
Having Hard Conversations
You might think that from then on it would always be easy to talk about pornography with my son. But it’s been tricky.
You see, I run a ministry. My son expects me to object to a lot of what passes for entertainment in our culture. The challenge for me has always been how do I not seem like a calcified curmudgeon and still teach my son that we, especially as believers, cannot go blithely along ingesting—and thereby tacitly approving—the objectification of women so prevalent in music videos, commercials, movies, and television.
We’ll be watching an NFL game and a commercial comes on and I reach for the remote and my son rolls his eyes and says, “Dad, I’ve already seen it.”
Or I will start to comment on a Victoria Secret display at the mall and before I can get the sentence out I’m interrupted with an impatient, “I know dad.”
OK, so he “knows.” But does he know in his own heart why it’s wrong or does he just know that I think it’s wrong?
It’s been hard to get substantive conversations on this topic off the ground; especially since his mom, his sister, or his girlfriend are usually in the room.
Or he’s in that non-conversant its-noon-and-I’m-still-not-awake teenage boy mode.
Finding Internet Accountability
My wife and I never permitted our kids to have televisions or computers in their rooms. We held off on laptops as well through high school, making the family computer in the den available for homework.
The deal was: you enroll to college and you get a laptop.
Of course there was no way I was going to give my son a laptop and not be able to track where he was going online. I stipulated clearly that there would be no laptop without Covenant Eyes so my son did not object.
In fact, the first thing we did when we got home from the Apple store was to sign in to Covenant Eyes and download the software together.
It is the conversations that have followed that have been the biggest blessing and surprise.
When the first Covenant Eyes report came and said “Review Suggested” we sat down and reviewed the report together. My son was able to explain what each of the sites was about and we were able to identify why the sites might have flagged.
Then in week #3 when some truly objectionable site names came up I actually visited a few of them. When I saw them as being sites I wouldn’t have expected my son to visit I confronted him.
“Dad, I did not go to those sites. Some objectionable pop ups have happened while I have been online but I have X-ed out of them right away.”
When he saw the slightly unconvinced look on my face he said, “If these continuing showing up on my Covenant Eyes report I’ll give you my computer and you can take it to a technician and have them go through the hard drive.” He also said that he had “un-friended” some people on Facebook who were in the habit of posting inappropriate material.
These seemed like the statements of someone who had nothing to hide—but still I accepted his offer to have the option of taking his computer to a technician if I felt the Covenant Eyes reports warranted further action.
Becoming His Own Watchdog
Then I had a proud moment. I was on a business trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and was at dinner with some associates when a text came in.
“Hey! Stupid ad on Facebook just now. Removed it as soon as I saw. Thought I‘d give you heads up! They are much less frequent since I’ve been actively removing them.”
What I loved about this is that he thought the ad was stupid. It wasn’t me telling him. It was him telling me!
The short of it is, not only am I grateful that Covenant Eyes works as well as it does, I’m glad for the open dialogue it has created for me and my son. I’m also glad it has helped him to be come his own watchdog.
So, my recommendation for parents who want to talk to their kids about pornography? Put Covenant Eyes on their kid’s computers and let the conversation roll!
Steve Siler is the Director of Music for the Soul, creators of the highly acclaimed Somebody’s Daughter documentary. For five years he worked as a staff songwriter for Word Music Publishing.
Photo credit: whogiveahoot_
LOL how does a TWELVE year old have a girlfriend!?
Good question. When kids are coming home from the playground knowing about oral sex from age 6, I wouldn’t put it past them to try to have girlfriends at age 12.
I guess that’s true but it seems like craziness to me. Different times I guess!
He used the reference “when my son was 12” as a look back when the search term was used. I thought the same thing about the gf and went back and noted the distinction/reference to an earlier time in his life.
Appreciate the article. I am a ministry leader with a 12 year old son right now. We have had and continue to have many conversations and I believe that is the most important thing. However, I will add a little tidbit that has been tremendously helpful for many. Use an “Adblock” program in addition to Covenant Eyes. It will eliminate most of the “suggested posts” on Facebook and other sites and not only protects what shows up on your computer, but it also makes CE reports much shorter. :)