The Law of Diminishing Intent tells us that we are less likely to do something the more we put it off.
Unfortunately, this means I have only a few minutes to convince you that this resolution is worthwhile, and you have, at best, a day to take action before you forget about it completely.
RESOLVED: I will teach my kids Internet responsibility in 2015.
What is Internet Responsibility?
Internet responsibility is different than Internet safety. Internet safety is about protection. Internet responsibility is about preparation.
Internet safety is about guarding your kids eyes online. Internet responsibility is about teaching them to use the Internet with integrity and purity—giving them their own “internal filter,” teaching them to be their own watchdogs.
Why Internet Responsibility is Important
There are three primary reasons why we must teach our kids Internet responsibility.
1. Because we are raising adults, not children – The goal of parenting is not to raise children, but to raise little people who are becoming adults. In the long term, we must prepare our children for a world without filters.
2. Because the Internet is a tempting place – Your kid may not be looking for porn, but porn is looking for your child. Thanks to the Internet, viewing porn has never been more accessible, affordable, and anonymous.
3. Because our children won’t always be at their best – Kids don’t just stumble into porn online. They look for it. About one in eight web searches is for pornographic content, and teens are using porn at alarming rates. Even if we believe the best about our kids, we have to train them: when you’re at your best, plan for your worst.
Teaching Internet Responsibility: A Week-by-Week Guide
There’s a big difference between making resolutions and changing habits, says Dr. Coral Arvon, director of behavioral health and wellness at Pritikin Longevity Center. One of the best ways to ensure failure is to pick large, vague goals.
Instead, if we’re going to succeed at any of our resolutions in the coming year, we need to focus on small goals that are concrete, measurable, and time-based—these add up to major changes over time.
With that in mind, here’s a simple, step-by-step guide to get started in 2015. You’ve got just one assignment each week for the next eight weeks, then one assignment every month after that.
. . . .
Week 1: Download Internet Accountability software on all your devices in the home.
Internet accountability is not a last resort parents should use when their children have done something wrong. It should be a lifestyle in the home. Kids should grow up knowing, “Of course my parents monitor where I go online. We watch each other’s backs.”
Take stock of all the Internet-enabled devices in your home and install Covenant Eyes on everything: desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones. For $13.99/month you can get as many usernames as you want—which means you will have separate filter settings and separate Internet reports e-mailed to you each week for everyone in the house.
Week 2: Talk to your kids about what Internet Accountability is.
No matter the age of your kids, it is important to let them know you are monitoring all the devices in the home—otherwise, it’s just spying. In a sit-down, face-to-face conversation, tell your kids why you have installed Covenant Eyes on all the devices in your home.
If you need help with this conversation, download Accountable Kids, a free conversation guide. The guide helps you to explain what accountability is and why online secrecy is a danger.
Week 3: Discuss one interesting item on your children’s Internet use reports with them.
By this week you will have received at least one Covenant Eyes Accountability Report for each of your kids. Comb through the Report looking for interesting information, such as websites they often visit. Plan to have a casual conversation with each of your children about something you noticed. This will remind them that you are indeed getting their Reports and reading them. It will also reinforce that you aren’t merely looking for red flags on the Report; you are also interested in the positive ways they are using the Internet.
If you need some ideas for conversation-openers, here’s a one-page discussion guide to help.
Week 4: Talk to your kids about rules for using the Internet.
Your kids need to know your expectations for how the Internet should and shouldn’t be used. Call a family meeting and talk to all your kids about the rules of Internet use for the home. If you need ideas, there’s a sample “Internet Use Agreement” in Protecting Your Family Online: A Parent’s How-To Guide. Print this out and read it with your kids.
When talking to teens, make use of these four strategies to have an effective conversation with them. Also, consider what approach you will take to their online social profiles (on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Make sure you have access to these profiles and talk to your teen about online privacy.
Week 5: Talk to your young children about the dangers of pornography.
Plan a time to sit down with your younger child to talk to them about Internet pornography. There can be an awkward discussion for a lot of parents, so make use of good resources to help you. We highly recommend the book, Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. This is a simple read-aloud book for younger children that you can use even if they don’t know the birds and the bees.
Week 6: Talk to your teens about the allure of porn and porn culture.
For teens, the allure of porn can seem so natural. With all the hormones of adolescence and a fascination with sex, teens can easily be drawn to it. This is why parents need to be forthright and honest about that allure and talk to their teens frankly about what to do about it.
Plan a time this week to sit and talk to your son or daughter about the draw of online lust and our pornified culture:
1. If you suspect or know your teen has been looking at porn, download the free conversation guide, When Your Child is Looking at Porn. Use it this week in a face-to-face conversation.
2. Introduce your teen to the Fight the New Drug movement. As they say, the best defense is a good offense. This teen movement is speaking out against the harms of pornography—mentally, emotionally, and socially. For a good introduction to the movement, have your teens watch this video. Encourage them to read the blog posts and information on that website.
Week 7: Discuss one interesting item on your children’s Accountability Reports with them.
Make use of the Internet Reports again and talk to each child about something interesting you saw on their Reports. Just as before, it reminds them you are getting their Reports and you read them. If there’s a red flag on the report, talk about it. Regardless, keep the conversation light and encouraging.
Week 8: Review the rules of the Internet in the home.
It has been about a month since you introduced your kids to the rules of using the Internet in the home. Are there any problems you’ve seen along the way? Address those issues this week. Have you noticed general compliance with the rules? Tell your kids this—encourage them in their behavior.
Once a month: Review, review, review.
After laying this foundation, during the first week of every month, set reminders to talk to your kids (put an alert in your phone for every month in 2015). Here are some ideas for having these conversations.
1. If you see anything interesting on their Accountability Reports, good or bad, talk to them about it. Remember, you can always generate an Accountability Report for any user on your account in your online account.
2. For teens, use current events to teach. The first week of every month, use Google News to search for current events around the subjects of “porn addiction” or “sexting” or “teens Internet.” Write down just one eye-catching story and share it with your teenager, getting their thoughts and reactions. You can also use Google Alerts to make you more aware of news stories as they happen.