This post has been updated as of November 2020.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Instead of writing Santa a letter, I thought I’d write you one instead. All I want for Christmas is an iPad. Or maybe, I want a new video game. Oh, I know! I want a new Android phone because I want to see if it will explode.
Maybe I don’t actually know what I want quite yet, but I do know what I don’t want, I think.
I don’t want to come across those bad pictures again. Oh, I forgot. I haven’t actually told you about that. I saw those pictures over summer break, but I still think about them. I don’t think I told you because I felt ashamed.
Even though I felt sad about doing it, I went back to the pictures when I used your phone to check the football scores. I feel like I want to view those bad pictures again, but I feel bad after I’m done looking. I want to hide it from you when I do it. It makes me feel distant and scared of you. Before I stop looking at the pictures for good, I think I’ll look at them just once more.
I’ve been scared to tell you about this. I’ve been too afraid to tell Jesus about it too, even when Father Peter asked me in confession last week if there was anything making me sad, or anything I was afraid to tell Jesus.
Mom and Dad, please do something. If you give me any gadgets this Christmas, can you first talk to me about how to stay away from scary and bad things on the Internet?
I love you,
‘Tis the Season for Giving Gadgets
Parents, if your young son or daughter wrote you a letter, would it look similar to the letter above?
Christmas brings many joys, but some of these joys can also open the door to hurt and pain. Each new gadget, if not properly protected, can increase the chance of your child being exposed to pornography.
Now, we’re not saying don’t give your kids technology or gadgets for Christmas. These things encourage all kinds of healthy learning, make it easier to communicate with loved ones who live farther away, and so much more. We’re just saying to be smart about it. Learn what Internet doorways the new technology opens up, and make sure you take the appropriate steps to protect your children from any unwanted discoveries.
As the primary educators of your children, your kids will take their cues from you. If you haven’t ever talked with them about how to use the Internet wisely or sexuality or what type of pictures are bad, then they most likely won’t talk about those topics with you either.
As you head into Christmas break, I invite you to take these four action steps:
1. Equip yourself to better protect your children.
- Subscribe to the “Protect Your Kids” portion of the Covenant Eyes blog.
- Visit our video page for video tutorials on how to set up parental controls on your gadgets.
- For our Catholic friends, we invite you to watch the video “A Safe Haven Starts at Home” on CMGConnect Parents (offered in both English and Spanish).
2. Download Covenant Eyes on all your Internet-capable devices.
We’ve been working hard on Screen Accountability this past year, and we’re also partnered with Clean Browsing, a filtering company, to provide website blocking. This means that if a Covenant Eyes member, who is using the Filter service, attempts to visit a pornographic website on any device, then CleanBrowsing will block the site.
Installing Covenant Eyes on your children’s devices could be your first opportunity to have a conversation with your son or daughter about sexuality and the overall topics of pornography, sexting, cyberbullying, and online predators.
3. Have age-appropriate conversations
Talk about pornography and human sexuality with your kids. These great resources can help you know how to say things you might not be comfortable saying:
- Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson (for ages 8-12). A wonderful resource for talking to younger kids about pornography.
- Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives by Covenant Eyes (for parents with kids of all ages). This free e-book provides strategies for parents who want to help their kids use technology wisely.
- Wonderfully Made! Babies by Ellen Giangiordano (for ages 9 and up). This is a Catholic perspective on why God makes babies.
- There’s What on My Phone? How God’s Good Gift Beats Porn by Lisa Taylor (for ages 10-14). This resource covers a broad range of digital issues, including sexting and pornography, from a Biblical perspective.
4. Talk with the parents of your child’s friends.
It’s important to realize that your child is only as safe as your child’s friends are. Help us reach more parents this Christmas and New Year and talk with a friend about Internet safety for their kids. You could even share this blog post with them!
It is difficult to be a parent in the digital age. But, we hope to lessen the burden by providing these very practical steps parents can take in order to provide a safer digital home this Christmas season.
One of the more difficult aspects of managing technology with my children (specifically my 13 year old daughter) has been with friends and their use of technology. My daughter has some friends that have free reign with their cell phone and just about any apps they want to use. I can have all the boundaries with my children in the world that I feel is needed, but if I am too permissive with allowing a friend over with inappropriate content on their phone in the bedroom then I can still be allowing the trash in my home. When she has had large sleepovers, we have implemented a cell-phone in a basket rule to try to keep things safe. I want to have good, healthy boundaries in how I manage technology, but I also know that I can’t prevent everything, so I don’t want to be over-the-top to the point that it is smothering. Struggling to find the right balance.