Back in 1992, the wife and two children of Ron DeHaas, our CEO, were stopped for an accident on a highway near Kalamazoo, MI. A trailer full of kerosene rear-ended them at highway speed, never slowing down, instantly killing all three of them. If you talk to Ron about this incident, he will talk about the loss of his wife and children. But he also talks about the loss of something else as if it was another “person.” His family. The settlement from the trucking company responsible for the accident paid Ron over two million dollars, and he was left with a choice. Live off the money. Or do something. Ron decided that the legacy of his family had to be for the betterment of families. That settlement created Covenant Eyes. Strong families are at our core. Related: Ron’s Legacy Story Video
Covenant Eyes doesn’t work for every family.
We live in a world with hundreds of parental control solutions. Toggles, software, and systems all try and prevent kids from doing and seeing certain things on the internet. Covenant Eyes is not a parental control company. Honestly, we don’t work for every family. If you desire strict control over when your child uses technology and want an accompanying app that allows you to toggle off the Internet with one swipe, that’s not us. If you want to know every time your child uses Snapchat, that’s not us. If you want a complete inventory of every app on your child’s phone, that’s not us. Instead, Covenant Eyes is a parental companion company. We come alongside accountable, intentional parents and help them pass their values on from one generation to the next. This idea of being an accountable family is key to using Covenant Eyes successfully. In 2016, surveyed a small group of long-time Covenant Eyes users. According to their results, families who had been using Covenant Eyes for at least five years tend to have children who have attitudes about porn that are vastly different from the general public. We called these long-time CE users accountable families. That leaves us with a really important question. What is an accountable family? A few common traits stand out.
- Accountable families care deeply about the entity of family and work hard to nurture the family. This happens over the course of years.
- Accountable families speak openly about everything from a very early age.
- Accountable families have children who are willing participants in the usage of Covenant Eyes.
- Accountable families embrace technology with a spirit of respect and confidence. Not fear and avoidance.
- Accountable families have parents who obey all the same digital safety rules as their children. They model everything they want their kids to do.
When those five factors are present, we believe great things happen. When Ron saw the results of the Barna study, he said, “Accountable families that use Covenant Eyes and take the spiritual formation of their families seriously are successful in passing on their values from one generation to the next.” Let’s break down each piece.
1. Accountable families care deeply about the entity of family and work hard to nurture the family.
This has been happening for years. These families spend time together. They are lovingly and intentionally involved in each other’s lives. These families have parents who are attentive to the feelings of their children, who aren’t harsh, build their children up, and are respected because of how they parent, not due to the decibels of their voice. Other words that dominant their parenting style are structure (discipline) and support (structure). Scripture has much to share about these ideas (excerpted from Parenting the Internet Generation chapter 8):
- Discipline is all about structure. It involves managing one’s household well (1 Timothy 3:4,12) and training children not to be unruly (Titus 1:6) by warning (1 Corinthians 4:14), imploring (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12), correcting, and chastising (Hebrews 12:5-7).
- Instruction is all about support. It involves opening your heart wide to your children in love (2 Corinthians 6:13), providing for them (Luke 11:11-13; 2 Corinthians 12:14), engaging them in encouraging and comforting dialogue (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12), and modeling what real virtue looks like (1 Peter 5:1-4).
In other words, aim for the red circle.
2. Accountable families speak openly about everything from a very early age.
I have a 15-year-old daughter, and three sons ages 8-10. My daughter and I, along with her mom (Andrea) laugh and joke about sex as a normal part of life (within the context of marriage—she gets that). This openness started way back in elementary school, talking openly about pornography, what it is, and how God’s ideas about sex and intimacy are so much better. She knows that husbands and wives share this gift with each other. Another example. I run an internet safety business (Protect Young Eyes) that interacts with parents all the time. I had a mom, who heard my Internet safety presentation, email me asking about what apps are “safe” for young girls to use in order to help them track their menstrual cycle. I went to the kitchen and asked my daughter what she thought I should tell this mom based on what she knew from school. No big deal. We’ve spoken openly about her period from the beginning. It’s just a part of life. We talk about everything. Which means I have a wide-open doorway to ask her whatever I want about her iPhone, what she’s watching on it, if the young boy who’s sweet on her is texting her, or anything else. Trust is high. Building this trust was intentional and it started years ago.
3. Accountable families have children who are willing participants in the usage of Covenant Eyes.
Naturally, you might ask “Chris, but what do you say or do to make them willing participants?” I don’t have all the answers, but I think it has something to do with making sure they know that from the very first Internet-ready device they touch, that it’s something that is shared, co-owned, used together. This is why parents should not give young kids their own tablets. Their own devices. I believe that starts to plant a small seed of individuality that I just don’t want when it comes to portable super computers (that’s kind of what an iPhone is). Lauren received her first Internet-ready device at age 10—a hot pink Kindle. We named it “Dad and Lauren’s Kindle”, with a double selfie of both of us. She used it for Minecraft and games. I picked it up and poked around on it while she was in the room, just so she was accustomed to me handling “our” device. She knew there was nothing she could hide on it. It was ours! And, words like “ours” and “we” and “us” are the only words I want attached to technology usage in my family.
4. Accountable families embrace technology with a spirit of respect and confidence.
Not fear and avoidance. At Protect Young Eyes, one of our mottos is PRO KID, PRO TECH, PROTECT. It is possible to do all three. It is possible for kids to embrace and use technology in middle and high school and still develop a strong sense of self, agency, confidence, and self-control. How? Refer back to points 1 and 2.
5. Accountable families have parents who obey all the same digital safety rules as their children.
They model everything they want their kids to do. Blocking porn is good for them and you. Keep their devices out of the bedroom, and don’t sleep with your device in your room either. I’ve come to realize that I should be able to show just about everything I do on the Internet to a 12-year-old. That means if you want your 14-year-old son to use Covenant Eyes, then the whole family should be using it, speaking to an ally, and living with integrity. Lead by example. Don’t click what you don’t want them to click. “Accountable families that use Covenant Eyes and take the spiritual formation of their families seriously are successful in passing on their values from one generation to the next.” Are you an accountable family? If so, there is no better tool on earth than Covenant Eyes to come alongside your parenting to show your kids how to use technology well.