Tips Regarding the Internet in Christian Homeswith Children and Teenagers… (Part 1 of 3)
Christians are caught between the hype pushing the wonders and marvels of the internet and the hype about how dangerous the internet might be. If you know all about the internet then you already know how you intend to meet this contradiction. But if you are among those parents who feel inadequate when it comes to computers and the internet, then read on for my thoughts.
I've always disagreed with Christians who say that children not be exposed to television. Many Christians, hypocritical their television behavior may be, teach that the television should be banned. It should at least be off limits to children. All television programming is damaging.
I've disagreed. Yes, there is some television that children should be protected from. But the most accepted television for children has been the television that I believe most dangerous… Cartoons. Nearly all cartoons are violent in nature. Rabbits, cats, and mice are shot and bombed but miraculously heal moments later and seek retribution. Death is exciting and not real. These cartoons do not build Christian character. Still, parents permissively permit their children to watch this programming without a thought.
I believe that most of what is shown in the evenings can be more or less safely watched when a parent watches with the children. Controversial subjects and lifestyles can be discussed. I believe that children should not be so protected that they grow into adults (or academy students away from home) before they learn that not everyone lives in the loving environment they live in.
I say this to demonstate that I am not a reactionary conservative that wishes to convey the message that the internet is bad for children. I simply believe that children should be guided and observed. Counseled when necessary. And encouraged to live successfully in the world into which they were born. The internet is part of this world.
All computers in a home should be located in a main living area. Carpet cleaners call this "traffic areas". I used to co-own a carpet cleaning company. Computers should be located in the traffic areas of the house, the living room, family room, or perhaps the dining room. They should not be located in children's bedrooms. In fact, I believe that even mom and dad should demonstrate this "traffic area" nature of computer usage by always using even the laptop in the common area of the house. Children learn proper usage patterns by seeing how parents behave. Do as you say…
This means that you can easily see what your child is doing on the computer. Your footsteps will not be heard coming down the hall to the bedroom giving warning to hide what they are doing. You will always be in and out of the area where the computer is. And it's not always hiding that children will be doing. They may be innocently unaware of something they're doing on the internet that may lead to something less than good.
You may or may not be computer literate. But computer screens are not much different from magazine pages. You can visually see what's on the screen without knowing how it got there. And if you go close enough to read the words, that's much better. Sit down occasionally and help with an activity. If it's chat or instant messaging which you permit, then ask what their friend said. And actually sit and read some of the conversation. You'd ask your child what his friend said if it was phone conversation. You'd be interested in what they do and say together. This isn't snooping. This is involving yourself in your children's lives.
Pornography on the web is what is most warned about by concerned Christians. And yes, pornography is available on the web. Sometimes under the most unexpected .com addresses. But today this web pornography is less a threat than it was in the past. In the United States at least, commercial pornographic web sites must require a credit card payment before showing more than teaser pictures. Those teaser pictures may shock younger children if they come across them, and they can come across these pictures. But teaser pictures are relatively mild and actually give you an opportunity to discuss morality, decency, and healthy relationships. Don't choose to shy away from opportunities!
Non-commercial pornographic web sites are too expensive for hobbyists to pay for. Porn sites are heavily hit by visitors and monthly site traffic will bankrupt all but the richest private citizens. And the richest few wouldn't think about running such a potentially profitable business for free. Unless your child borrows your credit card he or she is unlikely to get too deep in pornography on the web. And you will see this charge on your monthly statement if they have covertly used your credit card. There are worse places on the internet to be introduced to pornography.
Hate sites, how-to sites, fraud sites, popular entertainment and lurid music are more easily accessed on the web than pornography. That's why you should be innocently around these internet activities of your children. You're not snooping if you are expected to be around. Pay attention! If you don't know how bookmarks or favorites work, ask you child to teach you. Then on you own look at what they may bookmark.
Don't let your children use passwords that they don't share with you. If they refuse to share a password then deny computer privileges until they do. Until the arrival of Windows XP, most home users didn't have to enter a password in order to startup the computer. When you upgrade to Windows XP, or buy a computer with Windows XP pre-installed, each user will require a password. If everyone in the family uses the same common password, then all configurations, including email and bookmarks/favorites will be shared. But if you start the computer with individual passwords, then your child's configuration won't be available to you. It may seem good to separate each person's usage. And it can be convenient. But I believe that it is a dangerous practice for parents with children and teenagers. Safety requires that your children cannot hide internet activities from you. If you refrain from having your own separate identity on the computer then your children will understand and accept that their identity on the computer is shared as well.
In part 2 we discuss newsgroups and in part 3 we consider chat and instant messaging.