Suppose you were chatting over coffee with another friend at a local coffee shop and you’re asked a simple question: “How are you monitoring what your children are watching online?” How would you answer that question? Could you answer that question? With the complexities of our digital world, you may have just handed your child a smartphone (that you pay the bill for) and simply given up on any ability whatsoever to monitor, control, and protect your children from the online world. Not only is that irresponsible, it’s extremely detrimental to the wellbeing of your children. So, the good news is that it’s becoming easier to oversee your home digitally.
Christians are called to the work of disciple-making in the work of parenting (Deut. 6). Therefore, to turn children over to smartphones without proper oversight is to be lazy-minded in the approach and can lead to massive disasters along the way. Take charge as a parent, learn how to navigate this complex digital world, learn how to use new tools, and most of all, disciple your children in the gospel (Eph. 6:4). That being said, I think it’s unwise to demonize the use of technology—including smartphones and video games. To suggest that people are less holy because they like to use a specific technology is not a wise approach or honest evaluation. However, it’s how one uses such technology that matters. It can be used for the glory of God and enjoyment in this life, or it can become a vicious god. It’s essential to control your technology or your technology will control you.
Like it or not, your children spend a lot of time online. According to one study, teens are spending nine hours online per day. They do so for school homework, for gaming with their friends, for relaxation, for music, for TV and movies, and to chat with their friends. So, it’s not going away anytime soon unless you’re planning to move to a remote village in a third world country, but surprise—the Internet is often there too. So, let’s face the facts—children and adults spend a lot of time online these days.
All of the statistics point to the massive rise in the amount of time spent online through a smartphone device. According to one study, the time spent online across platforms varies, depending on the specific apps that are being used.
- YouTube = 40 minutes per day.
- Twitter = 1 minute per day.
- Instagram = 15 minutes per day.
- Facebook = 35 minutes per day.
- Snapchat = 25 minutes per day.
That’s a lot of time spent on phones, but tragically, it’s the lack of accountability and monitoring regarding how teens are using phones that we should be concerned about. According to the math, if a child receives a smartphone at 13 years of age, if these numbers hold true, they will watch 1,216 hours of YouTube clips and shows by the time they graduate high school. That’s way more time with complete strangers than with one-to-one time with their parents. So, who is discipling and training the children these days? That doesn’t take into consideration the whopping amount of hours chatting on social media with friends and watching movies on Netflix.
The dangers are real. Predators lurk online and seek to gain the influence of your children. But, let’s imagine a world without predators (one that doesn’t exist this side of heaven), but let’s not forget the billions of dollars of marketing money spent to directly influence and attract your children to make decisions about life and how they will spend their time and money which drastically shapes their worldview.
Recently, Snapchat, a rising star in the social media world among teens, has now released a porn channel that will allow people to view online porn through the Snapchat app. Cosmo After Dark is a new channel on Snapchat’s “discover” section that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. According to Snapchat, this new feature is “an X-rated weekly edition that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. and is exclusively dedicated to all things hot and horny.” Here’s the danger, it’s in the hands of your children and it contains, at this point, no parental controls. Jenny Rapson over at For Every Mom, writes, “remember there are not and never have been parental controls on Snapchat. There is no way for you to keep this from your kids.”
First of all, tools are not full-proof systems that will prevent any and all dangers from your children. If you put a murderer in prison, if he desires to murder, he will find a way to do it without knives and guns. If you put a smartphone in the hands of a depraved teenager, if he or she is looking for a crack in the system, no tool will prevent them from seeing pornography or from engaging in other sinful behaviors. Each parent has to monitor their own children and in some cases, the parents may need to be willing to take away all online privileges from their children when they cannot be trusted to use them for good.
If you are interested in using good tools to monitor, I recommend the Disney Circle system which can be purchased online or in some big box stores like BestBuy. It’s super easy to setup and it’s also super easy to monitor your children’s time online. The system allows you set on and off times for your children’s devices for Internet usage, pause the Internet, and control the online usage of your entire family on a device-by-device basis or the entire house as a whole. It also allows you to restrict specific apps and websites. Straight out of the box, the Disney Circle system has built-in filters that can be used for your children that prevent many of the mistake views of pornography that often entrap children once they see it for the first time. Once you start using it, you will find ways to customize your family’s use of the Internet while tracking where they spend the majority of their time.
One of the reasons I like the Disney Circle system is that it’s designed for the non-tech user who doesn’t understand how to use some of the more advanced filters on the market. Some of the features it offers are nice, including the off feature, pause feature, and the reward feature (where you reward your child with more time if you desire)—and all of this monitoring is done straight from the Disney Circle app that you have on your phone. What about that friend who visits your child in your home and brings their device with them? Through the control panel app on your phone, you can recognize their device, and add it to your filtering system too.
For a monthly fee, you can have your Disney Circle cloud follow your child outside of your home to school and other friend’s homes where the same restrictions, filters, and Internet on-off schedules will apply. So, take back control of your home and use good tools that enable you to better monitor and protect your children online.
Don’t be a naive parent. Know what your children are watching and how they’re interacting online. After all, it’s your responsibility.