Twenty years ago, parents would say that television causes most arguments in their homes. Now parents rank ‘Coping with the digital technology in the lives of their children’ as their biggest headache. A mother of four and five year olds told of how it took several weeks to get the inane violence of Cartoon Channel out of her boys' system, after she blocked it in frustration at their fighting. Another mum says that her seven year old gave up KFC soft serves for Lent because giving up electronic games was far too hard. Another mum threw the Nintendo in the swimming pool. A twelve year old boy stole his father’s iPad and sold it at school for $100… and this is just the benign side.
Consider the copycat teen suicides on webcam, the four out of five UK sixteen year olds who said they access internet pornography regularly, and the ‘hidden epidemic’ of unregulated internet gambling, as it was recently called.
What are the best strategies for parents?
• First, it is imperative that you form the conscience of your child about what is right and wrong. This is the first priority if they are to run their own lives.
‘The role of parents is of primary importance. They have the right and duty to ensure the prudent use of the media by training the conscience of their children to express sound and objective judgements which will guide them in choosing or rejecting programs.’Benedict XVI
You can only train the conscience of a child if you have open trusting conversations. You are very unlikely to know what your child is viewing and doing on line unless you are closer to your child than the opposition. Talk frankly and affectionately about the beauty of human sexuality and how we must reject its trivialisation in the media. Talk about the obscenity of violence as entertainment.
• Second, lead by example. Put your mobile on the kitchen table at 9pm. Blacklist Game of Thrones and every other program that trades on violence or sex. Don’t stay up on your own with the television. Have a family meeting to agree on rules for all. • Third, and only third, put a good filter on your all devices in the family, monitor their use, and use the information to educate not punish. • Fourth, knock on the school principal’s door if the school is less careful than this. Child protection has multiple dimensions.
- Do you hold family meetings to discuss digital rules in the home?
- We are impressionable by nature. What we are exposed to changes us for keeps. Nobody other than a child’s parent has the ultimate responsibility to ensure their child’s safe environment. Do you discuss this often as a couple and take action?
- You cannot twist your child’s arm to get him or her to confide in you. You cannot educate minds without trust. Your greatest challenge is to be close to your child or teen so they open their heart to you. Do you invest in this relationship every day?
Well I know one good Facebook story
A young man who had been raised by a single mum decided when he had left school to track down his father. He looked on Facebook and messaged all with his father’s name. One replied and invited him to visit. He drove six hours into country NSW and when he arrived, across the verandah of his father’s house was a great banner, ‘Welcome my son.’ They shared a wonderful weekend.
Home filters that work
Here are some popular and effective filters for the home. Some are free. Others, by subscription, offer more monitoring or flexibility.
• Qustodio • Net Nanny • Kaspersky Safe Kids • Open DNS. • Norton Online Family • K9 Web Protection • Social Shield • Windows Live Family Safety.