Let’s talk about one of the biggest dangers to our children. This is the one thing that we all have in our homes, and most of us have in our pocket: the internet.
The internet is a wonderful thing. It allows us to access a world of unlimited information, but with unlimited information comes a very real threat to our children. From cyber bullying to pornography, the internet can be a very dangerous place for young minds.
The average age for a child to view pornography for the first time is 11 years old. Kids this age are completely unequipped to process the inappropriate content that they may run into while online. For that matter, adults aren’t processing it too well either.
Kids don’t even have to be trying to find pornography. I once read that a Dora the Explorer video on YouTube is just four “suggested” videos away from pornographic content. Kids can access pornography from:
Any TV with satellite or cable service
Their friends’ devices
And it isn’t just Google that is willing to serve up pornography to your child. Amazon is more than happy to do so also. Yes, Amazon shopping. So are Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram. Pornography IS EVERYWHERE.
If you are not working hard to prevent your child from viewing inappropriate content, you can count on them finding it sooner rather than later (if they haven’t already).
As parents, it is our job to protect our kids from harm. Keeping kids safe online is just as important as protecting them from sickness and physical injuries. Their brains are developing, and can literally be changed by viewing pornography. Brain chemistry in adults has proven to be changed by it.
You cannot depend on checking your child’s internet history. I repeat, you CANNOT depend on that. History can be deleted, and it can be deleted line by line, so you THINK you are looking at a full day of internet searches, but you are looking at it minus deleted searches. Deleting search history is something any kid who is even remotely tech savvy can do.
Even worse, most devices have the ability to search privately. This is usually called “private, incognito” or something similar. This feature allows the user to look at anything they want without it leaving a trail for you to find. Scary huh?
But fear not. We can keep our kids safe.
How do we protect our children while they are online?
Here are several ways you can keep your child save online:
Use accountability software to protect your children and teach them responsible use.
Young children do not need the internet in any shape or form unless you are right there with them, but older kids and teens will sometimes need to do online searches. This is where software like Covenant Eyes comes in.
We use Covenant Eyes on all of our devices.
Covenant Eyes is all about accountability. You can set filters to be age appropriate: from young users to teen. This allows kids a certain amount of freedom online. They can search, but they know they will be held accountable for anything inappropriate that is searched for or viewed because their accountability partner will get a report.
For kids in our home, mom is their accountability partner. I do not hide the fact that I will see their online activity from my kids. They know that in our home, we are open with each other about what we view online.
For adults who want accountability, you can choose to have your report emailed to anyone. There is also a panic button to shut down internet access for a time if the temptation to look at something inappropriate becomes too much.
Covenant Eyes can be used on any of your devices, except gaming consoles and televisions. I will discuss those later.
In addition to accountability software and filtering, use router level controls. Router level controls will filter content, set time limits, or even shut down the internet completely on any device connected to your Wi-Fi. This is very important for those of you who have gamers in your house.
Game consoles like Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Wii are all capable of accessing inappropriate online content. Router level controls will block bad content, and also give you a report of all internet usage, so if someone uses your Wi-Fi to search for content that is not allowed, you can receive a report.
Routers like this Linksys have built in parental controls that make it easy for you to set up.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item through one of my links, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
No devices behind closed doors, EVER. Never ever.
Children have no business using devices behind closed doors. Your child should not be in their room on their tablet or smart phone. They should not have a TV with cable or internet access in their room. Same goes for gaming consoles. I once heard someone refer to their Xbox as their “primary porn machine”.
Devices need a bedtime. When your kid is supposed to be asleep, the devices need to be in your room.
All computers need to be in open areas where anyone can walk by at anytime. Life was so much easier when the huge desktop computer was our only concern, but we need to apply this same rule to all devices.
Keep open communication with your kids
Use age appropriate words (young children do not need to know specifics) to explain to your child that you are WORKING TOGETHER as a family to stay safe online. Make sure they know that you trust them, but that we have to be a team when it comes to internet safety. Keeping communication open will make the difference between your teenager resenting all the precautions you are taking, and them understanding that you want to protect them from the outside forces that are coming into your home via the internet.
Did you know that many apps that are rated for everyone, contain inappropriate images? My son brought a Meme Maker app to my attention. He wanted to use it to make funny memes with his photos, but other users were posting their very inappropriate memes for anyone to view. Play the games and watch what ads pop up. Explore all apps in detail and see what you can search for, and who you can talk to. Even the most basic apps come with texting features, where community members can message each other. Be smart! Always know exactly what your child’s device can do.
I know a lot of parents who allow their children (even tiny kids) to have free reign over YouTube to watch videos of kids playing with toys, Dude Perfect, or even cartoons. This is so unsafe! If your child uses YouTube, it should be on your device, not theirs, and you should be present.
You can set YouTube to restricted mode, but being totally honest, it isn’t worth it. It is a piece of cake to undo restricted mode. On top of that, YouTube’s idea of restricted and my idea of restricted are not quite the same.
I keep my YouTube set to restricted mode, and even so, highly inappropriate videos pop up in the suggested viewing. It doesn’t matter if what you are watching is geared toward children.
In addition to the suggested viewing guiding your kids straight to F bombs and other things that I’m not going to type out, have you read the comments on YouTube videos? Your kid will need the Urban Dictionary to unravel what they read in the comments. Fairwell innocence!
Kid safe browsers are preferable to Google, Safari, Bing, or Yahoo. Common Sense Media is one of the many sites we use to screen our childrens’ movies, games, and books. They have compiled a list of kid safe browsers for you to install on your internet capable device.
How to Set up Google Safe Search:
If you allow your children to search Google, you need to be locked in on Safe Search. Filtering programs cannot catch everything that shows up on Google images because they are made to filter websites. Image results show up for even the most rated G searches if they are uploaded with keywords that are rated G.
In other words, it is possible to upload a pornographic photo to a website, and label it on your site as something very clean, like, “rainbows and butterflies”. Since filtering programs cannot see that image, when your child types in “rainbows and butterflies”, guess what pops up? Yep, the death of childhood pops right up for them to see.
How to set up safe search on Google:
Go to Google and search for something. On the search results page, you’ll see a gear icon on the right. Click the gear and choose Search Settings.
On the Search Settings page, put a checkmark next to “Filter explicit results”. Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save.
Be sure to lock safe search, so your child cannot turn it off.
You can lock Safe Search to the “strict” setting if you have a Google account. The lock means search settings cannot be changed without your Google password.
On the Search Settings page, change the “SafeSearch” filters setting from moderate to Strict.
Click “Lock SafeSearch” then log into your Google account.
How to set up Bing safe search:
Open a browser and go to Bing.com.
Select the icon in the upper right of the Bing.com window. Select Settings , and then select More.
Choose your Safe Search preference: Strict, Moderate, or Off. Select Save at the bottom of the menu.
How to turn on safe search on Yahoo:
Open the Yahoo search web page and make sure that you are logged in to your account.
Hover over the gear icon and select the Preferences option.
Here you can see a Yahoo Safe Search option right next to which you can find a drop-down menu. In the drop down menu, you can choose the option to be either Strict, Moderate, or Off.
In the strict option, it blocks web pages, videos, and images while in the Moderate option it does not filter the web pages but only images and videos.
You can also lock this setting by clicking on the lock Safe Search button.
Finally clicking on the Save button saves your search preferences.
But what about kids who are on Smart Phones and cellular?
This is a very important question to answer. Once a device is off your Wi-Fi, your router level controls are useless. Your accountability software however, will have you covered. Covenant Eyes will monitor and safe-guard your Android and iOS device even when it is not on Wi-Fi. There are also extra safe guards for you child’s smart phone or tablet.
How to set up parental controls on your iPhone, iPad, or iPad:
Tap Settings > General > Restrictions.
Scroll down and tap Restrictions, then tap Enable Restrictions.
Create a Restrictions passcode. You need your Restrictions passcode to change your settings or to turn off Restrictions.
In the Restrictions area, you will be able to limit all adult content, specific websites, books and music with explicit lyrics, app installation, and app deletion.
It is a good idea to disable installing and deleting apps on your child’s iOS device. Otherwise, it is possible for them to install a new web browser, look at inappropriate content, and then delete the browser.
How to set up parental controls on Android devices:
Team Know How has a great guide for setting up parental controls on Android Devices.
How do I make my child’s game console safer?
How to set up parental controls on Xbox:
Sign in to your Xbox account.
Tap or click My account.
Tap or click Security, family & forums.
Tap or click Xbox Online Safety, and then select the account you want to adjust.
Select Allowed or Blocked next to the areas you want to limit or allow access to, and then tap or click Save.
What can I control on the Xbox console?
You can control the following on your Xbox 360 console:
Ratings and Content: These settings let you restrict games and video content based on the content’s rating. You can also set whether or not unrated or explicit content can be played on this console:
Tip You can set up exceptions for individual games that are outside of the rating restrictions you’ve set.
Family Timer: This setting allows you to limit the time your console can be used on a daily or weekly basis.
Xbox Live Access: This setting allows you to decide if your family can connect to Xbox Live from this console.
Xbox Live Membership Creation: This setting allows you to control whether or not new Xbox Live memberships can be created from your console.
How to set up Parental Controls on Playstation:
Playstation has a really great guide for setting up a family manager who can manage the parental controls for your family. You can find their detailed guide here.
How to set up parental controls on a Nintendo Wii:
From the Wii U Menu, select “Parental Controls.”
If prompted, tap “Next” and enter the four-digit PIN.
If the PIN has been forgotten, it will need to be reset.
Select the option you wish to configure.
To change restriction settings, tap “Parental Controls Settings” and then “OK.”
You can set different restrictions for each user.
To change the four-digit PIN, tap “Change PIN.” Enter a new four-digit PIN then tap OK. Enter in the PIN one more time, and then tap “OK” twice. Select a secret question and create an answer that is at least four characters long, then tap “OK” three times.
To change the registered e-mail address, tap “Change E-Mail address” then tap “OK.” Enter in an alternate e-mail address then tap “OK” twice to confirm.
To remove all Parental Control settings tap “Delete All Settings” or press the X Button. If the user on the system is Under-13, you will not be able to clear settings.
How to set parental controls on Nintendo Switch:
Nintendo has made a video featuring all of their parental control features. You can even view what games your family plays most, how long they have played, and block specific games.
I will absolutely keep updating this post as I come up with more ways to keep our kids safe online. Please share YOUR tips for keeping kids safe online!
Fight the New Drug is a wonderful resource for all things related to the dangers of porn. There is course for teenagers called Fortify that is an excellent resource for helping teens 13-17 years old fight porn. You will also find a Parents Guide to help you navigate the waters of parenting a child in the internet age.