“Mom, my throat really hurts. I’m going to google Caribbean Passion to get a recipe for a smoothie.” His favorite smoothie shop made a tropical sensation with mangos, bananas, kiwis, and strawberries aptly named Caribbean Passion.
“Sure, sounds like a great idea.” As soon as the words were out, I realized my mistake. “WAIT! Add ‘smoothie’ in the search box.” I quickly joined my then 11-year-old at the computer. A conversation with a friend had come back to me. She had been investigating venues with rock climbing walls for her daughter’s birthday party. The search was going well until she entered Dick’s in the search box for the local sporting goods store and up popped a number of porn sites. Not at all what she expected!
Keeping kids safe in a technology driven culture is daunting. Computers, tablets, and smartphones make virtually anything available. The world is just a click away. Here are a few ideas to guide you along the way.
• Open communication. Talk to your kids about what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate online. Respect is key, for others and themselves. My line with the boys has been, “If you wouldn’t want Grandma or me to see it or read it, don’t post it.”
Keep the conversations going as your children mature and begin to use the Internet academically and socially. Sexting and sharing drug, tabbaco, and alcohol related photos is common. What’s posted online is forever.
• Keep the computer in a common area, kitchen or family room. Place the screen facing out so adults can monitor what sites kids are visiting and what is being posted. Security software is helpful, but Mom and Dad are the best to keep track of Internet travels.
Know the passwords for your children’s accounts and help them with the privacy settings. Coach kids to NEVER share passwords or personal information including age, birthdate, address, and phone numbers online.
• Post a copy of Philippians 4:8. The verse on the computer screen will remind family members to visit wholesome sites. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
• Be a good role model in what you post, share, and watch online.
• If your child is participating in social media, join in. Friend him on Facebook or follow him on Instagram. Learn about social media. Click here for a link to one of the most comprehensive articles I’ve read on the subject of social media. The blog post includes good questions to ask kids and a list of specific sites and apps to be aware of for high risk online. The information is geared for teens and young adults, but is helpful for all ages. Continue the conversation with a discussion about faith and values. How can the love of God be shared through a Facebook account?
Eric and I sat down at the computer that day and found a number of terrific smoothie recipes, and only recipes, to sooth his sore throat. There weren’t any embarrassing surprises!
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.