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The internet is a wondrous invention. With it we now of the opportunity to communicate at an unprecedented level and we have more information at our fingertips than ever before. Without the internet you wouldn’t be reading this article right now and you couldn’t laugh at all the funny videos on YouTube when you should be working. However, as we all know, the internet has a dark side to it and has exposed an entire generation to a new level of temptation. Researchers are have been studying the effects of a generation that has never been without the internet and it is something that us parents need to be aware of so we can combat it in the best ways possible.
Here are four facts that your kids won’t tell you about their experience with the internet:
1) I can access porn without you knowing.
There are two types of parents: Those who know and use internet filtering/accountability software and those who don’t. Here’s my message to both of you: Your kids are accessing porn whether you know it or not. I’ve been in this porn addiction game a long time and if there’s one thing I’ve learned is that no filtering or accountability software is perfect. There are loopholes and tricks to get around any software, not to mention the number of devices that can access the internet that you have no way of installing software on them (Smart TVs, gaming consoles, etc…). For those of you who are not using any software to help protect your children online you are setting up your children to a lifetime of pain and suffering as porn addiction will likely take hold and never let go. So, what your kids won’t tell you is that they are looking at porn one way or another.
2) I will hide my internet activity from you.
70% of teens hide their online activity from the parents. That’s the facts. Now what you need to do is ask yourself if you really think your child is in that 30% who tells you when they’ve made a mistake online. I love my kids and I they are all around good kids but I’m gonna trust the numbers on this one. Whatever they are looking at, watching, or researching, there is a very high chance they will never tell you about it. Now imagine all of the evil, disgusting, and confusing things on the internet, yeah, they’ve seen it. Whether its with a friend or a sibling they will hide what they are doing on the internet from you.
3) I am addicted to the internet.
As I walk around in my community, it doesn’t take long to realize that young people and their relationship to their phones is a problem. If you have kids and they have a cell phone you know what I’m talking about. As a parent I now have to invent new rules in my family that weren’t even a thing when I was a child and its exhausting. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to ground my daughter from using her phone because of some mistake she made using it. What we need to know as parents is that the phone companies, the app inventors, and website gurus all know how the brain works. They spend money and research the perfect sound for a notification so when we hear it the reward centers in our brain get triggered. The same can be said for other apps in how they are designed. Even apps that are supposed to be for communication have built in games that train the user to spend more time on it. Suffice to say, the internet is highly addictive, but your kids would never tell you about that.
4) I feel completely alone.
Research is also showing one of the side effects of young people becoming addicted to the internet is that they feel more isolated the more they use it. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all have this effect and maybe you’ve felt it yourself. The more you use them the more alone you feel so you keep scrolling trying to find real connection and relationship in the one place that can’t offer it. There is no app that can replace deep, meaningful relationships. Technology and the internet are tools but sadly we have replaced the real thing for the tool. There is nothing inherently wrong with the internet or communication apps, in fact there are long list of positives, but when think that hitting a like button is what a true relationship is about then we’ve lost ourselves. Young people crave the “Likes” and the “Shares” and when they get them, they feel good momentarily but that high fades and then they wonder why they are feeling empty and alone, even with several hundred followers on Twitter. Human beings crave and need relationship but if they have bought into the lie that social media alone can give that too them then they are probably feeling isolated and alone, but they would never tell you this.
So what is there to do? Are our kids doomed to lead lonely unfulfilled lives?
Here’s what you can do to help your kids navigate this internet world that we live in today.
Talk, talk, talk
Like I stated before, there is a lot of bad stuff on the internet and porn is just the tip of the iceberg. As parents you need to initiate the conversations on the tough topics. When was the last time you talked about pornography and how to manage living in a world where it is everywhere? Do you talk to your kids about why the accountability software is on their devices? As the adults it is our responsibility to prepare our children for life outside our homes and so we must educate them on all that they will encounter both on and offline. Talk to your kids and keep talking, they will get it eventually.
Walk the talk
The saying goes, “Your actions speak louder than your words.” Maybe you’ve already used this one on your kids, I know I have, but how are you doing with it? Are you modeling the behavior you want for your kids in regard to the internet? Do you have accountability software on your devices? Do you guard your heart and mind against becoming addicted to technology? What practices do you have in place for managing your life in this internet world? If you aren’t modeling the behavior that you are instructing you kids in then they will likely never adopt it themselves.
Structure and discipline
Believe it or not, children actually thrive in an environment where there are expectations and when they fail to meet said expectations they are disciplined accordingly. “BUT I NEED MY PHONE!” I know that there are circumstances where it is best and safe for your kid needs to have their phone but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still discipline how they use it. Limiting time on their phones and what apps they are allowed to use is a good thing, especially if you follow up your decisions with a discussion about why you made it. Have you had a talk with your kids about what the expectations are and what the discipline will be for unhealthy behavior on the internet? If not, its really hard to live up to an expectation if you don’t know what that expectation is.
These are my thoughts on the subject, but I’d love to hear from you. What do you think about the relationship between parents, children, and the internet? Is there something I’m overlooking?
Again, if you need help talking to your child about porn please let us know, it’s kind of our thing.