Screen Smart Families: Tips for Internet Safety at Home
We've been sharing tips and insight from other parents about how to approach technology with wisdom and balance as a family. We've covered several different aspects of being a screen smart family because we know parents are facing many different challenges as they navigate today's culture with their kids. This post, though, may very well be the most important one in the series, because unless we teach our kids to engage safely with media and technology; unless we protect them from the dangers lurking everywhere they turn, we will encounter much bigger threats to our family culture.
Let's start with the basics, some of the best tools and resources we have found to help Christian families protect kids from all the junk out there on the internet.
Our favorite tools and resources for family internet safety:
- Covenant Eyes (filter)
- Circle (filter)
- Parents Who Fight (ministry/resource)
- The Tech Wise Family, book by Andy Crouch
- Protect Young Minds (online resources)
- Above the Fray (online resources)
- My Secure Family (online resources)
- Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, book by Kristen A Jenson and Gail Poyner
- Bark (monitoring app for social networks, texts, emails, etc)
Here's what our bloggers had to share about their experience and the lessons they've learned about internet safety in their homes:
- "My husband and I believe that it is important that our children's passwords for any and all social media accounts are shared with us. We also believe it's important to not get "lazy" in monitoring what our children are exposed to on the Internet. Internet security tools like Covenant Eyes are a great help to keep everyone accountable. We have frequent family discussions about both the good and bad ways the Internet and social media are used and this helps our family work together to remain cautious and pure." Carlie Kercheval, Today's Frugal Family™
- "The biggest challenge we face is the balance between teaching them how to use media wisely and not just keeping them in a bubble. We want to train our kids to judge what is appropriate and what is not and what to do if they accidentally see something inappropriate (because it will happen)." Heidi Franz, Our Out of Sync Life
- "Kids watch their parents. If I carry my phone around with me all the time, even at home, when they get a phone, they will assume that's how you are supposed to do it. I have to not only protect myself, but be a better example to them. I have to model the right way...the best way to interact with technology." Amanda White, OhAmanda.com
- "A big lesson we learned: NO ONE is immune. Parents can never assume their kids are fine, even if computers are in public areas of the house. I had a blog reader tell me her son was looking at porn five feet from her! We must not only have filters but talk often and openly about things. Make sure your kids know they can come to you and you'll be supportive and understanding because this is a crazy world! (I also direct my blog readers to the book Good Pictures Bad Pictures, which prepares kids for what to do if/when they see pornography.)" Monica Swanson, The Grom Mom
- "Family guidelines are important and must be enforced. For instance, we have a "no device in your room" policy. Even though they have parental controls on them, the kids are not allowed to have their devices in their bedrooms. My husband and I follow this with our phones for the most part, too. Unless we have a special circumstance, our phones stay downstairs at night and we don't get them until we come down for breakfast. This helps our marriage and it's a good example for the kids when they get phones someday. At some point, this may change as they get older and prove they're responsible, but for now, it's a guideline that's working well for our family. (I realize this may not work for all families, depending on circumstances.)" Jess Wolstenholm, Gather & Grow
- "I have tried several internet safety tools and have been frustrated and/or disappointed by each one. So, what I've learned is that while safety software is helpful, it should not be our only defense against the danger of the internet. We have to create healthy, safe habits ourselves and then make sure those guidelines are being followed. A machine or program can't do that for my family." Mary Carver, Giving Up on Perfect
- "It's really important as parents for us to be aware of what our kids are watching and listening to, checking in on it regularly but in a calm and rational manner." Jennifer Thorson, The Purposeful Mom
- "When we do searches together online for homeschool projects, we use kid-safe search engines. From our own experience, we know we don't want to simply do Google searches. Also, we must model good habits! Being on the screen all the time in front of our kids is not what we want them to mimic or remember about us." Tauna Meyer, The Proverbial Homemaker
- "I am very careful about social media and my kids so I never post where we are. We haven't had to deal with our kids using the internet yet, but I want to be careful myself now so that I can teach them how to safely use it." Kara-Kae James, Thrive Moms
Making Your Own Screen-Smart Family Plan
Here are some key questions about internet safety to ask as your formulate your own Screen-Smart Family Plan:
- What safety filters will we use in our home and on our devices?
- What type of accountability will we put in place (knowing kids' passwords, reports on what they've been looking at, etc.)?
- Where will family members be allowed to use technology? Will we have an "open door" policy?
- How will we handle it if the kids see something they shouldn't?
- How will we communicate that it's safe for them to share with us if they stumble upon something concerning?
Other posts in this series: