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CHILDREN ONLINE What Parents Can Do

Sunday, July 29, 2012

AS A parent, which situation would make you more nervous—knowing that your son or daughter had the keys to the family car or knowing that he or she had unrestricted access to the Internet? Both activities involve a measure of danger. And both require a level of responsibility. Parents cannot forever restrict their children from operating a vehicle, but they can make sure that their children are taught to drive safely. Many parents take a similar approach to use of the Internet. The following Bible principles will help.
“Everyone shrewd will act with knowledge.” (Proverbs 13:16) Parents whose children have Internet access need to have a basic understanding of how the Internet works and what their children are doing when instant messaging, browsing Web pages, or engaging in other online activities. “Don’t conclude that you are too old or uneducated to learn,” says Marshay, a mother of two. “Keep up with the technology.”
Experts believe that up to 750,000 predators may be online on a daily basis, trolling Internet chat rooms and dating services
“You shall put a railing around your [flat] roof, so that no one may fall from there.” (Deuteronomy 22:8, The Amplified Bible) Internet service providers and software programs may offer parental controls that act as “railings” to block inappropriate pop-ups and access to harmful sites. Some programs can even help prevent children from revealing personal information, such as their name or address. It should be realized, however, that such parental controls are not foolproof. Also, many older children who are computer literate learn how to bypass them.
“One isolating himself will seek his own selfish longing; against all practical wisdom he will break forth.” (Proverbs 18:1) A study in the United Kingdom revealed that nearly 1 in 5 youths between the ages of 9 and 19 had Internet access in their bedroom. Having the computer in a busy area helps parents to keep tabs on what their children are doing online and may encourage the children to avoid undesirable sites.
In the United Kingdom, 57 percent of youths between the ages of 9 and 19 who use the Internet weekly have come into contact with pornography; however, only 16 percent of parents believe that their child has seen pornography on the Internet
“Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Decide when children can use the Internet, the length of time they can be online, and the type of sites they can and cannot visit. Discuss your guidelines with your children, and make sure that they understand them.
Of course, you cannot monitor your children when they are outside the home. It is important, therefore, to instill proper values in your children so that they will make wise decisions when they are not in your presence.* (Philippians 2:12) Spell out clearly what the consequences will be if your rules regarding the Internet are broken. Then enforce those rules.
“[A good mother] is watching over the goings-on of her household.” (Proverbs 31:27) Monitor your children’s use of the Internet, and let them know that you will be doing so. This is not an invasion of privacy. Remember, the Internet is a public forum. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States recommends that parents maintain access to their children’s online accounts and randomly check their e-mail and the Web sites that they have visited.
A mother and her son using the Internet
Can you teach your child how to use the Internet responsibly?
“Thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you, to deliver you from the bad way, from the man speaking perverse things.” (Proverbs 2:11, 12) Monitoring and tracking will go only so far. The values you teach—and the example you set—will go much further in protecting your children. So take time to discuss with your children what can happen on the Internet. An open line of communication with your children is your best defense against online dangers. “We talked to both of our boys about ‘bad’ people on the Net,” says Tom, a Christian father. “We also explained what pornography is, why it should be avoided, and why they should never communicate with strangers.”
In the United States, 93 percent of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet

You Can Protect Your Children

Protecting your children from online dangers takes effort, and electronic access to media is constantly changing. New technologies may bring unique advantages and unprecedented risks to children. How can parents prepare their children for future dangers? “Wisdom is for a protection the same as money is for a protection,” says the Bible.—Ecclesiastes 7:12.
Help your children to become wise. Also help them to understand how to avoid online dangers and use the Internet responsibly. Thus, the Internet can be a tool that will not threaten the safety of your children.

*  Parents should remember that many youths can gain access to the Internet via cell phones, other handheld devices, and even some video-game consoles.

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