No healthy parents would ever allow their children to spend unsupervised time with a pedophile. But, in essence, that’s exactly what millions of parents do when it comes to their children and the internet. The internet brings into our houses dangers that our parents never had to worry about, dangers about which you and I had better be worried. I am worried; for me, the challenge of raising a child in today’s sexualized culture is terrifying
Preying on Children By Any Means Available
On Monday, the front page of my local paper had a story about a former teacher who has been sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges. It’s a very disturbing story; the teacher, who preyed on teenage boys, would send them pictures of naked women, claim to be a woman, and ask the boys to send him naked pictures of themselves in return. The teacher would then blackmail those boys who sent him photos into sending him more photos, and worse. From the Dallas Morning News:
Many of his victims for months and even years had no idea who did this to them, Johnson said. They were “constantly looking over their shoulder and paranoid,” she said. “To them, it was just a matter of time” until their photos would be revealed, she said.
Some parents noticed that their grades suffered and they lost interest in sports, she said.”
The teacher made contact with the boys through various “hook-up apps” on their smart phones.
I wish this were one isolated incident. Unfortunately, we know that the dangers to children that the internet presents are ubiquitous.
3 Guarantees About Our Kids and Online Sexual Content
I guarantee you that if you have a boy of adolescent age and older, he is looking at internet pornography. If you have never addressed the issue of pornography with your son or if you have not taken any steps to restrict his internet access (see below), I guarantee he is looking at pornography. I think moms especially have a hard time acknowledging or admitting that their boys are furtively looking at pornography, but it is true. (Of course, the sad truth is that many boys and girls much younger than adolescents are also exposed to pornography. Young children are not safe from these dangers, and neither are our girls.)
I cannot imagine what it must be like to be an adolescent boy these days and have hardcore pornography available after a few short taps on a smart phone. (Like most men of my age and older, I sincerely thank God that I grew up in the days before internet pornography.) You may think, “Not my son–he’s not like that.” You are being recklessly naive.
I guarantee you that there are bad people out there who will use whatever technology available to prey on children. As soon as a new app is invented, someone somewhere is using it for evil purposes.
I guarantee you that if you don’t take steps to protect and educate your children, no one else will. Our primary responsibility as parents is to keep our children safe. But, in the cesspool that is our popular culture, how do we do this?
Parenting in a Sexualized Culture
We can’t get away from the filth of our culture–it’s everywhere. What we can do, though, is take the necessary steps to protect our kids, and, more importantly, educate ourselves and our kids about these issues.
First: Install A Filter on Your Home Router ASAP. At my house we use Open DNS. Though there is a free version, I pay the nominal fee ($19.95 a year) for the enhanced features. By no means does a filter mean that we don’t have to worry, but it is a necessary step. There are lots of different options out there–pick one and implement it ASAP.
Second: Educate Yourself About Parenting in a Sexualized Culture. I know absolutely nothing about how to parent in a sexualized culture, but there are people out there who have wisdom to share. One such group is a Christian non-profit called pureHOPE. Last year at my church, we hosted pureHope’s Dan Martin who taught a course on the topic of “Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.” My wife attended Dan’s course and was both frightened by the reality of what we face as parents and at the same time encouraged by the wise, practical content that Dan shared.
At the very least, you should spend some time on the pureHOPE site and familiarize yourself with their content. On top of that, I’d recommend seeing if your church or community group can bring out Dan or another one of the pureHOPE presenters to teach on this vital topic. (I’m sure that there are other great ministries doing work like pureHOPE–I just reference them because I can personally attest to the wisdom they have to share.)
None of Us Would Ever Allow Our Children to Spend Time with Pedophiles
So, why do we allow our kids unfettered access to the Internet, and why are we so determined to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that this stuff has nothing to do with our families?
It’s time for us to wake up and do the hard, necessary work of preparing ourselves and our children to navigate this sexualized culture.