The Vocation of Protector--monitoring our children online
The vocation of protector--monitoring our children online
by Fr Sean Kilcawley
For the past six months I have spoken with many parents, young people, and couples about the dangers of the internet and technology. More directly, I have been speaking to them about the danger of internet pornography. Pornography poses a grave threat to individuals, couples and families, and society. Viewing it results in a mixture of pleasure, guilt, and shame so although people experience it as something that “feels good” most people “feel bad” about themselves after doing so. It is especially dangerous for young people who can easily find it accidentally. A child who accidentally finds porn online is likely to feel a mixture of emotions that they are not prepared to process. They feel excitement, curiosity, guilt, and then shame. It is likely that they will not report this exposure out of fear of being punished, so it becomes a secret that they keep from parents. The secret results in isolation, isolation can result in anxiety and the desire to escape or change one’s mood. Then the very thing that caused the isolation becomes the remedy as they return to pornography to deal with negative emotions.
The scenario above is much more common that you may think, and even strong intact families are vulnerable to that cycle. Dr. Kevin Skinner tells us that early exposure to pornography is a key indicator for compulsive sexual behaviors in adults. “In a majority of my cases, the earlier the exposure to pornography, the deeper the client’s level of addiction. In most cases I see involvement with pornography starting between ages ten to fourteen” (Treating Pornography Addiction, 10). Even more disturbing is the fact that first exposure is now being reported at 8-11 years old, the largest group of consumers are 12-17 year olds, and 70% of teens report hiding their internet activity from their parents.
Even if our teens manage to avoid this trap, technology itself is posing a threat to family life. Communication has become more and more private. As a kid, I could hardly talk to a friend on the phone without someone listening in on the extension. Today teens prefer to communicate by snap chat-an application which allows them to send a picture and message that disappears after 10 seconds. While defenders of snap chat claim that it is a fun way to communicate, there are really only two reasons to use it: 1) It is anonymous and cannot be monitored by parents, and 2) It is a way to send pictures you wouldn’t want third parties to see. In fact, it is just dangerous and opens the door to sending and receiving inappropriate images. Recently in Montreal, a group of teens were prosecuted for production and distribution of child pornography—the platform they used was snap chat. (See the story here: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/ten-laval-teens-face-child-pornography-charges-1.1542919 ). Although most young people are not using this or other applications for evil purposes, the question we should be asking is, “why would we want our young people to use an application like this at all?”
When you had your children baptized, you were entrusted to keep the light of Christ burning in their hearts, “Receive the light of Christ. Parents and Godparents this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.” This means both fanning that light into flame within our families, and protecting it from the wind that seeks to extinguish it from outside. The modern world and technological possibilities it offers is amazing, but there are dangers there too. Jesus asks, “What father would give his son a snake when he asks for a fish?” We must ask, Are my children’s mobile devices snakes or fishes?” I am not an advocate of cutting our young people off from all technology, because there is good there. I do exhort you to protect them from the dangers of the modern world by watching over them online and off. I recommend you use accountability software in conjunction with filtering to both prevent early exposure and to increase your children’s accountability for their online behavior. Only accountability software will give you the tools to know when an accidental exposure has happened so that you can intervene by talking to your children and repairing whatever damage was done. You can learn more about accountability software by visiting our Covenanteyes page on this website. I have also prepared the following video tutorials where you can learn how to set parental controls on apple, android, google, and youtube. Don’t forget that most video game systems also have web browsing, and there are parental controls there as well. We do not do these things to spy on our kids, nor to be a tyrant. We are obligated to do them because we are their protectors. Our children are our greatest asset. They are the future of the Church and our society. As parents, pastors, and schools we must work together to protect our children from the dangers and temptations that face them.
As Pope Francis said at his inaugural mass: “The vocation of protector…It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!