Did you know that your child has a weapon of mass destruction in their pocket? In fact, you might be the very one who armed them with this deadly device. That's right - I'm talking about their phone.
I remember when I got my first cell phone. I was 14 and I was PUMPED. It was the Nokia brick - replaceable cases and everything. This was back in the day when texting was 10x more tedious and time consuming than calling - plus, it costed a fortune. Nowadays, I see 10 year olds with iPhones! It's amazing to see what has been made available to us, yet at the same time, I think the majority of parents are unaware of what they are giving their children when they place a smartphone in their hands.
Having been in youth ministry for the past 9 years, I've seen. I have spoken at Youth Conferences, pastored a Youth Ministry and mentored many students over the years and I am convinced more than ever before that this generation is fighting the greatest battle any generation has ever had to fight: the fight against sexual temptation, namely, porn.
Look, I know this stuff has been around for ages. But it's never been as accessible as it is now. Back in the day, to get your hands on PORN, you had to walk into a store, bring it to the cashier and hope to God that no one you knew say you. PLUS, you had to pay for it.
Nowadays, Porn is absolutely free. You don't need statistics to prove to you that it's an epidemic amongst our generation. All a teenager needs to do is pick up their phone and browse. And if you think it's just a boy problem, you're wrong. The statistics for female involvement in viewing porn has sky-rocketed in the past few years.
The truth of the matter is: porn kills. It robs the innocent of their sexual, mental and emotional purity. It distorts the beautiful gift of sex. It itemizes and objectifies men and women. It is all wrong. It is offensive to God and it should be offensive to you.
One of my passions is to educate parents on how they can be a part of their child's fight against this stuff. So because of that, here are some ways that you can protect your child and open up the conversation:
1. DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF THE ISSUE
Whatever embarrassment and shame you show when talking about sex and porn will translate down to your teenager. Let's be honest - everything about them is awkward - so to add insult to injury is just more detrimental. Be open about the topic and don't allow them to feel uncomfortable. The world is talking about it, so you should be as well!
2. SHARE YOUR STRUGGLE
We need to go into the situation realizing that these kids are going to make mistakes, slip up and learn (sometimes) the hard way. What I'm NOT saying is to enable sexual sin, but I AM saying that every single teenager that I have ever spoken with has either masturbated, looked at porn or struggled in some sense. Share from your own struggle - don't make yourself out of reach for them to relate to.
3. HAVE A PLAN
Go into the conversation with a win - and that win should be CONNECTION and OPENNESS. Don't come unprepared - be ready for any turn the conversation might take.
4. ENFORCE TECHNOLOGICAL RESTRICTIONS
You ARE their parent - which means you have every right to set restrictions. Let me give you some practical ways to do this:
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CHILD
DOWNLOAD A FILTERING WEB-APP
Go to the App Store on their phone and download either "X3 Watch" or "Covenant Eyes."
Both of these are great accountability apps, but I personally recommend Covenant Eyes. These apps will log every website your child visits and send YOU an email of what they looked at. If any inappropriate websites are visited, you will know. You can even pay for FILTERING on Covenant Eyes so that those websites can be blocked all together. It might cost money now, but the pay off far exceeds the price.
So set up the account and then...
SET RESTRICTIONS & SHUT OFF SAFARI
(or other internet browsers)
Go to Settings, go to General and go to Restrictions. Put a passcode in that only you know. Shut off SAFARI or any other internet browser so that the filtering app you downloaded is the primary browser. Filtering apps won't work if Safari or any other browser is enabled.
SHUT OFF "INSTALLING APPS" CAPABILITIES
I don't know if you are aware, but the majority of apps such as Facebook & Twitter have their own internet browsers (even Instagram). This means that even if you have an app like Covenant Eyes downloaded on their phones, they can access unfiltered and un-identifiable internet through these apps. My advice is to do your homework and find the apps that have internet accessibility and delete them. This way, they can still visit Twitter and Facebook, but through Covenant Eyes.
This way, you know what apps are on their phone and can control their internet browsing. If they want to download an app, YOU can check it out first and then put in your passcode for them to download it.
Keep the lines of communication open. Don't make them feel ashamed if they have struggled or are struggling with the issue. Partner with them in helping them overcome it.
HOOK THEM UP WITH A MENTOR
Parents, I know this is a tough one, but sometimes your child will need to talk to someone other than you about this stuff. Find someone (youth pastor, teacher, etc.) that they can connect with and aspire to and encourage the relationship. This will help them connect with you down the road!
Does this seem old fashioned? Maybe. Less convenient? Probably.
But sometimes, you need to sacrifice convenience to stick to your convictions.
In my opinion, it's the only way that you will be able to partner with your teenager in the fight against this stuff. I am 25 years old and I CHOOSE to have my phone set this way. Why?
...and do not give the enemy any type of foothold...
Take the time now to deal with this stuff so it doesn't create more and more problems in your child's life. Be aware of what's going and and don't let technology overwhelm you! You are God's original Youth Pastor - don't wait for them to have to go to Youth Group to deal with this... deal with it now!
If you have any questions, please email me by contacting me through my site here.
- Jared Ellis