Tools to Fight Against the Dark Side – Protecting your kids from media and its traps!

Limitations we have set up to protect our kids from pornography and other negative things.

(Our boys range from 18 – 10 years old.  Our 18-year-old has less and less limits as is age appropriate.  However, I hope the limits we gave him when he was younger have helped him to manage his choices today.  We lessened them each year so it wasn’t complete limitations to none at all.)

possible pitfallsComputer –

Have the computer in a public place.  Ours is in our eating area.  We do have another computer in the office, it is not used for internet – the Wi-Fi is not available on that computer.  It is for making movies, recording music, playing certain games, etc.

Put an internet filter on your computers, even the ones that are not supposed to be used for internet.  I know my boys may go on the internet in the office, if they figure out how to get the Wi-Fi turned on.  So it has Net Nanny set up to the highest level of restriction.

I have tried 3 different internet filter options for our computers.  Net Nanny is my favorite.  Easy to use and has many different ways to differentiate levels of “safety”.  So my 18 year old has very little limits, but I am able to see where he goes so I can check on his use.  My 10 year old has very strong limits, preventing him from accidently being exposed to pornography.

Television –

Use the filters on your TV.  You can set your TV to require a password to watch things over a certain TV rating.

If you have Netflix/Vudu/Hulu, etc.  Research how do to limits on those.  We have it set up so you cannot watch or order rated R or higher movies.

Video Games –

I will admit, we don’t really play video games in our house.  We have a Wii U and limited games.  The boys play maybe 1 time a week.  I think this is one reason my boys are so well rounded, get good grades, are really creative and know how to interact nicely with other people.

Be wise about the video games you let your children play.  Think about what it is you want them to learn from these games and the amount of time you think is reasonable.

I don’t really know much about parental controls with video games, but definitely worth finding out if you play them.

Cell Phones –

This section will look at this a strictly a phone/texting situation (smart phone info below)

Have a place in the kitchen where they are plugged in nightly.  Have a set time – 9PM or bedtime.   I think a set time is BETTER, because their bedtime gets later and later as they get older and keeping their phone makes them want to stay up later and later.  But it is plugged in every night.  There are kids that are texting at 2AM.  This is not good for sleep, even if your kids are not the instigator, their friends may be texting them at that time and waking them up.  So phones go to bed downstairs!

No Data:  I have their phones set up on our ATT account that makes it so they cannot get any data.   I had to call and get this set up.  The first person I talked to didn’t know what I was talking about.  So you may have to work a little hard to figure this out.

This means my boys cannot get or send pictures.  Hallelujah!  People send really inappropriate pictures to each other and this prevents this from happening.

It also means they can’t get group texts, which is sort of a bummer, but worth preventing the picture issue.  (though they can see plenty of inappropriate pictures on Instagram and google search – see below)

Smartphones or P**N in your Pocket

If you let your child have a smartphone without taking time to set up limitations (which is not “easy”) it is basically giving your child “p**n in his pocket”.   For real, like giving them access to pornography videos and pictures, which they can bring up to their bedroom in privacy and you have no real way of knowing what they are looking at.

There are some steps you can do to help prevent this potential pornography exposure to some extent.  Some of these things would be easier to set up before you give them the device, but we have had to go back and adjust some things for our boys which actually went over pretty well.    Here is a great webinar explaining how to set up parental controls on iphones –

BARK – Great way to monitor things….

Web Browsing on hand held devices–

We took off safari and allowed NO web browsers on their phones at first.  As the boys have grown older we have put MobiCip on the T1’s phone.  It is a browser that has very strict limitations (which are adjustable).  So if the other boys wanted to access the internet they would have to use the computer.  Which has the appropriate restrictions set and managed.  It is often easier to just say no to internet on the phone.  Be aware if you have Safari on their phones there is an option built in to Safari for incognito windows, so there is no way to check their history.

Downloading Apps/Music/Movies –

Only WE know the password.  They cannot purchase or install apps without us typing in the password.  Our accounts are all linked together, so beware don’t have it do cloud installation, because if my DH buys something it will automatically download to the boys phones.  Which is OK, but be AWARE of that!

If the boys want to download an App, I check it out thoroughly first.  Sometimes I say OK, sometimes I explain why I say No.

Some Apps I have said no to…

  • Google Search App:  NOT good.  Even if they don’t have a web browser on their phone, they can use this app to search.  If they have this app or any searching App, they can do a search on inappropriate words and pictures will pop up.  You may think, my son would never look up something bad.  The problem is other kids may say, “look up pretty kitty” or something innocent sounding and you would be amazed at the type of things that pop up.  My boys have been told to look up things that lead to negative pictures from friends starting in 5th grade
  • You Tube:  The videos you can access online can be scary. Certainly not something you want your children to have access to without limitations.  Delete any video apps!!!   My boys can access You Tube on the computer, but Net Nanny helps to limit what they are exposed to.  However, I know on You Tube they can be led on a rabbit hole to videos I wouldn’t want them to see.
  • Instagram:  Ahh, Instagram.  Seems so innocent and family friendly. But it isn’t!  There is no history to what your kids search or see.  There is a lot of pornography on Instagram and they don’t care.  So we have chosen to allow Instagram only on my phone.  If a son wants to check it, they ask permission and do it in my presence.  This has worked for us.  Most parents are not aware of the dangers of Instagram.
  • Snap Chat:  This is a No WAY in my book.   Send vidoes and pictures that “disappear”.   Way too much temptation for inappropriate things being sent to each other.  Also a big time sucker.

Wi-Fi access –

One way to limit their using apps that require Wi-Fi access is to have only you know the Wi-Fi password and they have to have you enter it to go on the Wi-Fi.  So for instance with Facebook, they have to have you enter the Wi-Fi code to access the internet so they can see the pictures and then when their time is up, they log off.   If they have data on their phone, this won’t help.

Or another great tool is Open DNS, and it is free.  You can put some filters on it, though I also have Net Nanny on computer, etc.  One thing we like is you can set hours that specific devices can access the internet.  So my 13 year old knows the code to login to the Wi-Fi, but at 9PM his device can’t access Wi-Fi.  Open DNS shuts it down to his device.

Time Limits –

I am all about limiting screen time.  My younger boys went to a Waldorf Inspired school and were not supposed to have any screen time during the school week.  My 15 year old does get about 10 minutes of screen time during the week days, usually spent checking Instagram on my phone.

The devices are plugged into a specific spot in the kitchen at all times when they are not using them.  It isn’t in their pocket tempting them all the time.  He will check it other times.  He will also have his device to listen to music, etc.  But if he isn’t using it, it is plugged in.  This is very helpful!

Bedtime for the devices.  They get plugged in downstairs at the boys bedtime.  I wish I had started with a certain time, like 9PM and I will do this for my younger son when he gets a phone.

Location Limits –

Some families have rules like the hand held digital devices are only allowed downstairs, not in bedrooms.  This is a great idea!

Is it too late?

What if your kids are older and you haven’t set up limitations like this? We learn as we live.  I have had to go back and make changes to things.  My kids have had pretty positive reactions to the changes we have made.

Here is the story of how we reduced media usage.

Here is how my 15 year old responded to new limitations on his digital device.