Lately there have been a series of stories in the paper about strangers walking into the homes of unsuspecting people in the Bismarck area. I have no doubt it’s a frightening thing to wake up and see a stranger standing there, unexpected, in one’s bedroom. Stories like that certainly make us double check that our doors are locked at night.
We want our homes to be safe and secure places for our families to live. Parents especially feel that instinctive duty to protect the children entrusted to them from the dangers that might come into the home. We should, and do, take steps to ensure the security of our homes.
But these days there are more ways into a home, and into the lives of children, than just the doors and windows we can so easily lock at night.
What we encounter online can be just as harmful as anything that walks through our front doors. We should protect ourselves, and certainly our children, from the things “out there” that might tempt us to act in immoral ways or expose us to dangerous individuals. I’m writing, of course, of Internet pornography and the various ways it is spread around.
Parents need to be aware that every iPod, smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop computer—really, any device that can connect to the Internet—is a potential entry point for filth into our homes.
I’ve watched in amazement as three-year-old kids pick up iPads and get online without any help from an adult. What might they encounter if they click on the wrong link? Likewise, many twelve-year-old kids are given unsupervised and unfiltered access to the Internet in the privacy of their own rooms. Kids are curious, and by giving kids that access, parents may well be placing their children into a near occasion of sin, exposing them to great temptations.
If they yield to that temptation, seek out pornography and view it, their impressionable minds are being set up for an addiction that could destroy their lives. Porn severely distorts a person’s understanding of intimacy and sexual pleasure. It ruins marriages and families. And, sadly, it’s accessible everywhere.
So what is a parent to do? First of all, the home should be made secure. Most homes these days have Internet access and there are relatively easy ways to block access to pornography from every device on the home’s network connection, whether that be an iPod, tablet, Internet-connected TV, or a regular Windows or Apple machine. This is a great idea because it helps to protect kids from exposure to pornography no matter what device they’re using at home. It’s also a great idea because it minimizes the temptation for adults in the home as well.
Parents should also remember that it’s not essential that their kids have smartphones that can browse the web. But, if the parents decide to allow that luxury for their kids, they should keep in mind there are some parental controls available on smartphones which can protect kids when they’re not connected to the home network, but are out on the road using the cellular network.
Providing protection for all these different ways we get online is not a simple task. Thankfully, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, along with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, have produced “Faith and Safety: Technology Safety Through the Eyes of Faith,” a website loaded with resources to help us be safe online, no matter how we get there. To check it out, visit http://faithandsafety.org
We wouldn’t leave our doors unlocked in the city at night. We shouldn’t leave our Internet connections unsecured either. They are entry points right into the heart of our homes and families.
Fr. Signalness serves as pastor at the Churches of Sts. Peter & Paul (Strasburg), St. Mary (Hague) and St. Michael (rural Linton).
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