Welcome to the KingZoo and Funny Farm, where we learn to live, laugh, and love together. Here you'll find snippets of life in our zoo, parenting tips we've learned along the way, reflections on shining God's light in this world, passions in the realm of orphan care, and our journey as parents of a visually impaired child with sensory processing disorder. Have fun!

Monday, July 9, 2012

More mean parents

Dear Laura Sybil,

First of all, great piece on June 21 concerning screen time! It drives me crazy that so many parents are worried that their kids will think them 'mean', so they don't set limits. I had a great discussion with our adult children recently. Many of their friends in middle school and high school would tell them they thought we were 'too strict' but our children said they never really perceived it that way (at least in retrospect). The screen time and other rules were laid down early on, not some later haphazard injunction, so it was just part of the way it was in our house. And in the broader context of a loving, supportive, Christian home they really never felt they were missing out. It may get harder and harder to stand against the tide (no one had phones when my kids were in middle school, much less 'data plans'), but I think the principles apply.

Secondly, I'd like to see you write more on the issue of screen time safeguards which you touch on just briefly in the June piece. I think the word needs to get out there that many parents wait until too late to start thinking about Internet safety. I work with teens and once took it upon myself to do an informal poll of high school and middle school kids. I asked those I knew were comfortable enough to disclose to me, and MOST of them said they had first been exposed to pornography in 5th or 6th grade. There was some correlation between earlier exposure and those who struggle with ongoing 'addiction' as well, which is a whole other discussion. It is also startling to me the number of teen girls who now struggle with pornography.

Porn is everywhere, which is so sad to me. It virtually always starts by a curious click on something when they were looking for something else. I think it's safe to assume that unless parents have been very proactive about preventing it, most kids will have seen porn by 8th grade and usually sooner. Sadly, many of the kids who have ongoing exposure have parents that are unaware. The devices (iPod, iPad, smart phones) complicate matters even more. People usually block their home computers, but the wi-fi network is still unblocked. You can put blockers on the devices, but I am told they are often easier to bypass than the computer blocks.

Older, Wiser, and Yes, I Was a Mean Parent

Dear Older, Wiser, and Yes, I Was a Mean Parent,

I don't think I need to write a post today; you have written it for me. This topic touches so many families and you raise many good points. Even if your research wouldn't pass any doctoral dissertation standards, I know many pastors, counselors, doctors, youth leaders, teachers, and anyone working with children, who would be able to back it up.

I have wanted to write about this for some time but have always chickened out. I don't know why. I know there's a problem and it touches too many families. It's touched my family. It doesn't matter who and it doesn't matter what. But I know the pain and sorrow I have felt as a parent, watching a child struggle with this issue. All because of an accidental click. And this in a good Christian family (at least I think so) with no computers or TVs in the bedrooms, blocks on the computers, basic cable, prehistoric phones that (go figure) make phone calls only, and instruction in what's right and wrong. If it can happen with all of those safeguards, then families without safeguards might want to think again about how safe they really are.

So many times I've wanted to get on my soapbox and bring up this topic to other parents. I want to warn them, to protect them, to tell them the dangers, and how it happens before you think it will happen. A few times I have but for the most part, I don't think parents believe me. They want to believe that they're good parents (and I'm sure they are) so it won't happen to their children. I hope they're right.

But if anyone is listening now, my first advice would be to talk to your kids. Always talk to your kids. Keep the lines of communication open. Talk about guarding your hearts and your eyes. Safeguards won't be any good if we don't combine them with conversation and spiritual training. Because no matter how "safe" you think your home is, it's more vulnerable than you think. And there will always be somewhere else; the library, movies, friends' houses, college, that first apartment away from home, etc.

Secondly, take as many precautions as you can. Realize that it will never be enough, but doing nothing isn't going to be enough, either. There are many computer blocks and filters out there. We use a free one called K9 Web Protection. With it we can filter, block, and determine when the internet comes on and goes off. It slows the computer down terribly, but every time I have to sit and wait for a website to load, I thank the Lord that there is a method to keep evil at bay in my home. Same goes for when I have to unblock a certain website for a child to do research or a school project. It's worth the walk to the computer. Yes, our children are technologically smarter than we are and can find their way around many blocks and filters, so that's when you go back to point number one above.

And when that dreaded moment comes and you find that pornography has invaded your home? Be full of grace. I think it's okay to share your disappointment but remember that none of us is free from temptation and sin. I think the best "discipline" or follow-through is to help your child set up some accountability. Find some older adults with whom your child can share and have on-going accountability. And again, be willing to ask the tough questions yourself and hear your child's thoughts. Above all, forgive and go on.

Hoping that at least one family listens to you and me,
Laura Sybil

1 comment:

  1. I received this private message from a mom who read my post. I asked her permission to post her response so it could remain anonymous. For those of you who still think this won't happen in your well-protected, good, Christian, home or who think your kids are too young to accidentally click on something objectionable, this mom has something to share:

    "I just wanted to say I really appreciated your last blog. Sadly this year our eldest - only 8 at the time- was writing a story on Word document and wanted to include a photo. We had thought we had done all the necessary things to protect her from what is out there.... it wasn't foolproof. She was exposed to things she didn't even know existed. Luckily we were able to really talk about it later on- after we discovered this - several weeks later. It still deeply saddens my heart to know she was exposed... and it angered me at those out there who even made it possible. Thank you for sharing and getting the word out."