Young people go online to be with friends, have fun, be creative and learn new things. Parents have the responsibility to make sure their children are having safe, positive experiences online and are protected from possible threats such as pornography and predators.

Your children may have an experience like this young person, who responded to a Morality in Media survey about their first encounter with pornography: "I have seen it at a friend's house; we were about 12 at the time and we were walking through her hallway when one of her brothers opens his door and in the background you could hear and see very clearly on a computer screen what was being watched. It shocked me. My parents had spoken to me about pornography so I knew what it was. I'm just thankful that I was told about things like porn before, so I would know where I stand in either supporting it or battling it."

There are three areas of concern with technology:

  • Contact - children may meet people with bad intentions.

  • Conduct - children may act irresponsibly or be treated unkindly.

  • Content - children may see pornography, violence, and other disturbing images.

Learn more about these risks with Net Cetera: Chatting with Kids About Being Online.

Parents need to protect their children by using parental controls and filtering technology to block threats, and by being aware of what children are doing. It is just as critical to prepare children to make wise choices even when you are not there.

Take a Family Media Pledge

A family media pledge is a great tool for teaching responsibility online. The benefits of using a pledge are:

  • Easily started conversations with your children about your expectations, values, and concerns.

  • Clear rules will be set that everyone understands.

  • Children will have a guide for making good choices on their own.

  • You will have a foundation for talking about issues in the future.

  • Children will be more committed to follow the rules.

Many excellent Internet safety pledges or contracts are available online. The Clean & Safe Media Pledge is one of the best because it starts a family discussion about values that guide media choices. It includes an important subject that most other pledges leave out - respecting bodies and what to do if children see nude images. This is a critical conversation because of the vast amount of pornography online. This pledge also helps families discuss the best times and situations to use the Internet.

Using a Media Pledge

Here are some important ideas for the best way to use a media pledge:

  • Remember that the conversation is as important as the signed agreement. Listen to your children's experiences and concerns. They will have good ideas to add to your discussion.

  • Don't try to teach all the rules at once. Children will understand and remember better if you allow plenty of time for each one. You could discuss one point each day or have a family meeting once a week.

  • Be sure to plan what to do in unexpected situations. Children may accidentally encounter pornography online or see an inappropriate movie at their friend's home.

  • Talk about how these rules apply to all of the Internet-enabled devices your family has, such as cell phones, gaming devices and TV.

  • Set consequences for deliberately breaking rules. Remind children that media and technology are a privilege, not a right. It is best to use these instances as a teaching opportunity to learn to make better choices. For example, children may need to use the computer only in a parent's presence for a time. Children are less likely to tell parents about problems when they worry that they will be banned from their favorite activities.

  • Keep the pledge near the computer and plan to review it regularly. Keeping your family safe takes constant attention because we are constantly using media.

  • Children will learn from their parents' example. Choose good media yourself, speak up when you find harmful media, and share your experiences keeping the media pledge rules.

Teach your children that these rules help them stay free to enjoy using the Internet and media for fun, friendship, and creativity.

There's no need to wait! Your children are online today. It's a good day to come together and discuss a media pledge.

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