In 2016, my son left for home to begin his freshman year of college. When Christmas break arrived, he traveled home. A few days before Christmas Day, my wife thought it would be good to have each family member write a letter of thanksgiving to another member. As you can imagine, sighs and moans erupted from my three kids. Nevertheless, my wife was insistent. So, we drew names from a hat, and whoever's name you selected is who you'd write your letter to. My college-age son drew my name.
On Christmas morning, the letters that were written a few days prior were taken down from the tree. I opened my son's letter and began to read the contents. To my surprise, within the first paragraph, he thanked me for requiring Covenant Eyes in our home. He admitted that he didn't like the idea of online accountability at the time and was honest about how he tried to circumvent the service at every turn, but thanked me for persevering and staying committed, even amid all the moments of agitation and resistance.
Pass on Your Catholic Values With Screen Accountability
Within just a few short weeks at college, my son had realized that he saw things differently from his peers. Although he would admit having seen pornography in middle school and high school, our use of Covenant Eyes meant that he had never had long-term and routine exposure.
Subsequently, he had not been normalized to the objectification of women or saw the world through a pornographic lens. Heading to college with his values and morals relatively intact, he was more aware of behaviors from friends and college classmates that seemed unfamiliar to him, namely the objectification of women by men, and the self-objectification he noticed in women.
As parents, and even individually as fathers, we hope to pass on our values and morals to the next generation. In times past, parents could rely on neighbors, positive peer networks, laws, and even society to reinforce our values. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, we didn't have the Internet, and therefore we didn't have other narratives, images, ideas, and online pornography.
Although parents had challenges during these times, they didn't have to struggle with a pornography industry that fully intended to reach their kids and introduce them to all sorts of distorted images and videos.
Imagining a world, particularly an online world, without pornography, is likely a dream rather than any near-term reality. However, hope is not lost, and neither is the potential to raise resilient and heroic kids, young men, and women that will carry on their parents', and ultimately Catholic, values.
Accountable families, particularly families with a strong faith foundation, can expect several direct benefits from using Covenant Eyes.
1. An entitlement to privacy online never takes root.
Today, even at a very young age, children begin to believe they have an entitlement to privacy. The things they do online are not for prying eyes, particularly their parents' eyes. This privacy entitlement is heightened by the fact that many children also have individual devices, for instance, their own smartphone or laptop. Among the many adverse effects of an entitled person are narcissism, feelings of privilege, arrogance, and unreasonable expectations.
Few situations foster an entitlement mentality like today's technology devices. Having software that holds kids accountable, and gives parents a tool to know what their kids do online, can be an effective insulator to entitlement.
2. Kids grow up thinking more critically about how they use the web.
Every child today will be an adult tomorrow. Therefore, if our goal is to raise healthy adults, we must teach our children that healthy online behavior is intentional. Without online accountability, we are more likely than not to go down curious roads and click, without thought, on intriguing items.
Rather than deliberate use, we haphazardly navigate online websites, which for many, is fraught with negative consequences, particularly if our online voyage leads to pornography. Software tools that hold us accountable for what we do online act as guardrails on our travels and guardrails help keep us safe from undesirable accidents.
3. The belief that every person has inherent value remains intact.
There is no question that throughout time, people have been the victim of objectification. Objectification can take many forms. For instance, we can objectify workers, treating them more as tools and commodities. This type of objectification is called instrumentality. Today, however, the most common form of objectification is sexual. By recognizing someone for their physical traits only, and without acknowledging their thoughts, feelings, and intrinsic value, we break down their worth to a singular purpose. Namely, are you able to arouse and gratify me? If so, how quickly?
Prolonged exposure to pornography, particularly at a young age, can distort our view of the human person, and normalize objectification. Maintaining a safe haven within our homes and living as an accountable family limits our exposure to porn. This encourages a normal and healthy view of others and increases respect for the overall dignity of the human person.
4. Anxiety decreases; stability increases.
Depression, anger, and anxiety can have links to compulsive use of pornography. Whether it’s the associated shame, the feeling of being out-of-control, or guilt, a child can quickly become agitated and reserved.
Children naturally desire to feel safe, secure, and protected. One way a parent offers this security is through setting boundaries and limits. Screen Accountability is a practical means to set limits, creating the desired result of a secure and less anxious child.
5. Early intervention makes a huge difference.
Most people can recall their first exposure to pornography; few would admit to telling someone about it. Instead, for the vast majority, exposure to pornography, even prolonged use, remained a secret.
One of the greatest injustices today is the fact that most of our children struggle alone. They didn't intentionally begin viewing porn. Someone exposed them or they unintentionally stumbled across it, usually due to parents not placing adequate protections on Internet-enabled devices in the home.
The shame associated with porn keeps us from telling our story. Given the powerful nature of shame, it's essential to have accountability tools to help parents know if exposure has occurred. Accountability reports give parents the information they need to speak with the child, reassure them of their love regardless of what was seen, and remedy it. The sooner this happens, the better. This quick action by a parent can save a child from years of accumulating high levels of shame and subsequent years of continued, unknown, exposure.
Throughout our life, we are expected to be accountable. Whether at work, in school, or with friends and family, accountability is a reasonable expectation. Why then, does accountability online seem so foreign to us?
Given the rates of early exposure and the benefits of accountability software, I hope parents who read this blog will take action on behalf of their child. Trust me: someday, your child will thank you.
Covenant Eyes: Screen Accountability™
Be the best version of you.
Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability is designed to help you live with integrity on your devices by sharing your activity with a trusted friend.
Audience: Adults and supervised minors
Resource Type: Software
Cost: $16.99 / month.