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While I’m not a parent, I know enough about parenting to know that the daily theme song is far from: “I got the power!” Many days, parents can feel defeated by the demands, wants, and pressure of the culture to give their kids more and more - and sooner! 

Here’s what I want you to walk away from this post knowing: you do have the final say. You do have “the power!” Even if you don’t feel like it. You’ve heard it once, and I’ll say it twice, you are your child’s first and primary educator. You are your child’s first and primary educator. That’s big. And the good thing is, it’s naturally written into your child to care about what you say, think, and do. Even if they don’t actually act like they care. Believe me, they do. And they need you to care, keep caring, and work to never give up. Does it sound exhausting? By now, you’re used to being sleep deprived, and while I can’t help you there, I can point out three key things you can influence in the life of your children. These should be motivating enough to be reminded that your parenting matters and it will have a lasting impact on your children.

Here’s what you can influence: 

1. How old your kids are when they receive Internet devices. 

I was recently talking with Chris McKenna, the Digital Marketing Manager for Covenant Eyes and founder of Protect Young Eyes (PYE), and he explained to me that the sooner a child receives an Internet gadget, the faster it speeds up the process of when they receive their next gadget. Tablet at five years old? By Christmas they’ll be wanting a smartphone. Gaming device at seven? Watch out for the pressures to get the next big thing just around the corner.

Thankfully, caring adults are seeing these connections. That’s why parenting campaigns like #delayistheway are quickly spreading through our social media platforms.

The "Delay is the Way" campaign was launched by PYE to educate parents that it’s actually more loving to postpone when your child receives a smartphone than giving it to them at younger and younger ages. The campaign says no smartphones or social media until age 15, but ultimately it depends on the maturity of the child and whether or not ongoing conversations and a trusted environment have been developed in your home, school, and the homes of your children’s friends. They could be older when they get their first device, and, that's OK!

You may worry that your child will be behind if you don’t give them all the greatest tech. McKenna shared: “No parent has ever told me that they wish they had given their kid a device sooner. The risks far outweigh the benefits.” 

He encourages parents: “Find a tribe of like-minded families, make a commitment, and give your children the opportunity to thrive!”

Looking to start ongoing conversations about using the Internet responsibly? Download the Covenant Eyes ebook Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture. In this ebook, we show parents how to have honest conversations about self-image, sexuality, sin, shame, as well as provide proven methods for training your children how to be media literate, and more.

2. Whether or not your children trust you to tell you when they see porn for the first time.

We say it all the time. It’s not a matter of if your children will see pornography, it’s a matter of when. But, there’s more… how they’ll react when they see the sexual graphics. Will they put down the phone and run to you and tell you what happened? Will they keep clicking and show their friend? Will they store the link in the brain and return to it when you’re outside mowing? The first-time exposure will look different for every child. But every parent needs to ask and prepare for the same thing: how will my child respond to seeing porn, and do they feel safe to tell me? It’s a hard question, and it's one that calls for humility and honesty. 

How do you create a safe place and foster relationships in your home? Our free ebook Connected contains real-life stories and practical tips for maintaining or re-establishing connections in your family. I encourage you to start here! 

3. How and what your kids think and believe about sex and marriage. 

Porn is not a harmless form of entertainment. It’s also not sex education. Pornography teaches children and adults about how and what to think about sex and marriage. Pornography perverts the sexual act and the fullness of God’s design. It keeps men and women of all ages and walks of life from what God intended the sexual act to be. 

Further, pornography is child abuse. In a traditional sense, we often think of child abuse as either verbal or physical. But, in the digital age, access to inappropriate content can shape a young mind in destructive ways.

Viewing hardcore pornography traumatizes a child or anyone for that matter. Pornography frequently contains violence and rape. And, because the doorways to viewing porn are in more and more places, as parents, we must work extra hard to give our kids the right tools to know what to do when they see something inappropriate. For example, maybe you have taken precautions to have Screen Accountability on your child’s electronic devices, but what about access to electronics at a friend’s house? Have you had a conversation with the parents of any of your kids’ friends?

When a minor is exposed to and regularly views pornography, it increases the likelihood of promiscuity and curiosity at a young age. This opens the child up to being groomed–receiving special attention from someone, which makes them feel good being able to act out what they’ve seen in pornographic videos or photographs. It is well documented that predators often use pornography in the grooming process.

Your Children Need You

Parents, you got the power! So, take steps to guide, form, and protect your children. As you can see, you don’t need to be tech-savvy to be a good parent. In fact, the most critical tool to parenting in the Internet age is having the right conversations. Creating an Internet-safe home is possible, but it takes action, and sometimes it might just mean not buying Internet gadgets. 

Resource
Ally Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes: Screen Accountability™

Description

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 
Language: English
Resource Type: Software 
Cost: $15.99 / month.  

Amanda Zurface is the Catholic Content Specialist for Covenant Eyes. Amanda holds a License and MA in Canon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. Amanda has served in various roles within the Catholic Church both in the United States and internationally. She is the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized CultureConfident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure and Transformed by Beauty. She resides in Lexington, Ohio where she manages amandazurface.com: providing online spiritual direction and canon law consultation.