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Advice about Children and the Internet

by JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

These ideas come from Jacques du Plessis, a graduate student studying computers and the internet at Utah State University. He and I were the only people from Utah who attended the National Pro-family conference in Cincinnati, which focused on how to protect our families as well as clean up the pornography in our communities. Following are some of his ideas for parents:

Do not hide behind your computer illiteracy. Start learning and informing yourself today. (I might add that two of my sons took upon themselves the responsibility of teaching me about the computer. I must admit that I did give them a bit of static and I was difficult to teach. I felt so utterly stupid and I seemed to forget each week what was taught the week before. After weeks of effort one night the whole idea of files seemed clear. I couldn't believe how simple it was. Then with patience my son who lived closest continued to answer my questions. (I am so grateful for the help.)

Leaving children to surf the Web unattended, is like dropping them off in a gang infested neighborhood and telling them you will pick them up at midnight. Place your computer in your home where all activity can be easily monitored. Avoid basements and back rooms.

Monitor your children's usage of the Internet. For both Netscape and Explorer you can press on Control-H to view the history of sites visited in the last week or so. If the history is always empty that will be a telling sign. Someone visiting inappropriate sites, may open the history beforehand, and selectively erase certain URLs (web site addresses). You can also look at pictures in the browser's cache folder. All incoming pictures are stored there and reused if needed. These pictures usually have a .JPEG .JPG or .GIF extension.

Ensure you know what your children do on the Web and who they communicate with on the net.

Discuss internet usage with your children. Do not make it a one-sided speech. Encourage your children to express themselves about how they see the problem and what they can do to avoid trouble. If you do all the talking, you have no good idea of how your child feels about the issue, and that is what really matters.

Make use of the parental controls. This can be found under 'Internet Options.' WARNING: These controls are not very effective."

Block chat rooms and instant messages. This was highly recommended at the conference. Install a filtering/blocking program. You will want a "white list," also called a "sandbox," or a "closed filter." This means all of the sites have been checked before they come onto your computer.

Do not let your children share personal information on the Web. This is what pedophiles use to track their victims.

Teach your children to not respond to impolite, suspicious or enticing messages.

Do not let your children exchange pictures on the Internet without permission and supervision from you.

Teach your children to be balanced. That means they do not spend too much time on the Net, specifically late at night.

Make sure your children will immediately inform you of any unusual experience on the web.

Pay attention to any change in your child's behavior or mood. (Example: Talk about adults you do not know, is secretive, uses inappropriate language with sexual innuendos, insomnia, etc.) It might indicate something is not in order.

Do not neglect your duty as your child's prime source for information about sexuality. If you have not explicitly and implicitly by your example provided your children with the appropriate frame of reference, based on your values, you have done your children a grave disservice."

Maybe create a sticker that can be attached to the edge of the computer.

Teach your youth to shun materials that are inappropriate.

Do not be passive and hope all will somehow work out. The threat is overwhelming.

I want to add three more:

  • Know that your youth can put inappropriate things on your computer by inserting a disk someone has given him.
  • Teach your children to "crash" and tell. That means if your child accidentally pulls up a porn site he should immediately turn the computer off rather than exit properly. Sellers of porn link their advertisements and so if your child accidentally pulls up the porn site and tries to exit, the computer will not let him do so until he has seen perhaps ten minutes of hard core pornography.
  • Your child needs to be taught in advance to "tell" you. That way you are aware of the problem, can keep the door of communication open and reassure the child that it was not his fault; otherwise, he will internalize guilt as a result of the experience. Even so, once those images are in the child's brain, he has to be taught how to deal with them. The mind can only hold one picture at a time, so if the image returns, he needs to be taught to immediately replace it with another wholesome picture of his choice.

To obtain more information concerning your children and the internet I really recommend the book entitled, Kids Online—Protecting Your Children In Cyberspace, Donna Rice Hughes, Fleming H. Revell, a division of Baker Book House Company, P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

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