I am hoping someone can help me sort through a lot of questions I have.
First, my 14-year old son would really love to have a computer in his own room for Christmas. We are in need of a new computer anyway and since this is something he has wanted for several years, we are considering surprising him with one. But, I have a lot of questions and concerns that I could really use some advice about.
My son is a huge gaming fanatic. He has been playing online games on our computer for a little over a year now (not continuously, of course). So, should we get him a computer, it would be used primarily for online gaming. So, here are some of my questions:
- One of our main worries or concerns which has held us back from allowing a computer in the past is the fact that when he plays his games he is on the internet and we worry about all of the garbage so accessible via the internet. What can I do to protect him from these things and give me peace of mind when I am not able to watch him every minute when he is online? Is there some sort of software or blocker that would only allow him to get onto his game server or only have access to sites that I allow and disallow ALL other sites?
- Do you know of any time restricting software that you may have used so that we can regulate the amount of time he will be able to use the computer daily? We have one on our computer which requires each person to sign onto the computer using a password and I set up how much time each day they can use the computer and the computer will sign them off when their time is used. I like this, but my son is so smart on the computer, he was able to figure out a way around that within the first week. Anything you could recommend that a really smart computer whiz wouldn't be able to bypass? I would like to think that even if he was able to figure out how to outsmart the software, he wouldn't be dishonest and take advantage of this knowledge, but I realize this would be a temptation and would prefer to have something that I know he wouldn't be able to manipulate in some way to his advantage. He hates that he is only allowed a limited time each day because he loves to tinker around on the computer and loses track of time easily when he is on the computer. Hence, the need for a time regulating device of some sort.
- Any other advice, recommendations, or information you could offer would be greatly appreciated. We have struggled with whether or not to get a computer for him, and I really would feel so much better if I could have more information to base our decision on.
So, please if you wouldn't mind taking a little time to read and respond to my questions, I would really, really appreciate it so much!
Answer from a Sister in Christ:
My boys have a computer in their room. The only way I will allow a computer in there is for their computer to not be connected to the internet. There's just too much temptation and danger out there for them to be faced with. The family computer in the kitchen is there for their use also and it is connected to the internet. It's not the easiest arrangement, but it is the safest.
Answer from Scott Smelser, a Preacher in Pennsylvania:
Regarding a computer and Internet connection in a son's room:
"we worry about all of the garbage so accessible via the Internet."
Good. To say that such a concern is valid is an understatement is like saying a bag full of rattlesnakes in a son's room might be unhealthy. Consider please these statistics (2 or 3 years old now, but the problem has not gotten better):
- Of all Internet downloads, 25-35% are for pornography (a man in the computer industry told me a higher just a few weeks ago, about double that number).
- average age of first exposure to Internet porn: 11 yrs. old
- largest age group users of Internet porn: 12-17
- the percentage of 15 to 17-year-olds with multiple hardcore exposures: 80%
And it's not just the kids either. Remember the organization "Promise Keepers?" The guys pledging to be better fathers and husbands? How many of them would you suppose were using internet porn? Asked about Internet porn just within the past week (before the survey)- the number was a disturbingly high 53%.
There is a porn epidemic in this country. The pornographic industry (including a wide array like publications, Internet, escort services, etc.), took in 12 billion dollars annually. It's one of the larger industries, leaving major TV networks in the dust.
I've had to deal with young men, and older fathers, who have gotten themselves in trouble with this, and I've made it a habit to address this problem in every gospel meeting I go on. Here are a few horror stories:
- the father of two, whose 16-year-old son's job was to try to keep dad off the Internet porn
- the young husband (and porn addict) who went to jail after strangling his wife into unconsciousness
- the 14-year-old who was already on probation for a sex crime. I asked him where he got the idea. He said from things said at school, and from the Internet.
- a group of respected young men gathered for Bible study (on other topics), who wanted to take time to discuss a topic of concern to them - Internet porn. As they discussed their problem - a sad and shortsighted recurring theme of how they got started on porn was this: "I was in my room..." (on the computer or watching cable).
Please don't think that filters will stop all the available filth. It can be no more effective than putting a cardboard box on top of those rattlesnakes.
As I reminded boys I have had to deal with:
- Jesus said if your eye offends you, pluck it out (Matthew 5).
- Get the computer out of your room. Or get rid of the connection.
- Or get rid of it altogether (there's lots of trash available in games and other sources too). Same with the TV, or whatever you need to get rid of.
But much, much, much better than trying to help a boy get unaddicted to porn is to prevent it from getting started. That includes many things involved in spiritual training, of course. But it also involves not putting a portal to porn in their room.
I would strongly recommend that parents not put TV's or computers (especially connected to the Internet) in their children's rooms.
Answer from Tim Calvert, a Brother in Christ:
Amen to Scott's expressed concern. Brothers and sisters, let's be aware of the dangers of the world we live in. It is a good trait to have a pure and innocent mind and to not think evil of things or people. But not everything is as innocent as it may appear on the surface, such as 'kid's games, movies, etc. Some suggestions: have the family read a good book (as well as the Bible); watch videos on the Bible - Matthew, John, Acts are available, as well as some good videos on evidence; work on a family project - indoor or outdoor; visit sick or elderly neighbor or Christian; encourage our children to get outdoors more with the family, etc.
Like Scott, I too have dealt with the problem of Internet pornography many times. Like all sins, it is easier to handle the problem through prevention than to deal with it after it has taken root in a person's heart.
Having the computer in a "public" area of the home helps a great deal because the knowledge that someone might be looking over your shoulder at any moment will limit the temptation. Unfortunately, you can't monitor the situation at all times. There are going to be times when you are not home, but your son may be home. A simple solution is to lock up the power cord for the computer and keep the key for the container on your keyring and your spouse's keyring. Notice that this avoids the problem of him bypassing any security software and it puts the control in your hands. This also avoids the problem of someone getting up in the middle of the night to use the computer when everyone else is sleeping.
Next, I would recommend getting software that controls access to the Internet. They are generally called "Internet Filters." You want one that requires a password that only you know to change settings or override restrictions. Some of these include software time limits. I would still lock the computer in addition to the software timer.
I also strongly recommend studying about sexual issues, including lust and pornography, with every teenager. In this culture, it cannot be ignored or avoided. See:
- Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys
- Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Girls
- A Look at Pornography
No solution is going to be perfect, so you need to instill in your child a desire to stay away from the filth available on the Internet.