Do you ever watch Conan O’Brien? Have you seen his “guy caught watching porn” mime that he does? It’s funny. But it’s also sad. It shows that our culture has just accepted the fact that, yeah, we all look at porn. As youth pastors/workers/volunteers, how do we respond to this? There’s a lot I could say in answer to that question, but today I want to offer two things:
1) I’ve written the rest of the article as a letter to parents. I actually sent this to the parents in my church who have teenagers. Read through it for yourself, but also, if you want, you can send it to parents in your church!
2) I’ve gathered some reviews on specific filtering software and parental controls that I also sent to the parents. Sometimes the sheer selection is overwhelming and discourages us from even trying. I’m hoping that by putting a few good ones at your disposal, you can find one that works for you personally—and one that you can recommend to teens and parents in your church.
If you know of better ones, or ones you like better—let us know in the comment section!
I was recently asked by a parent about software for protecting our young teens from inappropriate images and content on the internet that they may find on accident (or on purpose). If you read the statistics, the average age is dropping (many places say 11 yrs old!) and often first exposure is accidental. So among other things (like open communication and proper instruction on Godly sexuality, modesty, etc) I find it is helpful to have safe guards.
The problem is that there are so many potential gateways. Pornography and explicit material can be found through gaming systems, computers, DVR’s, phones, tablets, even your kid’s DS! Most devices have parental controls. For instance, I have a password set up on my Xbox, and my Tivo—so if anything past a certain “rating” happens, it will ask the parent for a password.
As far as devices go (computer, tablet, phone) there are lots of options—ranging from blocking software to “reporting” software which basically sends a parent (or accountability partner) a report of all sites visited. You can also put “time constraint parental controls” on most devices, blocking access after a certain time of night for example.
As a parent of a pre-teen, this has already begun in my house. I have passwords and/or protection software on all of my devices. I have YouTube locked on my iphone and ipad, software on my computer, and passwords on my Tivo and gaming systems. We are in a battle. It’s worth the effort. I don’t think it is paranoia. And to be honest, it is good for me as “dad” to set an example that I’m careful with what I consume visually. We frequently have talks about how “that’s not good for me to watch either!”
Most often I hear from parents that they wish they knew how to do this, but often two things stand in the way: (1) they think it costs too much money, (2) they think it will slow down their computers. In response to this I would encourage you to prayerfully count the cost. If you can’t afford blocking software (I’ve given a few options below) then you can at least set up parental controls and passwords (info below as well). I know it takes effort, but it is worth it!
This one is only $7/month and provides the choice between blocking or just reporting – even over text! It also provides an APP for $3/month to use on your Apple and other devices. This software works on Mac and PC.
This one is less expensive ($50/yr) and has tons of options. This is the one I personally use and I like it. It provides blocking and reporting and time constraint abilities on up to 3 computers. It has an app for devices, but I haven’t tested that out yet. This software works on Mac and PC.
This one also does filtering, monitoring (not as expansive as others), and time constraints. It is only available for PC and is $40/yr.
You should also be aware that Windows 8 and the latest Apple OS both support Parental Controls.
You can also find more options through some good reviews I’ve found: