Fr. VanDenBroeke’s pastor’s column for February 20, 2022
The digital world we live in today is amazing in many ways, but can also be very dangerous and filled with immoral content. So how do you keep your children safe online?
Just a few days ago, Catholic speaker and author Jason Evert did a podcast interview with an expert in child online safety. It was an excellent interview and has great tips for parents.
In my article today, I want to share the 5 steps they recommend for keeping kids safe online. I would encourage you to take the time to watch the whole podcast. The video can be found on YouTube by searching: “Jason Evert the 5 layers of online safety”.
The 5 layers of defense online are:
2. Wi-Fi / Router
5. App settings
Trust is the foundation and the most important element. If you do not have a relationship of trust with your child regarding internet use, then no amount of other security will be sufficiently effective. Make sure your children not only understand your expectations of internet use, but also that the safety features you implement are to protect them from harmful things. It can’t be “parents vs kids” or “we spy on you”. It must be “we love you, we’re in this together, and we want to help you”.
Probably the most difficult layer of defense is the router and wifi layer. As this podcast recommends, please visit https://protectyoungeyes.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-understanding-routers/ for a very helpful guide for understanding this layer of security.
Additionally, devices should have security apps installed or enabled. Many phones come with “parental controls” already built in that can be enabled.
The main features that need to be enabled on children’s phones/devices are: 1) Time restrictions (both total time used in the day, and cutoff at bedtime), 2) Content filtering, 3) Appstore lock (i.e. need parent’s password to install apps).
Another thing to be aware of is where devices are used. Children should not be allowed to use devices in: Bathrooms, Bedrooms, Busses, Grandparents, Sleepovers. These areas are much more secret and unmonitored, thus giving a sense of freedom to do things that would not be searched, watched, sent, or received if they were not alone and in secret.
I personally do not believe children need to have the internet in their pocket. If they must have a phone, then buy them a Gabb Phone, which can make calls and send texts, but has no internet or social media apps.
Your child’s phone/device is a privilege, not a right. Additionally, a child’s brain is not yet fully developed to understand the consequences of certain actions, and additionally, a child does not yet have sufficient virtue and self-control to never do or look at inappropriate content online. Thus, you must help form their habits and protect them. You are not a bad parent by limiting device use; rather, you are being a good parent by having limits and rules.
You are in my daily prayers.
God bless you,
Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke