During the family panel discussions that have been part of our conferences for the past year, we almost always get a question that goes like this. “We know your family uses the computer and Internet for business, ministry, and personal things. Plus many of you seem to have smart phones. You mentioned that you have protection on all of them. What do you use, and how can we protect our families?”
That question is important to us, and we would like to share information on this topic with all of you. It has taken us years of research and trial and error to come up with our plan and what we utilize to implement it.
Regularly our time is spent on the computer and the Internet. Our sons’ businesses are all computer related. The Titus2 ministry is mainly conducted via the Internet. Much of our business and personal communication goes on through e-mail. We use texting for quick, easy communication between family members and close friends. It has become imperative to us that we have safeguards on our computers and devices so that none of us unwittingly or purposefully happens upon immoral sites.
We regularly receive e-mails from moms who are devastated by the addiction their husbands have to the immorality that is readily accessible via the Internet. As families share with us their problems concerning losing their children’s hearts, regularly the Internet has been a factor. Usually the privacy of a bedroom, where there is no accountability, is the path the young person treads leading him deeper and deeper into sin.
As we have become more aware of the dangers of the Internet, we have wanted to protect and shelter our children from those dangers as we could. There are several things we have done to help avoid those problems.
Obviously, the most fail-safe way to protect them is not to have the Internet in your home. However, for us, because the Internet is so involved in our livelihood that was not a reasonable option for our family so we sought ways to minimize the negative influences. Just as one uses a chain saw, which is very dangerous but can be powerfully utilized with proper training and safety precautions, we have chosen to do what we could to safeguard the Internet, using it as a tool not a toy in our home.
First, we have had our children share bedrooms—a boys’ bedroom and a girls’ bedroom. With less privacy, there is less opportunity for failure since there is often accountability and even when a child is alone in his bedroom, he never knows when a sibling will enter.
Several years ago, we had a family conversation and discussed some of what we were hearing about moral failures among Christian young people. As we discussed this topic with our children, we asked them if they would like accountability in order to help them avoid being in similar situations. Everyone agreed, and as a family, we took some steps toward that accountability. We would have an open device and open computer policy. That meant that we (Steve and Teri) had full freedom to get on the children’s computers, see their e-mail, and look at their phones. Since they knew we would do this, it provided them with accountability. In a similar way, we (Steve and Teri) have an open policy with each other concerning our computers, e-mail, and phones. “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). Accountability itself goes a long way in reducing temptation and sin. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
We decided to get Internet filtering and blocking protection with parental controls on all our computers and devices. We made Teri the administrator for the web protection. That means she sets the software up, has the password, and is the only one who can make changes. We tried several Internet protection companies, but we have landed on K9 Web Protection for our computers. It is free for personal use (we have to pay for most of ours because the computers are used for business).
We tried SafeEyes. It cost about $50 for up to three computers. We liked it because all the users could be managed easily by Teri using the Internet. That meant Teri could read reports and block and unblock sites from her computer for every family member. However, SafeEyes regularly crashed on someone’s computer. That caused Teri to spend long periods of time on the phone with tech support trying to solve the problem in order to get the Internet on that computer up and running again. Since our boys’ livelihood is Internet dependent, when the Internet didn’t work—and it wouldn’t when the Internet protection crashed—down time was costly.
We then moved to K9, and it has been reliable for the past two years since we started using it. It very rarely crashes, but if it does, that is easily fixed with a reboot. Occasionally when we are traveling and the WiFi connection is extremely slow, it won’t work, which means no Internet, but that is usually temporary. K9 is installed on each individual computer and managed from that computer. This means that periodically we collect the computers and look at the logs. With K9 and other Internet protection, we can block specific web sites and unblock others. Sometimes when the boys are working, a web site they need to access will be blocked. They come to Teri, give her the web site, she checks it out, and then unblocks it.
Teri has spent quite a bit of time learning the protection software that we have used and how they work. For K9, she started by researching the K9 reports of blocked sites on her computer since she knew exactly where she had gone. Occasionally, she would discover a blocked site on the report that she knew she hadn’t visited during her web browsing. Usually if K9 blocks a site, it tells you it is blocking the site and why. When she went to the blocked site with her administrator powers to white list a site, she would find it was a small box with some normal text or a clip art type graphic—nothing that was objectionable.
Here’s an example to help you understand. Teri just grabbed a blocked site from a blocked category in her K9 Internet Activity Summary. When she opened the site (first she had to white list it or else it wouldn’t open), it was a little orange rectangle that said, “Self improvement. A better you.” Obviously, this was nothing that needed to be blocked or that indicated the browser had been somewhere he shouldn’t have been. She did that study and experimenting first on her computer and then on others so that she would know what the report meant if it said a site was blocked. Since K9 lists the blocked sites, they can all be checked out.
An important key to Mom being the software administrator is that she pick a secure password that only she knows. Teri learned this lesson the hard way as we worked with SafeEyes issues. In a pressure moment when a computer’s Internet was down and the person who owned the computer was on the phone with SafeEyes, he would ask for the password. Once Teri gave it to the child, it was no longer a secure password. Teri learned she needed to keep the password so no one else knew it. Sometimes she called support and got started with the tech, giving the password while in another room away from the child. Then she would let the tech work with the child for resolution.
There is still quite a bit more we would like to tell you concerning protecting our families in this technological world from the evil that would like to prey upon them. We will continue this topic next month. We pray that each of our heart’s desire is that we would be as Peter encourages us, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). That is only possible through the Lord Jesus Christ. As we raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, may we be willing to invest of our time and finances to shelter them. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).
Note: With the recent event that has rocked the homeschool community, we debated whether to go ahead with the combination November Mom’s and Dad’s Corner that was already written before we heard the news. We did not want to seem insensitive. We are very aware of our flesh, our sin, and the potential for our falling. We need accountability and Internet protection to help keep us on the path we desire to be on. That is the very reason we wrote these articles, and we realized they are perhaps even more important today than they were a week ago.