News and Children’s Internet Usage – Part 2

Last month, I answered the first part of an e-mail written to us from a mom wanting some input in a couple of areas of her life. One of those areas had to do with reading the newspaper and the discouragement it brings to her heart. If you want to read that Mom’s Corner, here is the link. This is the e-mail with the questions.

“I was wondering if you have advice on whether or not (and how much if so) to read the news. I find it can be so discouraging to read truthfully and yet know that we should have some awareness of what is going on in the world. I’d love to hear advice on how your family manages in this area.

“I was also wondering if you’d ever be willing to share how you were able to introduce your children to the Internet. I have taken perhaps an extreme approach and not allowed my sons access unless I am sitting next to them, and yet know that now that they are 15 and 18 I need to transition them and train them in this area. I’ve been at a loss for how to manage and would greatly appreciate any advice you can pass along!”

I am going to start by answering a question that I received from a couple of moms after reading last month’s Mom’s Corner where I shared our family’s journey to not being involved in the news. The question I was asked was how we know who to vote for when it is election time, and how do we get political information. At election time, we receive mailings from candidates and from Christian organizations that will tell us where the candidates stand on various issues. We can also get on the Internet to research the candidates.

When there are political things going on with homeschooling, we find out because we are part of Home School Legal Defense Association. They have e-mail alerts that let us know if there is something we need to bring to our congressmen’s attention. Kansans for Life inform us of what is going on in Kansas and the United States concerning the pro-life agenda and also concerning abortion. To be honest, we wonder why Christians would ever think they are receiving helpful political information from the worldly, liberal, biased media.

Now I want to move to addressing the question about our children and their Internet usage. As our children have been growing up in the computer age, we have chosen to see the computer as a tool, not a toy for entertainment. Therefore, the computer isn’t used for games, videos, surfing, chatting, social networking, or fun. The computer is used to meet a need like learning to type, typing answers to questions in a school book, doing income taxes, writing letters, tracking finances, looking for an automotive part for the bus, finding a recipe, and scrapbooking.

The Internet has much potential for polluting our children’s minds. We want them to understand that while the computer is a tool they are allowed to use, it is dangerous just as a power tool can be dangerous when it is mishandled. As far as Internet for our children, we have chosen to be very cautious and limiting with their Internet access. “. . . I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes. . .” (Psalms 101:2-3).

We have high levels of Internet parental-control security on all of our computers. Steve and I choose to live with the parental controls on our Internet for our personal protection, for our children’s protection, and as an example to them. This security blocks our computers from accessing Web sites that are in categories we have deemed unacceptable for our family. I am the only one who has access to what is needed to change those security settings. This provides a great deal of protection for our children on the Internet. We still have additional levels of accountability and sheltering regarding our children and their computers. (We use a free family filter called K9, although there is a small fee if you are a business user.)

Because all of the adults in our family use computers for their livelihood, they must upgrade computers regularly. That means the old computers are passed down to the children. Beginning this school year, even our twelve-year-old had a laptop computer—one that Nathan bought new for work, then I used it for several years, next Sarah had it, followed by Jesse, and now it belongs to Mary. Though our children have their own computers by age twelve or so, they do not have Internet access on their computers.

At this point, only the children over eighteen have access to the Internet on their computers. Joseph (20) and John (18) use the Internet when a sibling is sitting beside them who can see their screens. That gives an added level of accountability. Even my husband, Steve, and older son, Christopher, have an open-door policy with their computer work. Any family member can walk into their offices and observe what they are doing on their computers. Sarah and I have full access to look over their systems as well, and we receive reports on where each person has gone on the Internet.

The younger children, ages 12, 14, and 16, can use the Internet on a family member’s computer if they are being supervised. Sometimes this is inconvenient in our family, not only for the one who wants to use the Internet, but also for the one giving accountability. However, this is a level of sheltering that is important to us. It is vital to us not only for our children, but also for Steve and me.

Joseph, John, Anna, and Jesse have e-mail capability on their computers, but they send and receive all their e-mail only through Steve’s computer. This protects them from e-mail spam in general, but particularly from the spam that is morally corrupting. For free e-mail accounts, we have found Gmail to be much less objectionable than many others that offer free e-mail. Many of our family members have Gmail accounts.

While we are discussing our children and Internet usage, we should consider the example we as moms are setting for our children. There are many moms who appear to spend a great amount of time on the computer—e-mailing, writing blogs, visiting blogs, participating in chat rooms and message boards, instant messaging, and just surfing.

What example is being set for the children? Are we addicted to our computer time? Are we setting an appetite in our children’s hearts to spend their time on the computer? Are daily tasks being avoided for the computer? Are relationship-building activities taking second place to a computer screen? Do we want our children to remember a mom who was continually sitting in front of the computer? Do they see us as always anxious to leave behind daily tasks to get to the computer? Does this use of our time bring God glory? “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Colossians 3:17).

Sometimes I wonder if the Internet is a modern-day version of the wandering from house to house that is described in this verse: “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1 Timothy 5:13). Is it possible that moms who say they are too busy to read their Bibles every day are spending time on their computers? Would the Lord have us invest our time in our relationship with Him, relationships with our husbands and children, homemaking, and serving others rather than with the computer? I think these are good questions for us to consider prayerfully with the Lord.

The computer, Internet, and e-mail are wonderful tools that we and our children have at our disposal. However, they bring with them the potential of wasting much time, of becoming addicting, and even of ruining lives. We must consider the negative aspects of the computer when we are allowing the computer into our lives and the lives of our children. May we be extremely cautious with the computer. May we seek the Lord for how He would have us use it, the parameters He would direct us to, and the safeguards to have in place.