Tag Archives: News and Children’s Internet Usage

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.

News and Children’s Internet Usage – Part 1

Once again this month’s Mom’s Corner is a response to an e-mail question we received that we felt might be something other moms were grappling with as well as the mom who wrote the e-mail. This mom writes:

“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!”

About twenty years ago, Steve and I decided to stop taking the newspaper. By that point in our lives, we had already quit watching TV, so we didn’t have news exposure except through the newspaper and radio. Our older children were then ages where they could read well, and they picked up anything in the house they could find to read, including the newspaper. Because of this, Steve and I became aware of how news stories were impacting our children. In the process, we evaluated our own reception of that information.

What we found was that a great majority of the news was filled with evil, wickedness, and violence. We were sheltering our children from as much of the vileness of the world as we could, but through reading an article in the newspaper about a horrible crime, they could within just a few minutes be exposed to and educated in the most despicable levels of unrighteousness imaginable.

These verses became key in our decision to eliminate the newspaper from our home. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret” (Ephesians 5:11-12). By reading the newspaper, we were on the listening end of what was being spoken of that was done in secret. In that knowledge of evil deeds, a level of fellowship with unrighteousness was accomplished. Even though our hearts despised the wickedness, it was still in our thoughts.

This verse also played a part in our decision: “. . . yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). How could our children, or even Steve and me, be simple concerning evil if we were reading the worst of the crimes committed in our community, our nation, and the world?

There was an easy solution to this problem, and that was to stop taking the newspaper. However, as was often true of our decisions like this one, it took a little longer to actually take the step to call and cancel the paper. That was because I was used to reading, or at least skimming the newspaper, and I found it enjoyable. In the letting-go process, I came to see that I had made the newspaper somewhat of an idol in my life. This became evident because of the difficulty I had in letting it go even though I could see it wasn’t good for my family or for me.

After stopping the newspaper, we rolled our zeal to be “informed” over to listening to the news on the radio. All the reasons for not reading a newspaper held true for not listening to the radio news except that now even the younger children, who couldn’t yet read, could be exposed to wickedness and evil. Soon we stopped listening to the radio news.

Here is what we can tell you about living without reading the newspaper or Internet news or listening to the radio news. Our children are protected from the evil information that comes through the news, and if for no other reason than that, we are overjoyed to have eliminated that knowledge of unrighteousness from our lives.

An unexpected blessing has been that my heart is much more peaceful because knowing of the evil and wickedness in the world often caused me to be fearful and worried. I would wonder if something like I had read about might happen to my family. If the news was about the possibility of war, I was fearful. If it brought tidings of gloom and doom on the economic scene, I worried about our family’s future. There was seldom good, uplifting news.

When I wasn’t reading or hearing the news, I was able to focus on loving my family, doing what the Lord Jesus had called me to do in my home, and ministering to those He brought into my path. This was much better use of my time and emotional energy than worrying about issues for which I had no control.

Somehow, we find out about major happenings in the world, our nation, and our local community. For example, the economic crisis our country is experiencing is discussed regularly as we interact with others in our town. When there was a plane crash, it was being talked about in the checkout line at the grocery store. However, we have discovered that people don’t usually tend to discuss publicly the evil and wicked crimes that are described in detail in the news. Therefore, we are free from that knowledge of unrighteousness, and we have a very small amount of information about local, national, and world events.

It seems that our world has convinced us that it is critically important for everyone to be continually informed via the news in one form or another. If one would choose not to watch the news, read it, or listen to it, our society makes it appear that we are uneducated and less of a person. Have you ever considered the amount of time Christians spend becoming informed via the news? We wonder how many spend that much time in the Word. What would happen if Christians invested their news time in Bible study or ministry?

We have no desire to go back to what we learned via the news. The freedom in our spirits, thoughts, and home is such a great blessing to us. Perhaps you have never considered that you could make the choice to not invest time in the news. Maybe you have thought there would be negative consequences if you weren’t informed about local, national, or world events. May I encourage you to consider what blessings you might receive in your life if you quit the news. Next month I will respond to the second question that was asked in the opening e-mail.