As someone who has spent a long time doing tech related jobs, I’m no stranger to online monitoring. In fact, when Fellowship Fridays began almost 4 years ago, I immediately started blocking certain sites on my router. It took a grand total of two weeks (two days for them) to discover that I hadn’t put VPN protections in place. I don’t say this to scare you, most of these students were already using a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) at school to bypass the social media filters there. It’s not like they had to get creative or change the way they were used to accessing the internet, I just never expected such an obscure workaround to be “normal” for our students.
This chapter brings us into the thick of that conversation, prompting questions like “how do I protect my child from the negative influences on the internet,” and “what methods of supervision are effective without making my child feel like I’m invading their privacy?” Those are excellent questions, and like most of what we have been suggesting in this book, require a fair amount of clarification and creative implementation.
When it comes to monitoring what your students do online, I think I can safely say that there is not a single comprehensive solution that is currently available. Most efforts to track online activity or ensure that your children are using the internet safely are easily bypassed, and students are getting more and more comfortable with the work arounds. This means that parents have to get more creative with restrictive solutions, or, as this chapter suggests, accept that treating the symptoms of a predatory internet is less effective than having hard and honest conversations at home.
One of the most important suggestions in this chapter (in my opinion) is to trust your kids. I know that might sound counterintuitive, but the truth is they are likely able to bypass most online security you have in place. Prevention offline then becomes the top priority, and in order to have meaningful conversations, I think we have to start from a place of trust. Most students I know who have struggled with pornography would never tell their parents about it, but if we can foster a culture at home where students feel like they can ask for help or admit fault, we may have a better chance to speak into their struggles.
While reading this chapter, I kept thinking that it might be helpful to have a parent seminar on online security and accountability. There are many great tools available to us, but implementing them well and understanding their scope is often hard. So as we continue through this book, Josiah and I will be working on planning a parent night where we can talk about some of these things in person.
I want to close with one more quote that stuck out to me from this chapter. It’s on page 82, and reads “The real problem here is not typically our kids. It’s other adults.” I find that quote so sobering, and I often have to remind myself that the fight our students find themselves in is not a fair one. Adults are preying on their natural curiosity and naïveté to sell products, make money, or generate web traffic. As much as I am fighting to help their online experience be a healthy one, someone else is fighting harder to profit from their attention.
Thanks again for stopping by and reading our thoughts! Have a great rest of your week!
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Noah and Josiah write these!