How to protect your children in the digital age

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Perhaps this Christmas you’re going to give your kids that smartphone or other electronic device they’ve been bugging you about for months.

Are you going to regret it later?

Unwittingly, parents are putting their children in all kinds of danger — moral and otherwise — through digital devices. That’s because too often these devices become portals to pornography.

“It’s a massive problem,” said Sam Meier, consultant for the archdiocesan My House Initiative. “The statistic that hits home for me is a study that indicates over a third of children have viewed pornography before they were 10 years old.”

“There’s also a survey on the Covenant Eyes website that indicates that 12- to 17-year-old kids are the highest users of Internet pornography,” he continued. “This is concerning because of the explicit nature of Internet pornography. It’s violent and degrading to women.”

There was a time when people had to go out of their way to access pornography. Not any more.

“Now our kids and grandchildren have to go out of their way to avoid pornography when they’re online, because it’s everywhere,” said Meier. “The adult entertainment industry is very sophisticated with marketing and pulling kids into their explicit material, whether kids are looking for it or not.”

Don’t think it can’t happen in your household, said Meier. It’s quite possible porn has already at least made an introduction, if not a beachhead.

“There was a young child from one of our parishes who was not only teaching other kids how to access pornography on an iPad, this little 8-year-old boy was also teaching other kids how to erase the Internet history,” said Meier. “A third-grader!”

In response to this increasingly dangerous digital environment for children, the archdiocesan My House Initiative teamed up with the archdiocesan marriage and family life office to present a daylong training, “Defending Families in a Digital World,” held Nov. 14 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas. Additional support was provided by Savior Pastoral Center and the archdiocesan Digital Media Center.

About 100 persons attended the event at Savior, and even more viewed it via 60 different live streams.

“We brought in six of the top Catholic speakers on pornography and Internet safety,” said Meier.

But people who couldn’t attend the training can still access some of the tools and all of the presentations given at the training.

One resource given out was the “Unfiltered” DVD and Internet safety booklet for parents. The set costs only $2 each when purchased in bulk, and Meier urges parishes and schools to consider distributing them to parents.

The speakers’ presentations can be accessed two ways. One is by going online to the archdiocesan Digital Medial Center and viewing them for $2 each. The second option is to purchase a DVD of all the talks. This is still in production and will be available in a month.

For all the Covenant Eyes materials and the speakers DVD, or for more information, contact Meier by calling (913) 647-0378, or by sending an email to: smeier@archkck.org.

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