How Can I Establish Safe Media Use in My Home?

    As parents, we want to protect our children from danger. Just as we teach our children how to be safe when cooking on campfires, ovens, or stoves, we can also teach our children to use technology wisely to avoid danger. Technology can bless and benefit our lives when used appropriately, but there are many potential pitfalls. As we teach our children about safe technology use, we can help them avoid the dangers of pornography, sexting, overuse of social media and video games, cyberbullying, and other potentially dangerous situations.

    Asking ourselves important questions about our own technology use is a good place to start. Are we willing to do what we ask our children to do in practicing safe technology use? We can model how to use technology safely and appropriately. We should pay attention to our own habits and modify them as needed.

    Teaching Why

    When setting rules and standards with our children, we should seek to teach them why these rules and standards are important and help them develop their own discernment. Sister Joy D. Jones, General Primary President, encouraged:

    “Whatever the needs are for our individual families, let’s teach each family member to use technology wisely and positively from the start—to develop a moral mindset. Let’s educate children in constructive ways to use technology for good. We can teach them to evaluate by asking themselves, ‘Will using this serve a good purpose?’ Our choices in how we teach our families now will influence future generations” (“It Starts with Us” [address given at Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference, Mar. 10, 2018], mormonnewsroom.org).

    As we seek to help our children develop a moral mindset, we might consider the following suggestions:

    • Discuss how your family can rely on the promptings of the Holy Ghost. How does safe technology use help each family member not drive away the Spirit’s influence?
    • Regularly counsel together as a family to discuss gospel truths related to safe technology use. These may include personal agency, self-discipline, time management, communication, and so forth.
    • As a parent, speak one-on-one with each of your children. Discuss age-appropriate issues. Ask how they are doing with technology use and life in general. (Search online for guidelines as to what is age appropriate. Consider the suggestions from “Age-Based Guidelines,” Internet Safety 101.)
    • Teach children about accountability. Explain that we are each responsible for our own actions. Consider discussing how our choices not only affect us but often impact others as well.
    • Take advantage of teaching moments as they arise. This could include when you are with your child and encounter life situations that are relevant to what you hope to teach, such as seeing sexualized advertising, playing video games with them, or coming across news stories.
    • Discuss how to recover when mistakes are made.

    See “The Spirit Can Help Me Choose Good Media” for more suggestions on helping children understand why safe media use is important.

    Choosing to Use Technology for Good

    While it is important to help children understand the potential dangers associated with technology, we can also emphasize positive uses, such as personal learning and academic pursuits, family history work, connecting with friends and family who are far away, and missionary work.

    Brother Randall L. Ridd, former counselor in the Young Men General Presidency, taught:

    “[We have] one of the greatest tools for good in the history of man: the Internet. With it comes an elaborate buffet of choices. The abundance of choice, however, carries with it an equal portion of accountability. It facilitates your access to both the very best and the very worst the world has to offer. . . .

    “. . . Your choices determine whether technology will empower you or enslave you” (“The Choice Generation,” Apr. 2014 general conference).

    As we teach our children, we should emphasize the good parts of technology and encourage them to use their agency to choose wisely.

    Setting Standards

    An essential part of safety is making sure children have access to digital devices, apps, and media only as they become mature enough to use them responsibly. When we as parents feel that our children are ready to handle technology appropriately, we should set standards together that will help keep the family safe.

    It is important for children to know that not everything and everyone they encounter online is safe. Make sure you have access to randomly check your child’s phone and digital accounts. Regularly discuss with children how to use digital devices wisely.

    Children should know that we are invested in helping them. Consider discussing the following when developing a safe technology plan with children:

    • How to create appropriate posts for social networking sites.
    • How to handle cyberbullying or inappropriate texting.
    • What to do when they see inappropriate behavior, images, or videos.
    • What information or content is inappropriate to share or view online.
    • What things might be signals of overuse or misuse of technology.
    • Where it is appropriate and safe to use digital devices. (For example, you may decide as a family that it is inappropriate to access digital devices in private areas, such as in the bathroom or with the bedroom door closed.)
    • Why parents have the responsibility to set safety standards and manage access to digital devices.
    • What to do and who to talk to when mistakes are made.
    • How to use technology properly in environments outside the home, such as at a friend’s home or at school.

    Conversations about pornography and inappropriate technology use may make children feel ashamed or afraid if they have viewed pornography in the past. Discuss these topics in a calm way that helps children feel comfortable bringing up past problems and mistakes. Encourage them to talk to you about past mistakes as well as mistakes that happen in the future. From there, move forward and focus on how to prevent future problems.

    In setting standards as a family, we might consider some of the following ideas:

    • Limiting internet access.
    • Limiting the time spent online, on phones, and gaming.
    • Limiting online contacts to family and close family friends.
    • Establishing acceptable times and time limits for technology use.
    • Setting a regular time each day or week when the family takes a break from digital devices.
    • Establishing technology-free zones in certain areas of the home.
    • Setting up a family charging station where children plug in digital devices each night at bedtime.
    • Blocking inappropriate or unsafe applications, many of which allow unfilterable content.
    • Following each other on social media platforms.
    • Reporting and talking about inappropriate exposure.
    • Discussing how to uphold the family standards in environments outside of the home.

    Using Technology Filters

    Keep in mind that settings and filters will not block all inappropriate content. However, there are many resources that can help.

    • Safe-mode settings or safety apps. Add-on applications allow you to select safe content for your children, review and regulate how much time they spend on different activities, and restrict them from viewing objectionable content. You can also set search and streaming platforms to filter out inappropriate content.
    • Internet content filters. Filters can prevent certain harmful material from reaching young children. Consider filtering software, hardware filters, and internet proxy filters.

    Using Internal Filters

    Help children understand that the most important and effective filter is inside their own hearts and minds. As children are learning to listen to their own hearts and minds and to the Holy Ghost, we can encourage them to ask questions like these:

    • Am I using technology in uplifting ways?
    • Am I using technology to numb my feelings or check out from life?
    • Am I using technology to avoid having to directly interact with people?
    • Am I keeping my personal and family information safe from others?
    • Am I visiting or viewing websites that are “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” and that are in line with the thirteenth article of faith?
    • Am I careful about what I share online?
    • Do I feel comfortable asking my parents about things online that make me curious or confused?
    • Do I know who to ask for help if I make mistakes?

    Getting Help When Mistakes Are Made

    Regularly discuss family standards for reporting inappropriate content. As parents, it can help our children if we willingly share our inadvertent exposures and personal experiences. Set an example of accountability.

    One family implements what they call a 10-minute rule, which means that if a member of their family sees something indecent, inappropriate, or offensive to the Spirit, he or she will tell someone about it within 10 minutes. With this rule in place, their family members know not to wait, but to act right away. Giving our kids a safe place to talk about pornography or other exposure helps protect them and lessens the effect pornography has on them.

    The 10-minute rule is just one example of a standard we can set to help our families use technology wisely, but there are many other standards we can use instead of or in addition to this rule. The important thing is that we prayerfully set standards as a family, whatever those standards may be.

    With family standards firmly in place and with the Holy Ghost as our guide, we can use digital media to access wholesome and uplifting content for righteous purposes. As we establish standards, communicate with our children, and set an example of proper technology use, we can help our children safely and wisely navigate digital media use.

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