Making Our Homes Media Safe
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“Making Our Homes Media Safe,” Liahona, March 2021

Making Our Homes Media Safe

Guidance from the Holy Ghost, vigilance, and family councils can help protect our homes from “cyber skunks” and digital infection.

Children Looking at Tablet Computer

My former stake president once shared an experience that made me think about media safety in a new way. It all started when his family began hearing noises in the middle of the night.

“We’d run downstairs from our bedrooms but never saw anything,” Brent Butler said. “Some mornings we’d go downstairs and find the cat food bag toppled over on the kitchen floor.”

The family also began noticing a musty smell, which wasn’t unusual given that they live in a canyon. But then they found animal droppings behind the couch. One night after their oldest daughter returned from a date, she went to the kitchen and turned on the light. Then she screamed, “There’s a skunk in the house!”

When Brother Butler ran downstairs, he saw the biggest skunk he had ever seen. As his daughter jumped on the couch, the skunk ran down the stairs to the basement.

“Apparently, the skunk had wandered into the garage, climbed through a hole around a water shutoff valve, and got behind the basement staircase,” he said. “From there he found his way into the basement. He would come upstairs at night, eat cat food, and go back down.”

Brother Butler had seen the valve hole, but he thought it was too small to worry about. “I was wrong,” he said.

Then he shared this interesting observation: “If we’re not careful, metaphoric ‘skunks’ can sneak into our phones, computers, and televisions. They can surprise us and our children. Cyberspace offers lots of wonderful things, but we have to work to keep out uninvited guests like pornography, harmful social media, and other dangers.”

After she screamed, Brother Butler’s daughter called for her parents.

“It’s important that we have a close relationship with our children so that if a cyber skunk does show up, our children will come to us,” Brother Butler said.

Given that 79 percent of unwanted pornography exposures occur at home,1 how can we keep out the cyber skunks? Here are some ideas from Church leaders and media experts that can help us identify and patch up the holes that might threaten our families.

Practice Using Technology for Good

Today’s growing digital culture offers blessings and opportunities previous generations couldn’t even imagine. (For more about the benefits of modern technology, see Elder David A. Bednar’s comments on page U9.) But because pornography is accessed today almost exclusively through digital channels,2 safely using media and technology requires guidance from the Holy Ghost, vigilance, and family councils.

“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,” said Sister Joy D. Jones, Primary General President. “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.”3

Make a Family Plan

Family Discussion

Photograph from Getty Images

One young man was preparing to go on a mission when he received a smartphone as a high school graduation present. By the end of the summer, he needed to postpone his mission because he had been accessing inappropriate images on his phone.

“I recently spoke with a youth leader whose opinion was that ‘putting a cell phone with an internet connection into the pocket of a young person is like placing a hot coal in their pocket—they will get burned,’” said Sister Jones. She suggested that every phone have safeguards, even those that belong to teens and adults.4

Experts recommend creating a family media plan and setting standards and boundaries together. This could include:

  • Establishing set times for use of technology.

  • Limiting online contacts to family and close friends.

  • Establishing technology-free zones, like bedrooms.

  • Establishing a designated media room in a high-traffic area.

  • Creating a charging station where digital devices are left at night.

  • Blocking inappropriate applications and websites through filters and safe-mode settings.

  • Following family members on social media.

  • Deciding the types and ratings of video games to be allowed.

  • Discussing how to respond to cyberbullying or inappropriate images or texts.

  • Setting consequences for the breaking of family standards.5

Regarding rules, Elder Bednar said: “Be careful to not regiment excessively the use of technology or proliferate endless rules and restrictions. Desired attitudes and righteous behavior cannot flourish in the soil of constantly constraining control and coercion. Your love, patience, teaching, and ministering will provide vital spiritual support as [children] press forward on the strait and narrow path.”6

“Put on the Whole Armour of God”

Satan is a master at twisting inspired inventions for his evil purposes. Smartphones, smart TVs, computers, tablets, game consoles, televisions, and portable DVD players are no exception. As we relax with our various media devices, we need to be careful that we not relax our standards.7

The Holy Ghost can help us “put on the whole armour of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11). And the Holy Ghost can help us keep our hearts pure and our virtual experiences virtuous.

“We have a duty to help this rising generation learn that the only filter that successfully can overcome and avoid evil resides in the heart and mind of a faithful disciple of Christ,” said Elder Bednar. “Only the companionship of the Holy Ghost can fortify sufficiently against ‘the fiery darts of the wicked’ (Ephesians 6:16).”8

The Church booklet Safeguards for Using Technology teaches missionaries appropriate use of technology. The following safety suggestions, summarized from the booklet, can help children, youth, and parents remain worthy, keep their hearts pure, and make righteous, safe media choices.

  • “Use a computer, mobile device, or phone for specific purposes. Decide beforehand what you intend to do and how much time you will spend. Experience shows that people are more likely to encounter inappropriate content on the internet when they are casually surfing the web without a specific purpose in mind.

  • “Limit the use of technology when you are feeling bored, lonely, angry, anxious, stressed, or tired or when you feel any other emotion that makes you vulnerable or susceptible.

  • “Select a background screen image that reminds you of your commitment to follow Jesus Christ.”9

Chile: Family Life

Join the Battle

A few years ago, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made this observation (especially poignant in light of COVID-19): “If this moral plague [of pornography] could catch our imagination the way a medical epidemic does, we would be calling out every available member of the health care industry, every doctor and nurse and technician and orderly; we would have the attention of every father and mother, every grandparent and aunt and uncle asking what they could do; we would see educators and businessmen, lawyers and scientists, PTA organizations and welfare agencies lining up to send out flyers, to flood the airwaves, to give immunization shots. … Yes, this ought to be seen like a public health crisis; like an infectious, fatal epidemic.”10

The good news is that God is more powerful than any digital infection. And He will help us patch up the holes in our homes to keep out the cyber skunks. This month, as we learn in our Come, Follow Me study about the armor He offers, may we choose to turn to Him and keep our families safe.