No caring parent would allow their child to jump into a pool without first making sure they knew how to swim. But every day children are allowed onto the internet without learning the skills they need to keep afloat (and away from the sharks). Kids can learn how to stay safe if we are willing to teach them when they need it most–as young children before they get enticed by pornography.
Passing My Dad’s Swimming Test
When I was seven, my dad moved to a tiny town in Indiana where he had a 5 acre lot and a small lake in the middle of it. At the sandy beach below our house, my dad roped off a shallow area of water where we were allowed to play without wearing life jackets. If we went out to the diving raft, we had to wear a life jacket. If we rowed out in the rowboat, we had to wear a life jacket
That is, until we passed his swimming test.
Oh, I remember that day well. We all swam out to the white wooden raft (my younger sister and I paddling slowly in our bright orange vests) and Dad gave the orders. We were required to climb up the ladder to the platform, dive in, and swim to shore. It took me a while to get up the nerve to jump in, but with a little coaxing from dear ole dad, I jumped, did a belly flop (ouch!) and then started dog-paddling like crazy.
Meanwhile, my younger sister dove in, swam underwater like a fish, and beat me to shore. Ugh!
Guys (and Girls) Need Skills!
Swimming didn’t come naturally to me, but now I’m a strong swimmer. What changed? I took a class in college where I was taught and practiced the basic strokes. A few decades later I even earned my Red Cross Lifeguard Certification. Now I swim 20 laps three times a week.
I went from dog paddling to swimming laps (and loving it) because I learned skills. What a difference a little learning can make!
OK, so what does this have to do with keeping kids safe from internet pornography?
- As much as possible, keep young kids safe and “roped in” when they have access to the internet. Filters, Google SafeSearch, and YouTube Kids app are helpful.
- Teach kids NEVER to type in a web address they are unfamiliar with; instead ALWAYS do a search for what they are looking for—this is a safe habit all kids should practice. (My young daughter was first exposed to a porn site when she innocently typed in girls.com.)
- Make sure your kids know WHY you have the ropes in place. “The internet is fun and useful, but just like the ocean, there are some dangers we all need to be protected from.”
- Teach them HOW TO RESPOND if another child wants to show them something on a mobile device. At a minimum, they should always ask, “What are you going to show me?” I hear of too many stories of 6-year-old kids with smart phones exposing their friends to pornography. It’s happening more often than most parents know.
- Teach your kids the skills they need to stay safe. These include learning to recognize and label pornography when they see it and knowing how to deal with the very strong memories it creates.
- Check up on your kids and “test” them. As a part of a daily conversation, ask them about what they’ve seen on the internet at school or at a friend’s home. And when you do allow them to use a mobile device, make sure they pass your test and are ready.
I love the water. I can enjoy it because I learned the skills of swimming and water safety. Likewise, your kids can learn the skills they need to protect themselves so they can enjoy the amazing benefits of our online world.
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