Why It’s Important

I’m excited to bring Active Digital Parenting to Start2Finish!

Active Digital Parenting is all about empowering parents to become constant and intentional about the way their kids are using apps, the internet and their mobile devices.

The first question you have to ask yourselves is “Why?” Why should you be concerned about this stuff? Why do I need to know about Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and text messaging and all that stuff?

The Biblical answer is Psalm 127.1 –

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

I don’t think I’m wrong when I say that this is a group that cares about your children. You try to teach them Biblical principles, you try to LIVE OUT Biblical principles to be the example for your children, and sometimes even your spouse.

But unless every brick, every facet of your home is built by the Lord, then it’s all in vain.

Sometimes we look at the internet as an afterthought. We see it as something that is so big and fast and complex that it’s unmanageable. And we disregard it. We don’t know how to manage it.

That’s what this entire series is based upon – giving you the knowledge and power and tools to manage what your kids see and do online. Because unless the Lord builds the WHOLE house – unless He has a part in building the ENTIRE home – then it’s not worth building in the first place.

Your child has an online life. But do you know what they are doing?

Kids that have been born in the last decade (and even a little beyond that) will NEVER KNOW a world without the internet, smartphones, or social networks. They will never know dial-up, America Online, pay phones on the side of the street or what it’s like to not be constantly connected.

Imagine you took an iPhone back to someone 100 years ago. Imagine you came back to Lewisburg, Tennessee in 1913 and had a fully-working iPhone and you were able to show someone what it can do 100 years. They would literally think it was magic. They’d think they were seeing things.

You’d say, “With this device, I access the wealth of all human knowledge!”
Then they ask, “Well, what do you look at?”
And you say, “I use it to look at cat pictures.”

You see, we are literally putting devices like iPhones and iPads into our children’s hands, and they can literally access the wealth of all human knowledge. They literally have the world accessed in their hands. So the big question is – do you know what they’re doing? Do you manage it? Are you involved in it?

I’ve only been a parent for 3 years now. I have a wonderful little son named Jacob. But even HE uses technology. We have an iPad and he plays on it with some Fisher-Price apps. Jacob will grow up in a different world than what I did even just 20 years ago. He will grow up in a different world than just your kids, 10 years ago. So what am I to do to protect him from all the dangers?

There’s a few things we need to realize as parents before we move on.

1. We can never use the excuse that “We didn’t know.”

Back in 2008, in my first year of ministry, I simply was not aware of the implications that taxes had to a minister. I won’t do into too much detail, but taxes for a minister in this country are different from anyone else. Quarterly payments, housing allowances, social security issues – my taxes are always a mess. That’s why now I pay a professional a couple of hundred dollars to do them for me every year. But that wasn’t always the case.

In 2009, I had about a $4,000 mistake that I had. My excuse was that “I didn’t know.” The IRS was not sympathetic.

We cannot use the excuse that “We didn’t know.” We cannot just blow off the new thing the kids are watching or doing on the internet and say “Well I don’t know anything about that…I’ll leave that to the kids.” This may be the worst thing we as parents can do.

Your lack of involvement will be to your child’s detrement. Educate yourself.

2. Your child does not yet have the experience and will power to keep themselves in check on the internet.

We don’t trust our children to drive cars until they are 16 because we as a society have made the judgement that you cannot be responsible or aware enough to handle a car until yiu are that age. So why are we giving 10 year olds unprotected and unlocked iPhones? Why are we allowing our kids to surf the web on an unprotected browser? Why are we not watching as closley as we can to help our children mature and grow and use the internet wisely as a tool?

If you have a child with an iPhone or iPod or iPad wih no parental controls set, you’re asking for trouble.

If you have a home computer that is not locked down with parental controls, you’re also writing a recipe for disaster.

The thing we need to realize is that we need to be guides. We need to hold their hands. We restrict every other part of growing up for our kids – don’t touch the stove, don’t walk in there, don’t play bad video games – but yet the internet to us is sometimes, not in all cases, an oversight. Its like turning them loose on a giant playground and never watching what they do and never expecting them to get hurt. It may just seem like another thing to worry about, but we must protect our children (and oursleves) from the bad things on the internet.

Speaking of bad things. There’s a lot more bad on the internet than good, and the chances of your child (even innocently) stumbling across something bad are very good.

It is estimated that over 60% of the internet is porn. 60%!!! That means that 6 out of every 10 sites on the web are for porn. The likelihood of your child accessing one of those sites is pretty good. 1 in 5 searches made on a mobile device are for porn. 24% of mobile smartphone users admit to having some form of porn on their phone.

Do those numbers surprise you? Shock you? I’m not trying to scare you here, I’m trying to inform you. This stuff is out there, and if we don’t stay on top of it for our kids, they will get into trouble.

3. There is no such thing as privacy.

Privacy is an illusion. And when I say these things coming up, I’m not doing this for a shock factor, I’m telling you these things because they are true.

If we’ve seen any indication or not that privacy on the internet is an illusion – just look at PRISM.

PRISM is the code name for an NSA program that has been designed to mine data in all forms from the public since 2007. This is a direct result of the Protect America Act. PRISM is designed to get information on terrorist plots and other communications that can harm the USA.

While Google, Yahoo, Bing, Apple, Microsoft, Verizon, and AT&T have publicly said that the NSA cannot access their/your content on their servers, privately it is another matter. While we don’t know the full extent of PRISM, it’s pretty safe to say that they can see anything they want to see when they want to see it. Emails, private messages, photos, text messages, even phone conversations.

I’m here to tell you that right now, any one with a computer and the right tools and knowledge can get any information about you that they want.

The new thing out there right now is SnapChat. Parents, you need to take a hard look at this app. Teenagers love it because of the privacy aspect – 10 seconds after sending a picture with some text on it, the photo is deleted from the app. That’s the thing that has kids flocking to this app, and there’s no way a parent can check on what’s been received and sent in this app.

SnapChat was originally designed as a sexting app. It was meant to be used to send nude pictures back and forth from accounts. Even the creators of the app admit this.

But here again, this is where privacy is merely an illusion.

How do you think these photos get passed around on SnapChat, the supposedly private app? First, your phone or iPod has to download the app and you must sign up for an account. Right there, they already have information about you. Second, when you send a photo to a another person via the app, you’re sending it through a minimum of five different servers. 1) Your phone service’s receiving cellular server or internet service provider, 2) your ISP or CPP’s content servers, 3) SnapChat’s servers, 4) through whatever CPP your friend is using, 5) then eventually through to their phone or device.

In all this, you don’t think someone can intercept this data if they wanted to?

I equate privacy on the internet to the bucket of feather’s illustration.

If I take a bucket of feathers outside on a windy day, what’s going to happen? Right, the feathers will go everywhere. Say you had 100 feathers. On a windy day, how many would you get back?

You see my point. You MIGHT get all of them back, if you act extremely quickly. Odds are you won’t get any of them back.

When we put something out in the web, whether it’s a status update, a tweet on twitter, a photo through a “private” network like Snapchat, it’s OUT THERE. And there’s nothing you can do to get it back.

1. Be informed.

Just by being here today, you have shown an intrest and maybe even acknowledged you lack of information about this topic. As parents, and even those who are not parents anymore – we want to empower you to help you do so. We can give you tips, tutorials, and even some tricks – but you must go home and implement these tools and cater them to fit your needs.

We’ve got lots of good info here for you today as well as in your booklet, but you can do research on your own as well. There’s a well of knowledge on the interent about internet safety.

2. Be where your children are.

Simply put – if your children are on Facebook, then you should be on Facebook. If your chidlren are on Twitter, then even if you don’t know what it is, you should be on Twitter. Remember, saying “I don’t know” or “I don’t fiddle with that stuff” is not going to be an excuse when you find out your child has been doing bad things behind your back.

Remember, you are the parent, you make the rules. If they cannot abide by them, then they don’t get on that particular site. If they don’t want you following or friending them on that particular social network, then they don’t have the privaledge to use that social network.

Parents come to me sometimes and ask “Well, what about my child’s privacy?” For one, there’s no such thing as privacy on the internet. More on that in a second. But two, you child has no rights to privacy. Your child cannot discern and control what they do online as well as you can as an experienced adult. they don’t know to not click on that link because it’s a scam. They don’t understand why putting their address and social security number on Facebook is a bad thing. And the worst part of all this is that your kids may not talk to you about their issues, but you can rest assured know that they are telling the world about it on Facebook, Twitter, and other things.

You HAVE to be where your kids are, even though it’s annoying. For me, it’s Facebook. I hate Facebook. I was a beta user, one of the first 10,000 users in 2004 when the service first started. Now I’m sick of it. I use it, but only by neccessity. Because I’m a youth minister and it helps me stay in contact with friends. But I hate it.

Yet, every Monday morning, I go to my “Church St Youth Group” news list, and I scroll down and look at everything that our kids have been posting for the whole previous week. I have something similar on Twitter. If I see something bad or serious, I flag it, take a screenshot, and contact the parents. No questions asked. And I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents.

You cannot depend on someone like me to watch out for your kids. You MUST be where they are. You MUST take responsibilty for this entire life they are living online through websites, social networks, and apps.

3. Be involved.

When was the last time you talked to your son or daughter about drugs, alcohol, or sex. If you’re a good parent, those awkward conversations probably happen pretty often. But when was the last time you talked to them about being safe on the web? What videos they’re watching on YouTube? What apps they’re downloading and how they’re using them?

The good news is that all of that is managable. All these things are completely managable if you stay on top of it. Technology moves at the speed of light, and it is a constant battle to stay one step ahead and manage your kids lives online. But you have to be INVOLVED.

TIPS TO START OFF WITH

When you go home today, make a list of devices that access the internet. Think about all of them. Your son’s iPod Touch, your daughter’s Kindle Fire, your own mobile phones and your laptop in the living room. Are you even aware of what devices are in your own home?

Have your main computer in a public place, like the kitchen or living room. Make sure that you can see the screen. Laptop computers should never be allowed to go into a child’s room unless they’re locked down.

Take up all devices at bedtime. You children should not be texting their friends at 2 in the morning, nor should they be watching YouTube videos to go to sleep. Does your child use the phone or iPod as an alarm? That’s what alarm clocks were made for. Keep the phone by your bedside to insure they don’t come grab it too, because they will.

Look for previous evidence. There’s something called a browser history in your internet browser. If you suspect (and even if you don’t) that your child has been looking at things they shouldn’t, go check the internet history. (We’ll show you how to do this in a later session.) If the internet history is blank pretty often, odds are your child has visited a site and erased the internet history. Never underestimate how smart your child can be.

As much as I hate to admit, we can no longer assume that our children are being good and responsible on the internet. It’s our job to protect them.

So, now I want to hear from you. What have you done that’s worked? What have you done as far as being proactive in your child’s digital development?


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Chad Landman is the youth minister for the Church Street Church of Christ in Lewisburg, Tennessee where he has served for four years. He and his wife Bonnie have two boys—Jacob and David. Chad writes about technology and Christianity on his website at chadl.co, and talks to other ministers and youth ministers about technology on his podcast called Ministry Bits. He speaks frequently at area churches using his Active Digital Parenting curriculum, now a weekly blog at Start2Finish.org.

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