So it’s happened. You’ve caught your son or daughter red-handed doing something they shouldn’t do on the internet. What do you do?
It’s becoming increasingly common for me to get a message that reads along these lines, almost on a weekly basis:
“Help! I just caught my son/daughter looking up porn on Youtube. I thought I had taught them better. I’m at a loss for what to do. What advice would you give me on how to proceed?”
- Don’t blow up. Maybe the worst thing you can do is overreact and yell and scream and punish them out of anger. As with any other offense, it’s probably not a good thing to lose your cool in this parenting situation. My recommendation? Calmly take the device away, make sure they don’t have access in their room, and then simply send them to their room and explain that you will talk about this later. This will give you a chance to absorb what has happened and allow the shock to wear off. You’re going to need this time to calm down, whether it’s a few minutes or a few hours. Don’t threaten or use the term “Wait until your father gets home” or anything like that. Your child needs to know that this is not okay but that you still very much love them.
- Once you do calm down and talk to them, let them know that this is not okay. Make sure there is no doubt that this type of behavior on the internet is not acceptable. You may have taught them well, but they need to know that there are bounds they need to live by on the web, in their apps, and on their games. You are the parent and you make the rules, and if they cannot abide by said rules, they do not have a privilege to use their devices.
- Ask them why they were seeking out that information. Ask them where they got the idea to go look for those things. Was it from a friend? Did they see it on the internet somewhere else? If you can identify the source of the temptation (say, a friend of theirs who is a bad influence), then you can take your first step to making sure it never happens again. Sometimes your child will be adamant they did it all on their own when it was really a friend who was trying to get them to go there in the first place. Rarely are kids (especially younger ones) by themselves when tempted to seek out porn, violence, or other bad things on the web.
- Tell them you love them. Tell them that everyone makes mistakes, and that there are consequences for those mistakes. Most importantly, let them know that you care deeply about everything they look at because that will be the person they turn out to be.
There is no surefire way to prevent your child from getting into something they shouldn’t on the web. You can set up all the parental controls and safeguards and be completely on top of what your kids are doing, but sometimes things still will slip through the cracks.
Our digital lives on social networks, apps, and websites will be a major part of how your child develops in the digital world as well as spiritually. It’s unavoidable. So use any potential lapse in judgment from your child as an opportunity to show them how to use the internet as a tool for good and to stay away from those things that would do them harm.