My first exposure to pornography was when I was a girl of nine during a visit to a neighbor’s house. Understandably, my parents had not discussed that possibility with me or prepared me for how to respond. In my parents’ defense, this was long before the days of easy-access Internet and TV content ratings. The video store kept “bad movies” in a back room. Gas stations kept “dirty” magazines behind the counter. I grew up in a middle class neighborhood almost entirely populated by conservative retired couples. The other family on the block was my pastor’s family. (For the record, that was not where I saw the inappropriate materials!). If ever there was a “safe” place to grow up, it was our Heide Road.
Perhaps this early unfortunate experience colored our parenting values, or perhaps the statistics on evangelicals (male and female) indulging in porn, the prevalence of child molestation by “trusted” adults, and the advent of realistically violent and explicit video games has alerted a generation of parents to the dangers lurking in places we once considered safe. Whatever the cause, the time of naïveté is past.
Am I an Overprotective Mother?
Although it is true that on one side of homeschooling parental extremism, there is a tendency to isolate children, a much more common and dangerous trend is to be too trusting of our children, their friends, and the adults they come in contact with. We live in a warzone littered with landmines, and we and our children must navigate the paths around us. Unfortunately, just as a wrong step leads to physical death or maiming, for many a wrong influence leads to spiritual death — or at best, a lifelong struggle with sin.
Teaching Children Discernment
After plants grow in a greenhouse, they must be hardened off to survive outside the protection of the greenhouse. This spiritual hardening occurs as a child/young adult learns to discern rightly. It must be noted here that growing in discernment is not the same as exposure. The first is a spiritual discipline and a sign of maturation. The second leads to desensitization and a hardened heart.
In exercising our parental discernment we are not striving to create sinless or even perfectly innocent children, but before our children are ready for the process of preparation for leaving home, they must be protected. The first line of defense is to simply have your children with you as much and as often as possible. If your focus is discipleship, you will take every opportunity to talk about what you encounter throughout the day. Be assured that children will pick up on the very things you hope they do not notice. So rather than ignoring the inappropriate billboard or the evolutionary reference, instruct your child on how to guide his eyes and refute the cultural lies.
You cannot be with your children at all times, but you can arrange your life so that your children are visible much of the day. Keeping children within eye and ear shot goes a long way toward not only keeping them safe, but also disciplining consistently and guiding their responses and choices.
Child Safety in Social Situations
Beyond our home, our family has a small set of families whom we trust with our children in our absence. This does not guarantee we will never have a difficult situation to deal with, but we know that issues will be handled in a godly, biblical manner. Also, Christian children need far less “socialization” than the world would have us believe. An active church life and an open, hospitable home provide more than enough opportunities for interaction with people big and small, making the need for “play dates” questionable.
Overnights are a rarity for our children, occurring only in the most necessary situations or when housing long distance guests. This is one area in which we cannot be too cautious about child safety. We consider not only the child our children will be with, but the ages and genders of other siblings, and extended family members, or others that may be present.
Internet Safety for Kids
Consider not only the friends your child comes in contact with, but also “virtual friends.” For our family, it is easiest to eliminate all computer access for children under sixteen and to severely limit social networking for our teens and young adults. If we cannot monitor it, they cannot participate. This rule is also true for the adults in our house as well. I cannot overemphasize the need for filters and accountability software on all devices. This is not only a blessing to those in your family, but also to all those who enjoy your hospitality. By making your home a safe place, you will minister to those you and your children bring in.
The Lord charges us to nurture our children. Let us consider the best ways to safeguard the little ones in our charge.
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