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Written by Tish Young 4-7-20

Being a parent is hard.  Being a parent right now is….harder.  Our world has changed. It is not the world we knew last month (literally) or the world we knew as a child.  Our parents never had to manage ‘screen time’, cyberbullying, pornography or online grooming. 

How do you manage screen time?  A friend of mine considers the quality of the screen time. Is it kind of informative/educational?  Just entertainment? Purely educational (school related)? I think we can all agree there are good purposes for the internet; apps, research, fun, how to’s, videos, games and social interaction.  It’s easy to let the TV, YouTube, social media, gaming and apps entertain our children. The pornography industry knows this. Traffickers know this.  

In the last month there has been a 60% increase of pornography-based internet traffic.  In the last 10 years, sexually explicit images on the internet have gone from 600,000 images/videos reported to the NCMEC per year to a current 45 million images/videos this year alone.  You’d like to believe some entity is monitoring this…there isn’t.  

“The boogeyman is real, and he lives on the net. He lived in my computer, and he lives in yours. While you are sitting here, he’s at home with your children.”  …victim of child sex abuse

According to FBI, “online predators are everywhere online,” and are working hard to engage children online. Some sites quote 50,000 to 250,000 predators are online just waiting.  They’re waiting on Snapchat, Instagram, Tik Tok, and so many more. Managing screen time is important; as important as their sleep, their food and their homework. Some simple things you can do include:

  • Set limits.
  • Keep the computers kids use in a common area of your home.   
  • Spend time with your child on the internet.
  • Open, engaging conversations about the dangers.  Keep communicating and engaging. Don’t stop. We talk about chores, homework, sports, bullying, drugs and alcohol…let’s talk about sex, sexting and pornography.  Let’s talk about the boogeyman in waiting.  
  • Don’t allow phones/tablet usage in the bedrooms.  Everyone’s phone stays on the family charging station at night.  Pick a time…cut it off.

More sobering statistics:

  • 60% of teens have received emails, text messages, chats and/or an instant message from a stranger.  (pixelprivacy.com)
  • One in four have seen unwanted pornography. (pixelprivacy.com)
  • One in five have been sexually solicited.  (pixelprivacy.com)
  • 90% of boys have been exposed to porn by the time they are 11. (thenovusproject.org)

There is technology that can help you manage your child’s cyber intake.  Check with your ISP for parental controls. Monitoring software can be helpful, but is not a failsafe.  You may need to incorporate software that monitors and filters your home network as well as software/programming that manages cell phones and tablets that are on the go (out of home network).  A local expert encourages Firewalla on your home network system and NetNanny for phones and tablets that leave the home network. There are many programs that help including Circle, Bark, Covenant Eyes, Qustodio and others.  Do your own research. It’s worth the time.

Most of all I pray you make time to talk about the boogeyman (trafficker).  Realize traffickers are using strong and wide, well-practiced tactics to get to your child.  They may want your child to believe they are a like-minded, similar aged girl or boy. Or maybe they want your child to be curious about their body.  Teen Vogue wants your child to sext during this time of social distancing; so does a trafficker.  Once that picture is taken and sent, your child has a reason to fear. The easy part is the embarrassment.  The really scary thing is what a child will do to keep this secret from you.  

If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to Chains Interrupted.  We are here to help.

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