I had the opportunity recently to speak to some teens in a sexual addiction recovery program, along with their parents and therapists. There were about 15 – 20 of these boys in the room, and each of them introduced themselves to me as we began the meeting. Because of the topic I was to present on (Cyber Safety), they were asked to share with me one thing about the Internet that has been a problem for them. While not surprising, their answer to this question was certainly eye-opening.
Every one of these boys informed me that they had viewed pornography on the Internet. However, they didn’t identify that as their “problem” with the Internet – almost every one of these teens told me that their problem with the Internet is that they know how to get around the technical blocks that are placed in their way to prevent access to pornography. Wow. I have long known that children know how to get around filters, and those who have either read my book or frequent this blog know that one of my main concerns with Cyber Safety is that parents will install a filter and think that their job of protecting their children is done. So, this revelation from these teens was not a surprise – but the fact that they consider their knowledge of how to bypass technology as their primary problem with the Internet certainly was a surprise.
In my opinion, every computer should have a filter installed to prevent inadvertent access to pornography – for both adults and children. However, parents need to understand that their job doesn’t end there. Staying diligent with regard to how your computer is used, and maintaining an open dialog with your children regarding their Internet usage is the best defense against inappropriate Internet use.