By Josh Gilman:
“How do I protect my home, when not everyone at home wants to be protected?” This is one of the more frequent questions we receive and comes mostly from parents with older teens or adult children living at home. Sometimes it comes from wives or husbands whose spouse isn’t interested in establishing online protections. The last scenario is much more difficult to deal with so, for the sake of brevity, I’m going to focus mainly on the parent and reluctant older children scenario.
Every castle needs a moat, a wall, and guards. I’m going to lay out my ideal for each level of protection along with some dialogue you can draw on to hopefully aid in productive conversations around each safety measure.
1. The Moat – Protecting the Whole Home
The first level of defense of a castle is a moat. For your home, this includes putting in a filter device that protects the entire wifi system. The difference between a router filter and individual device filters is like literally putting a water filter on every individual tap in your house instead of putting a filter on the water main heading into your house. But imagine if people were constantly bringing in new taps, it would be a constant struggle to have filtered water! That’s the difference having a router filter makes in protecting your home.
It doesn’t matter how many new devices come into your home. If they are using your wifi, they are playing by your rules.
Dealing with protests
This level of protection should be the easiest one to deal with the opposition. It is your home; you don’t want harmful content coming in. It doesn’t matter to me how much people like smoking or are convinced they’ll beat the odds and suffer no health problems. My house. My rules. Don’t smoke in here.
Pornography isn’t just harmful for the viewer; it is still one of them main ways that malware and other online dangers get into your network. Also, you are allowed to have the standard that you don’t want something you pay for (the Internet) to be used to do something you hate. I’ll lend you my van, but if you want to use it to drive to a Nazi rally, I’m not going to apologize for saying you can’t borrow it.
A common pushback we receive is “that’s all well and good in theory Josh, but I’m risking my relationship with my kids if I start clamping down on their internet use.” Please don’t get me wrong; I sympathize with you and don’t want to seem to be calloused, but if restricting internet use is going to terminate your relationship with your child, then there are obviously some pretty big issues in your relationship and you probably need to start taking back some ground in the respect game anyways. There should be nothing wrong with you saying “I’m not telling you how to live your life, but this is how I’m deciding to live mine. And I don’t want unfiltered internet in any home I live in. This is a decision I’m making for me.” If they can’t respect you for that, then unfortunately you probably need to have a larger discussion about how your home is going to run.
KidsWifi – This is our favourite option for three reasons: it works as well as any other option; it’s as affordable as any other option; and it’s the easiest to set-up (also a Canadian company!)
DNSThingy – This option is very powerful and requires a bit more time to set-up exactly how you want it.
OpenDNS – This is free and takes some extra work on your part, as well it can be a little unstable. I know a lot of people like this option because it’s free, and if that is a deciding factor in whether or not you are going to install something, then by all means go for it!
2. The Wall – Accountability on all Devices
This is all about healthy boundaries. Are things in the right place in your home? Are you literally positioned for success?
For me this was always a bit easier, my job is to fight pornography; when we’ve had people living with us who weren’t even part of our family, I just said “look, I can’t have even a hint of this stuff in the house. All computers in our house need to have Covenant Eyes on them. If you want, I’ll pay your subscription, but for a computer to be in this house, that’s the requirement.”
You can have some form of this conversation. It’s similar to the first one, but maybe takes some more honesty and vulnerability: “Have I ever told you how much pornography hurt me? I’m not saying you are bringing it into this house, but for my own mental peace, I need to know that all the doors to it are shut; that there isn’t even the opportunity for it to come into the place where I live.”
There are quite a lot of filters out there, but our favourite is Covenant Eyes. Most filter companies spring up and create a good product, but then don’t retain the staff and developers to stay up to date in a constantly changing online world. Covenant Eyes is one of the fastest growing companies in North America. They are constantly investing in research and development aspects of their business to ensure they remain a top-notch product for years and years to come. That’s why I trust them the most. (Also, I have become acquainted with some of their staff personally over the last few years and they are super wonderful humans who are in the business for the right reasons, so I trust them on that level too.)
3. The Guards – The Mental Filters
If you already have older teens or adult kids, this one is harder to implement because this one is about trying to install the internal tools your kids can build to fight pornography when they encounter it. But let’s deal with that second.
With younger kids, this is ensuring that your family has the right conversations to mentally equip your kids. The internal defense system you build together will help decrease the impact for when things do slip through, or they encounter pornography outside your home.
When children aren’t afraid to say the word “pornography,” it loses a lot of its power. How many of us can remember wanting to ask our parents a question, or wanting to even confess something, but the fear of a reaction kept us silent? When our kids are confident that they can talk to us about what they see, the shame and the fear all goes away.
With older kids, this will take a bit more time and work if you feel like you are starting off behind the ball. But, with gentle determination, you can start to make it a safe topic in your home.
Dealing with protests
Especially with older kids, it’s imperative to approach this with humility. Be honest about the fact that you think you haven’t done a good job in the past, or that you were always uncomfortable talking to your parents about pornography. Express that you want to have a different type of relationship with your kids. Be honest. Be authentic. Saying “I’m not sure”, “I don’t know”, or “I might be doing this wrong” can develop a foundation of honesty which a strong and open relationship can be built upon. This is never a one-time conversation, so developing ongoing trust is crucial, and make take more time than you would like, but it is always worth it.
For parents with teenagers we strongly recommend “How To Talk To Your Kids About Pornography”, which is full of helpful conversation starters and tips.
Of course, as you’ve seen from anything else we’ve ever written on the topic, Good Pictures Bad Pictures is our favourite resource for younger kids. It’s perfect for most kids between the ages of 7-11, and the junior version is perfectly safe and very helpful to read with 3-6 year olds.
The reason I like to use the castle analogy is because it demonstrates that there are high-stakes in protecting your home, and that it takes a multi-pronged approach. And if you take just one thought away from this article, I hope it is that while protecting your home can take some work and even difficult conversations, you CAN do it! The fact that it takes a coordinated and multi-pronged approach means that you don’t have to beat yourself up if you try just one part and it doesn’t solve everything right away. Be patient with yourself and your family. Stay humble, and ready to have honest discussions with those around you. Your family and home are precious, don’t give up when the fighting gets hard. There are many fighting with you!