We're heading into the Christmas rush, and for the first time I'm not rushing - yay! We keep the presents/tree/baking part of Christmas small, but it is nice to have everything done ahead of time. Today's letter is a bit more serious. As you kiddos head into your teen years, we've had to re-evaluate our strategies for protecting your eyes and hearts.
- A daily umbrella of prayer and the Word. Only a tender heart for God and His word will protect one of us from being sucked into the sin available online. I pray out loud with you every day that God will protect you from this temptation. I also pray that any sin that has entered the camp is quickly revealed. In Psalm 101:3 David asserts: "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes..." The Hebrew word carries not only the idea of wickedness, but also of worthlessness -- a far greater temptation in many ways.
- Computers, tablets, smart phones and e-readers are only allowed in public rooms (kitchen, living room, classroom) within line of sight of a doorway. No one, even Dad, has complete privacy when using a computer. We all know that anyone could see our computer at any time. No child is allowed to use a device that isn't at least password protected (like our older e-reader). Your oldest brother has to move his laptop downstairs once everyone else is in bed, and no one is allowed online while mom and dad aren't home. When you start working and need a cell phone, it will not be a smart phone.
- All electronic devices are password protected with passwords only mom & dad know. This means we know and approve every time a computer is being used. On the practical side, I drop anything I'm doing cheerfully any time a computer needs a password. We don't want to create frustration, just keep on top of computer usage.
- All internet enabled computer devices are protected by NetNanny. A product like Netnanny allows parents to set internet time limits, block sites based on content, and quickly see a history of sites visited. This used to be all we did. Unfortunately, installing an OS not recognized by Net Nanny allows a child to quickly and easily bypass their safeguards. In our case, Ubuntu provided an escape hatch to get around the time and site limits we had set. Netnanny and others are a great resource, but they are NOT failproof. We regularly check all of the computers for contraband OS, downloads, or backdoor programs now, too. One of the things I do weekly is to simply go on each device and try to access the internet "after hours" or navigate to Google image or YouTube, both of which are completely blocked.
- We directly counsel and question you one-on-one periodically. Our goal isn't to set up electronic razor fences, but rather to protect you while we are teaching you how to guard your own eyes and heart. Whether it's too much computer time, or content that isn't edifying, we know these temptations will be with you your whole life. Personal accountability is a huge part of the equation for keeping your heart.
- Portable USB "thumb" drives and cloud accounts are held by Mom and Dad, none of you kids is allowed to use a friend's computer/phone/ipod. This is the most likely place for real problems to enter and persist. While we allow your brothers to back up their work on thumb drives, we keep the drives between uses and periodically check them. We have a very few exceptions to the "friend and computers" rule. For the most part, you kids are only allowed to use our home computers and network.
- Non-school related computer time is very limited. Your brothers are taking online courses, and need their computers for a couple of hours each day. Aside from that time, you each only have access to the internet for 2 hours a week. It would be very easy as a homeschooling family to fritter away hours of time online. Not gonna happen on our watch!
It would be far easier to ban all internet privileges, but we know that each one of you will have to face the temptation as adults. We prefer to help you navigate these dangerous waters for several years under our guidance than to send you out to sea alone. No, we don't trust you (or our own selves!), because we know how deceitful the heart can be. Keeping the hearts and eyes of our family is a huge task that requires grace (God's help), humility (we and our children are capable of sin given a chance), and wisdom (doing the next right thing).