My wife has been attending a parenting class at the local college (she is good that way). The class is generally filled with mothers of children ages 2-17 and she always comes home with interesting stories. Recently, one of the parents described how her son went on a sleepover where the kids stayed up all night using a neighbor’s wifi to look at pr0n. One of the other mothers described how they had purchased a hardware filter/firewall which they use to control internet usage in the house. My wife thought that was a good idea and brought it up with me. My response: not so much.
The conversation that ensued was an interesting one, and one in which I learned a lot about myself. You see, I grew up without internet. I liked video games and playing with computers, but I was not nearly hardcore enough to be on the net. I came home from a mission in 1997 though, and the world had changed. Internet was everywhere.
I was also a fairly forward looking student. I spent about half of my undergraduate studies living thousands of miles away from campus working in internships. I had my own apartments, where I lived alone. I also had the internet. I talked to my wife about how you can fulfill any desire for information with the internet, including images and video of sexually explicit material. She was aware of this. But with her background, I don’t think she realized what that meant as a parent of boys. Because I never had the internet growing up, I had to develop the skills to avoid pornography as a 21 year old guy living by himself. My whole generation and those that came earlier had to negotiate that transition. Based on the Church’s current rhetoric, the success of those negotiations has trended toward miserable.
If you wanted to look at sexually explicit images pre-internet, you generally had to interact with other people to acquire them. That was a sufficient barrier for many people, I think. But the barriers of entry today, are essentially non-existent. Knowing that at some point, my two sons will have unlimited access to information, my current desire is to equip them with the tools to manage such freedom.
My wife and I are still trying to figure out how to best teach our children. We haven’t made any formal decisions. For now, however, I am not so hip to the idea of locking our house down and preventing any objectionable thing from entering via fiber optic. I knew too many kids in college who when they finally left their parents’ governorship, went completely off the deep end. I want my kids to be able to manage freedom, because they will at some point have it. If they can’t manage it, then we all will have failed.
So for now, we have router logs that we could check and we will certainly inform our children that we will check them (they are fairly young yet). We have positive and educational conversations about sex and sexuality. And we pray a lot. To be like God, is to be good with perfect freedom. Now how do you become like God?