A Note to Parents:
Christian parents have a unique responsibility towards every area of their homes. Let us remember that God holds us responsible to understand and constantly be aware of the things which are affecting and influencing our families. In that sense we are stewards of all the things pertaining to our homes and families. Monitoring, protecting, and discipling our children in the use of the internet and mobile devices is an important part of this stewardship. Just like we wouldn’t leave a door unlocked and open for anyone to have access to our kids, we have a responsibility to be the gatekeepers in terms of all media, phone, and internet usage. Let’s be faithful to pray, search the scriptures, and remain yielded to the Lord in how he would have us conduct ourselves and parent in all of these areas. One way the leadership of Calvary Philly would like to come along side you in parenting is to be collecting and sharing resources we recommend to assist in these areas.
The first step to protecting your home and mobile devices from unwanted internet material is to set up a filter. We recommend three different filtering options.
Strongest Protection, Most Technical
OpenDNS + NetGear Router | opendns.com/home-internet-security
OpenDNS is software that allows the parents to control access to selected categories of content (gambling, pornography, etc.) on their home network. Going beyond simply blocking the access to the information, this system stops the request for this information from ever being sent. DNS is the service used to direct web browsers and other Internet software to connect with the material asked for. By monitoring and filtering all requests from the network, this is a sure-fire way of stopping any home-network browsing, at any time, for this material.
Purchasing a Netgear router that works directly with OpenDNS allows you to lock down the network so that OpenDNS cannot be circumvented and any and all devices connected to the home network (via wires or wireless) will only receive the approved content from the OpenDNS account settings.
Easy to Install, $14.99/month subscription
Covenant Eyes | covenanteyes.com
Covenant Eyes is a Christian-owned company that offers Internet accountability and filtering through a monthly subscription fee. You can get a report of all internet activity from any device (even your phone) as well as setting individual filtering levels for each member of your home. You can share the reports with someone else to give you online accountability. They also have a great resource section for families offering helpful apps, e-books and newsletters to help you.
The Internet Accountability feature monitors the websites visited, the search terms used, and the YouTube videos watched, and lists them in an easy-to-read report that is designed to start a conversation about healthy online habits.
Parents, see where your kids go online. Adults, reduce Internet temptations and protect the relationships you value most.
Easy to Install, App only avail for Apple products – $99
Circle | meetcircle.com
Circle is a device that connects to your home network and is able to monitor devices that are connected to the internet through your home WIFI. Circle allows parents to control devices like setting time limits, bed time shut down, and age appropriate filtering.
Mobile Device Monitoring Apps
Covenant Eyes | covenanteyes.com
See above. Covenant Eyes now also offers mobile device monitoring.
Teen Monitoring Software, includes Texts, but not images and videos sent by texts. Features: Logging and Tracking: Text messages (not picture messages), Call history, Instagram, Phone location, view installed apps, Whatsapp messages, Kik Messenger texts, search history, web browsing history. Notes: iPhone, iPad, Android. $14.95 per month
Phone Sheriff | phonesherriff.com/parental.html
Phone Sheriff is a parental monitoring App. Features include: Logging and Tracking: Real Time GPS Tracking, Internet History, View Text Messages, View iMessages, Call History, Apps Installed, Photo Logs, iMessages, Contacts. Filtering: Application Filtering, Website Filtering, Contacts Filtering, Time Restrictions, Geo-Fencing Alert, Profanity Alert, Intrusion Alert, Phone Locking.
Notes: Android, $89 per year for subscription. (iPhone, iPad are also available, but require a complicated “jailbreak” of the device to use the software)
MamaBear offers social media monitoring for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr; location monitoring and alerts; and one of the few that offers speeding alerts for teen drivers. The Android version also offers text message monitoring. Notes: iOS, Android
Cost: Free plan which is ad supported, 3-month premium for $14.99 and 6 months for $24.99
Rescuing iGen Teens Raised on Smartphones Need an Escape Plan
It seems like millennials are always texting, swiping, browsing, Snapchatting, Instagramming, or wasting time in some other way on a device, and dinosaurs like me have been quick to complain about it. But it turns out millennials, most of whom remember cassette tapes and graduated high school with flip phones, were old enough to ride the technological wave of the 2010s without getting sucked under.
Writing at The Atlantic, Jean Twenge points out that there’s another, younger generation that got pummeled by the smartphone revolution.
Those born after 1995, typically called “generation Z,” were just entering their teen years when Steve Jobs introduced the world to the iPhone. Appropriately, Twenge dubs these young people, “iGen.”
Unlike millennials, these kids cannot remember a time before the Internet. Like laboratory mice, they’ve been the unwitting subjects of a historic experiment. What effect has this had on them?
Twenge paints a bleak picture, and it goes far deeper than the typical concerns about diminished attention spans. Smartphones and other devices have shaped these teens’ worlds, from their social lives to their mental health.
Teen suicide has skyrocketed since 2011. One survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that teens who spent ten hours or more a week on social media were 56 percent more likely to experience symptoms of depression. According to two national surveys, those glued to screens at least three hours a day were 28 percent more likely to suffer sleep deprivation.
It doesn’t end there. The younger generation is spending less time outside than any other crop of kids—ever. Twelfth-graders in 2015 spent fewer hours out of the house than eighth-graders did in 2009! They don’t get their driver’s licenses as early as their parents did, they’re more than twenty percent less likely to have jobs, and they aren’t even interested in spending time with friends, at least not in person. The number of teens who regularly get together socially has dropped by an astonishing forty percent since 2000.
Where are they spending all their time? Well, mostly at home, in their rooms, staring at screens. One teenager described the crater she’d left on her bed from spending all summer Snapchatting. Another admitted, “I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”
“iGen,” Twenge concludes, “[is] on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades.” And overuse of technology and social media is the most obvious culprit.
Well, here’s the good news, and I know you’re ready for it: Research indicates that much of this is reversible. Kids and teens who spend an above average amount of time with friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy. Fewer hours spent staring at a screen correlates with better sleep. And as blogger, Andrew Sullivan, put it recently, cutting back on online time just makes you feel human again.
“If you were going to give advice for a happy adolescence…” writes Twenge, “it would be straightforward: Put down the phone, turn off the laptop, and do something—anything—that does not involve a screen.”
Restricting your kids’ smartphone use may not sound like the best way to stay on their good side. And if they’re older, you’ll need to explain yourself, and reach agreements as a family about technology, not simply lay down the law. Why not show them this commentary?
You may find that your teens are more open to setting boundaries around screen time than you think. After all, their devices are not fulfilling them. Members of iGen may be in a better position than anyone to understand that there’s nothing smart about being enslaved to a phone.
Rescuing iGen: Teens Raised on Smartphones Need an Escape Plan
Studies show that we are more fulfilled when we have face-to-face, relational interaction. So encourage friends and family to take sufficient time away from screens. When technology replaces most in-person contact, it’s time to set some boundaries–and not just for the younger generations.