Protecting yourself and your family online is easier to discuss than achieve. While it is important to install internet filtering and accountability reporting on our computers and smartphones, additional steps are necessary to develop online protection. Your Consistory would like to provide some information to help you do this. The guidelines proposed are general, and apply to all members, but how you implement them will depend on your particular family—e.g. the age of your children and nature of your work. An attempt is made to keep the information simple, which means the more tech-savvy reader will find it limited. However, it is hoped the general guidelines described here will be helpful to those readers also, and help give them some direction as to what the Consistory requires. The information presented here is not original, and more detailed how-to guides are available on our website, http://media-aware.net/.
According to some popular guides, ‘protecting your family online’ has four components, or steps:
- Taking inventory of your electronic devices that can access the internet
- Installing and configuring three essential tools
- Staying informed
- Family discussions
We hope to discuss these steps and address some related questions and comments in several short brochures.
Step 1: Taking Inventory
Before you can protect yourself online, you need to know the threats presented by the internet, and know how these reach you and your children.
What is out there?
Most are aware that the internet, while extremely useful and necessary to our current way of life, can be used to very easily access material that is dangerous to both our material and spiritual wellbeing. Threats include viewing of porn and violence, being cyberbullied or stalked by online predators, online gaming and gambling, unnecessary trolling for information, watching sports and movies and other objectionable videos, listening to unacceptable music, etc. One does not need the internet to be exposed to, or do any of this, but the internet has made these things much more accessible, especially for our children. There is an abundance of information warning about the dangers mentioned above, written by people from many different religious (and secular) persuasions. Some of this information is available on our website. Unfortunately not all members appreciate the severity of this threat to our community, but the dangers cannot be overstated.
How do we access this material?
The material mentioned above can be accessed through any device with an internet connection. These devices include smartphones, home computers, and tablets—those owned by you and your children and those owned by their friends. This easy accessibility means that our young children can access, or involuntarily be exposed to indescribably vulgar and gruesome material.
What devices are in your home, and do your children have access to?
How can you and your children access the internet, and how do you protect your family from these threats? For a dyke to be effective it needs to be complete. In this context this means that, as far as is in your control, all the internet-capable devices in your home and that you access at your work should be filtered. It might be helpful to make a list of these devices, and behind each one jot down what protection is currently provided, who in your family uses it and when, and where this device is most often used. It might alarm you if an entry read, “Mom’s smartphone / no filter / all kids, whenever they want it / on the bus, at their after-school jobs, and when they are at friends at night”.
Regarding protection, your checklist should also state if you have parental controls (e.g. child specific user accounts with time limits), and accountability reporting set up. What happens outside your supervision is obviously much more difficult to control, which we will return to later. It is not uncommon for children to access objectionable material via un(der)-filtered internet, and to share– through cloud storage, USB’s, etc.–this with others who do have proper filtering at home. Allowing kids in both homes to watch hours of movies (or worse) weekly.
Taking Inventory–what devices are used by you and your family?
Device (in home, in car, at work)
Type of filter, filter setting
Who uses it? Where is it used?
Parental Controls set up? (e.g. time limits)
Accountability tracking activated?
|e.g. Home Computer (main)||NetNanny. Child setting for kids, 18+ for parents||Everyone in the house (mom, dad, kids);
In the house
|Yes, separate user accounts for younger children||Yes, for each user account separately|