So how do we build walls and guard gates for our kids? Build their walls by making sure they practice spiritual disciplines, and take time to talk about spiritual markers with them. Guard their gates by teaching them what is inappropriate and dangerous in computers, video games, magazines, T.V., movies and other media, and then hold them accountable for guarding their gates as best they can. Here are a few gate-keeping practices we’ve adopted in our family.
With all the junk that’s out there and the scary marketing tactics of the pornographers, it’s essential that you have a porn filter on your computer. If you don’t already, review the resources in the Appendix. Accountability reporting is great, but by the time you get the report, the damage will have been done.
In addition, I recommend putting the family computer in a high-traffic area of your home. Computers in kids’ rooms make it difficult for you to monitor their activity. Setting a password on your administrative sign-in ID is also a good idea. If you are really concerned, there are “big brother” software packages that track keystrokes, sites visited, chat streams and other information.
My wife and I aren’t cutting edge techies, but we try to keep up with new online trends that would impact our kids. MySpace is one of the more recent phenomenons we’ve been watching. We’ve seen personally how the medium can be abused, so I recommend restricting your kids from setting up a space. With all the predators and pornographers out there, it’s just too risky.
I’ve found that it’s helpful to review games before you buy them. (There are some good websites for this listed in the Appendix.) You can also rent the games to get a general idea whether the rating is reliable, or you can talk to other parents who have already purchased the game.
A few years ago, one of my kids was playing an E-rated game that we had rented and that seemed fairly innocuous. I was barely paying attention, but my eye caught a glimpse of a billboard in the background graphics. It showed a nude woman with huge breasts. Her nipples were obscured by a building, but it was clear what I was looking at. I’m still angry about that one, because the image was insidiously placed so that kids would see it without necessarily registering what it was that they were seeing. It showed me that the ratings aren’t always reliable. You have to be familiar with what your kids are playing.
Another time, I made the mistake of purchasing a game named “Red Steel” for my son without checking it out first. He played it for several days and talked to me about some of the challenges. Something he said made me curious, so I had him play while I watched.
He was in a building, going from room-to-room killing bad guys. Though the game didn’t announce it, I realized his character was in a brothel. The women in the rooms were fully dressed, but each room had an adjoining room with a one-way mirror and camera equipment behind it.
My son had no idea what this meant, so I told him (he’s a teenager, and I’ve been fairly candid with him about the need for sexual purity). We agreed that the game wasn’t appropriate and exchanged it for a better one at the game store. Lesson learned.
Magazines, Comic Books & Other Periodicals
When my oldest son gets a gaming magazine, his mom goes through and pulls all the inappropriate pictures out. I follow-up and pull out the ones she missed, because she doesn’t always see things the way I do after years of struggling with sexual impurity.
None of my kids are much into comics, but if they were, I would review these, as well. I once tried to give my son some of my old comics from when I was a kid, and I was amazed at how sexually provocative they were. The women were drawn like super-charged Barbie dolls, wearing tight, skimpy outfits that showed everything that God had blessed them with. Pay special attention to the messages and images in the comics your kids read.
When an explicit commercial comes on T.V., I tell my kids to turn their eyes, and their mom tells us when it is okay to look again.
If I walk past the living room while my oldest son is watching cartoons, I often ask him if what he is watching is appropriate. He’s into anime now, and some of what’s out there is garbage. He’s come to me several times and confessed that he saw a cartoon that had inappropriate themes or images in it. We talk about the cartoon and agree that he should not watch it in the future.
Recently, we had this talk about a show called Naruto. I walked in on my youngest son while he was shielding his eyes and desperately trying to change the channel without looking at the buttons he was pushing on the remote. Since the show was recorded, I watched it to see what had bothered him. It featured a character who lusted over women’s rear ends (with several full-screen shots of the women’s rears in skimpy shorts). In one scene, the title character changed himself into a naked girl to catch the perv in his lust. You could only see the girl from the shoulders up, but the show made it clear that she was fully naked.
If my oldest is doing a sleepover at a friend’s house, it’s likely that the rules are going to be more lax about inappropriate content. He has learned that he has two main strategies for avoiding these images: ask his friends not to watch the program or leave the room during inappropriate scenes. I don’t want to take him out of the world; I want to equip him to survive in it so that he can still be a light in a dark place.
We regularly review the movies our kids see before we rent them or head to the theatre. If we decide not to go to one that they were interested in, we tell them why (in age-appropriate ways). Occasionally, we will be surprised by a steamy scene in a video that we thought was appropriate for the kids. Mom fast-forwards through these scenes, and I can’t remember even one time when it interfered with our ability to understand the storyline.
I let my kids listen to any genre of music they want as long as it is from a Christian artist. My oldest prefers heavy metal and rap, which is fine with me as long as the message is positive and honors God. I know this is more extreme than many families will want to get, so I recommend going online to review the lyrics of whatever music they are hearing. Music can program our brains and change our worldview, and we don’t even recognize it much of the time.