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Protecting Your Child, in Good Faith, from the Media Minefield

October 22nd, 2015     By By Father Steven Boes, National Executive Director, Boys Town  

Parenting Skills, social media

It used to be that a parent’s greatest fear was sending his or her child out into the world, where they might face all sorts of potential dangers.

Now parents are even more frightened by the prospect of technology bringing the dangers of the world directly into their child’s life.

As social media has become increasingly more predatory and more threatening, kids have become more vulnerable to harmful activities like cyberbullying and harassment. Today, it’s easy for teens and even younger children to spread malicious gossip and rumors about their peers, or to attack or gang up on other kids. This is a major threat to the emotional and physical well-being of young people because in many cases, such attacks have led the victimized children to hurt themselves or even commit suicide.

There’s also a threat from the violent and sexual imagery children can easily access through the media. For example, violent video games are readily available online and even an innocent Internet search can lead to porn sites.

Oftentimes, parents are their children’s last line of defense against these insidious threats. With the media minefield kids face today, your child needs you and your guidance more than ever.

So how can you protect your child?

There are many common sense strategies families can adopt to reduce their children’s vulnerability to cyber threats. They include monitoring what your child is saying and doing on his or her phone or online, and keeping tabs on the messages he or she is receiving. Another effective strategy is making sure your child understands that having a phone, laptop or IPad is a privilege, not a right, and that the consequence of misusing those devices is losing those devices. Connecting your kids with positive peers, role-modeling appropriate use of technology and getting your child outside (away from devices) to exercise are just a few others.

But while these are all great ways parents can address the day-to-day threat social media can pose, there is an even better strategy for protecting children and empowering them to protect themselves.

Studies have shown that teens who are religious are less likely to engage in risky behaviors and sexual activity, have less media consumption, have a higher quality of family and adult relationships, exercise stronger moral reasoning and moral behavior, are more involved in the community and have stronger emotional well-being. This research clearly points out the value of helping your child develop a strong faith life and exercising it through religious practices.

So if you’re praying as a family before meals or at bedtime, keep doing it. If your family regularly attends religious services together, carry on. If you’re guiding your child toward a stronger faith life, bravo!

These are all wonderful ways to weave spirituality into the fabric of your family. And if your family’s faith life is not as strong as it could be, it’s never too late to improve it.

As a parent, protecting your child is one of your top priorities. You have the awesome responsibility of identifying and teaching the positive values and morals that will enable your child to make good decisions and good choices, especially when you’re not there to provide immediate advice or guidance.

When your child follows your lead and develops a strong faith life and good moral character, he or she will find a shield of protection that lasts a lifetime.

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