Sometimes it feels like 80% of my parenting efforts are centered around keeping negative influences out of my home, and most of that is centered around the internet. My kids, like all kids nowadays, have online games they enjoy (Scratch, Roblox) and they want to have time online to goof off and play their games. The problem is how easily they are able to access other, darker things on the web.
I’ve looked over their shoulder to see ads that are completely inappropriate, mostly ads for other games featuring half dressed women. No matter how diligently I police their online time, something like that still crops up. Sometimes I wish we lived off the grid somewhere and our hobbies were baking bread and walking in the forest, but we live right smack in the middle of metro Atlanta and the internet is here to stay. When I was a kid I had TV shows I liked, and I did enjoy Nintendo, but that was before the internet and there was no chance of me accidentally discovering pornography or inadvertently talking to a pedophile while playing Mario. Things are different today.
I wish I had all the answers about protecting my kids from the crap the world has to offer. I can tell you what I’ve done to mitigate the threat, but I don’t think there are any perfect solutions. We live in a messed up, filthy world, unfortunately.
I deleted all of my social media for multiple reasons, but one of the positive side effects is that I’m not glued to my phone like a lot of parents. I’m able to more effectively say no to my kids having a ton of online time because I don’t have a ton of online time. I have hobbies in the real world. I have horses and a garden and I read a lot of books. My kids are also expected to have real hobbies and not spend all their time crafting an online persona.
Homeschool has been a big help in mitigating the influence of pop culture in my kids. They don’t go to school and hear about a bunch of games they’re not allowed to play and shows they’re not allowed to watch. We hang out with other homeschool families who are just as particular as I am about what comes into their homes.
I think probably the best antidote to the pull of the online life is cultivating a REAL life- doing cool things for real, not online. We take a lot of cheap little mini vacations, just a day or two here and there, we camp a lot, we mountain bike, we work in our yard, we have a lot of pets that are very entertaining, we visit the library every week and we do things together as a family. I feel like a lot of modern families are each living in their own online world, sharing a roof and maybe a table but not connected to each other in any meaningful way. That’s how a child can commit suicide after being bullied mercilessly through social media, and the parents have no idea until it’s too late. So many parts of children’s lives are happening on a tiny screen, but the consequences are very real. I’m encouraging my kids to live in the real world, not through a screen.