When it comes to technology, kids learn quickly, while parents often struggle to keep up. But can children also be naïve about the dangers lurking online? Join host Mike Farris and his guest, CEO and President of Enough is Enough, Donna Rice Hughes, as they discuss internet safety for families. That’s today on Home School Heartbeat.
Mike Farris: Our guest today is Donna Rice Hughes. She’s the president and CEO of Enough is Enough. And that’s an internet safety organization founded 20 years ago. Donna, welcome to the program.
Donna: It’s great to be with you, Mike.
Mike: Donna, what motivated you to focus your talents and energy on the issue of internet safety?
Donna: Well, we started this issue in 1994 at the advent of the internet, and then we began to see the beginnings of hardcore pornography, child pornography, and sexual predators exploiting the internet before it had even become mainstream. And so we knew that there was a problem, we knew that kids would be early adopters, and we wanted to get out in front of the problem.
Mike: How do you think things have changed over the last 20 years?
Donna: To some degree it’s gotten worse. We made a lot of great advances in the mid-90s. We got some of the laws extended to the internet that protect children in print broadcasts, for instance, from pornography and from sexual predators. But many of the laws that we got passed were struck down by the Supreme Court of the United States, and then the hard-core obscenity laws which are in effect are not being enforced. And we have a lot of education efforts, but it’s still open access for kids on the internet.
Mike Farris: Parents, we don’t want you to be naïve about the hidden dangers that are online. Next time we’re going talk about Donna’s internet safety course, called Internet Safety 101. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Donna, for somebody who’s 62 years old like I am, I think I’m relatively savvy on the internet and technology, but we can’t turn on our television properly without our 17-year-old son. I think a lot of my generation doesn’t really understand how to use the technology as well as our kids. What’s a parent supposed to do about all this?
Donna: Well, you’re right, Mike. Kids are much more adept at using the technology and the new advances in technology. They’re a few steps ahead of their parents. But it’s important for parents to recognize that they are the stewards of protecting their children while using this technology. So they need to stay up to date, and they need to understand what the dangers are, and then implement the safety measures that are absolutely critical to make sure their kids are using the internet safely.
Mike: What’s one of the most important things a parent needs to do to follow up with this?
Donna : Parents need to recognize that their children are not immune to internet dangers, no matter how good their kid is, no matter how smart their child is, because the bad guys that are exploiting the internet are one step ahead of you and your child. So get the information, get the knowledge, and make sure your kids are safe, and we have a program to help you do that.
Mike: Well, Donna, thank you so much for your work on Internet Safety 101 and the many years you have put into this effort to protect kids on the internet. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Donna, you have seen some truly heinous characters in your 20-year career in internet safety. What have you learned that will help parents protect their children from being victimized?
Donna: In my opinion, the two biggest dangers for children today are the fact that they have free and easy access to all types of pornography, because of the way the pornographers market their material, and they’re going after your kids, trying to get this material in front of them, and it’s hard-core extreme pornography. Number two, sexual predators have free and easy and anonymous access to your kids, so please recognize, your children are not immune, but the good news is, if you implement safety measures that are tools and also rules, then you can make sure your kids are safe on every internet-enabled device that they’re using.
Mike Farris: Donna, there have been many really dramatic stories about kids being harmed by cyber-bullying. Talk to us about that as well.
Donna: Yes, cyber-bullying is a really big issue. In fact, about half of the kids have experienced some type of cyber-bullying in the United States. So, once again, this is something that parents need to be aware of and to get engaged and know and understand what cyber-bullying is all about and how to make sure their kids are safe.
Mike: Well, Scripture teaches us to be wise as serpents and as innocent as doves. Parents, you need to study the materials that Donna’s offering to know your online enemies. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Donna, though parents might delay the time their kids start using the internet, their children are inevitably going to be part of this technological age. What kind of risky behaviors can a kid get involved with without even looking for trouble?
Donna: First of all, kids are going online at much younger and younger ages. In fact, 3–5 year olds are using their parents’ tablets and smartphones, and about 80% of 5–7 year olds are using their parents’ tablets and smartphones, so parents need to recognize that any time there’s unrestricted internet access, they’re opening up all the good and all the bad. But let me just talk about a few risky behaviors that are very common for preteens and teenagers. That is, giving out personal information. Parents, you need to make sure that your child understands that there are no take-backs. Once that information’s out there, it is public. Kids are also putting information in pictures and videos of themselves online that may actually put them at risk for being approached by a predator. And kids need to understand that if they don’t know someone in real life, and they meet somebody online, they can’t be sure that they are who they say they are.
Mike: Dr. James Dobson was right when he said parenting isn’t for cowards. Next time, we’re going to discuss the parent-child relationship and how you can give your child guidance and keep your relationship strong and intact. I’m Mike Farris.
Mike Farris: Donna, all week we’ve taken a serious look at internet safety, but I want to focus on how these challenges impact the parent-child relationship. What kind of strains can arise because of the internet usage?
Donna: Well, that really depends on the age of the child. But once kids get into those tricky preteen and teenage years, they might actually begin to believe that the internet is a right and not a privilege. So I think it’s important for parents to put those boundaries around the use of the computer and the internet and help them understand this is a privilege. But the real key is building a relationship of trust, having an atmosphere of trust around the use of computers and all internet-enabled technologies, and keeping those lines of communication open and honest.
Mike Farris: Donna, what are a couple of quick, practical tips you can give to parents about this issue?
Donna: One of the things parents can do to build that atmosphere of trust is actually sit down with the internet-enabled device and ask their child to teach them what the parent may not know, because kids like to teach their parents.
Mike Farris: Well, Donna, my son Peter, who is 17, has just taught my wife how to use Facebook for the very first time. She’s interested, but Peter’s really the one that’s showing her, so it’s a great idea. Parents, you’ve got your work cut out for you, but Donna’s materials can really help you as you guide your children through these important issues and these dangerous times. I’m Mike Farris.