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Safe Children in the Digital Age

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy
The Truth Network Radio
August 22, 2022 11:58 am

Safe Children in the Digital Age

Family Policy Matters / NC Family Policy

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August 22, 2022 11:58 am

This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs sits down with Clare Morell to discuss the recent report she co-authored, entitled “Raising a Family in the Digital Age: A Technology Guide for Parents.”

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MUSIC Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As parents and grandparents, we hope you are increasingly aware of the risks technology poses to the health, welfare, and safety of your children and their friends.

Even with the best of intentions, inappropriate content is bound to find them. So what can and should parents do to protect their children from the risks posed by life in a digital age? Well, there's a new resource entitled Raising a Family in the Digital Age, a Technology Guide for Parents. It's available to you from the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and we're joined today by one of the report's authors, Claire Morale. To dig into that, Morale serves as policy analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she works on their big tech project. Claire Morale, welcome to Family Policy Matters.

Thank you so much for having me. Okay, so we all understand that technology can be a huge time suck, robbing hours from more wholesome relationships and better activities. So first of all, let's talk about how can parents limit screen time and put boundaries on that? Yes, so you're absolutely correct that these apps and devices are very addictive to children's brains.

And so without putting time limits in place, they can just get sucked away onto these devices. And so parents have tools available to them, both within devices as well as within applications to set time limits. And so those are now a lot of built-in parental controls. And our guide discusses how you can set those up on your devices and also on certain applications that you want your children to have limited time on. And so that really is the first step parents should put in place is activate those different parental controls to set time limits, as well as just have conversations with your kids and put boundaries around the use of technology in your home, particularly their internet access, making sure that that is time limited and supervised, that they're doing it in a public place where you can monitor what exactly they are doing online. So I'm sure if we look at your guide, we will get the answers to this, but give us some examples of the kinds of things that parents can put on these devices to monitor or limit the time. There are softwares that you can purchase that really give parents the most comprehensive set of parental controls. We get several examples, but circle is one software that does that, allows the parental control as well as another one called bark and bark even allows you to do that on phones and through text messages as well. And then also there's other softwares that just block and filter inappropriate content.

So that's not a time limit software, but there are those as well. Time is one thing that we should be concerned about, but I think we could all agree that the greater risk is the content that young people can access on these devices. So what do you consider the greatest content risks posed by this technology that it seems like almost all of our young people are into? I think that the greatest danger in terms of content is really pornography. So these websites that you would think are just where kids are interacting with their peers, like whether it's Facebook or Instagram or TikTok are increasingly filled with sexual and illicit content. And so it's honestly becoming the place of kind of first encounter is on just regular social media platforms.

It's not something kids have to go looking for. It's now finding them on social media. So pornography is probably the greatest type of harmful content followed though closely, I think increasingly by LGBT content that is being actively promoted to kids by these quote unquote trans influencers. And that type of content is widely circulating on these social media platforms and really kind of preying on the vulnerability of children to recruit them to their lifestyles. And so parents should be aware as well, particularly because filters that you might put on your devices for pornography aren't necessarily going to block that type of content, which is these activists kind of increasingly promoting the trans movement, trying to recruit children to transition their gender and kind of join their community. So let's talk a little more about pornography, because you're not always talking about these young people that might be looking at pornography, but you're talking about potential predators, right? It's both people post pornographic, illicit materials, videos, photos to these social media platforms that then tend to get circulated, because sadly, that type of content appeals to the fleshly nature of people. And so then it can get very promoted by the, you know, websites algorithms as people are watching and clicking on that. And so your child might stumble across that because it is circulating on the platforms. And then the second threat is predators, like human traffickers, who are trying to sexually exploit children. And so they go to where the children are, and try to reach out to them via messages on a lot of these platforms, you know, appearing like a friend, and kind of grooming them over time to try to recruit them into, you know, online child exploitation or sex trafficking.

And so that risk is out there as well. So we said at the beginning, and I think we can all agree that the best that we do, some of the stuff is still going to get through. You mentioned talking to your kids.

So what kind of conversations are we having about the time spent on technology and the kinds of influences? What should parents and grandparents be saying to their kids? This is, I think, the most effective thing you really can do is talk to your kids early and often about these things, because these tools that you can put in place really aren't a silver bullet solution. You want your children to become wise and discerning and willing to come to you if they do stumble across something on the internet.

You want to be the person they turn to. And so we recommend that you start talking to your kids a lot earlier than you would like. I mean, I think that as young as six or seven, you just don't know what they might come across, even if you're not allowing them to use those devices in your home.

They have friends. Friends can show them things. And so just trying to talk to your children early about the appropriate uses of technology and as well as warning them about inappropriate things that they could come across. And you want to just have these kind of conversations frequently. So it's not like do one big sit-down conversation about this, but it's as you're going to school or as you're driving in the car or as you're talking in the kitchen, just reiterating other and other.

If you come across something that makes you uncomfortable online or your friend shows you something that bothers you or disturbs you, or you see an image of naked people or anything like that, don't freak out. Come talk to me about what you saw because you as the parent really want to be the one they're turning to. You don't want them turning to their friends or the internet for answers to these questions about things that they may have come across. And also using those conversations to talk about the boundaries that you all are putting in place as a family and why you're doing that. Explaining to your kids the different threats out there, why you care about them, you're trying to protect them by putting boundaries in place. And I think another important one is to tell your kids if someone offers to show you something on a phone or a computer, you can just tell them, you know, we don't look at phones in my family or, you know, we don't look at other friends' computers in my family. Like just training your kids because you won't always be with them to protect them, but giving them tools and kind of rules to go back to that apply to your family that they can use even when they're outside the home. What kinds of conversations should you be having with your kids about privacy? How do you talk to them about that?

That is another really important point. I would say that just being completely honest, I really don't think children, particularly under the ages of 16 or 18, need to be on social media. So I would first say that if parents can delay social media use as long as possible, that that is ideal to really push that off as close to adulthood as you can because of some of the privacy risks as well as these harmful content. But if you do permit them to be on these apps, then it's really important that you talk to them about not posting things that they wouldn't want other people to see forever. Just that if it goes onto the internet, it's there forever. And so training your kids to be very sensitive about personal information, about themselves, about their family.

And so you really do want to train them because for better or for worse, the internet is kind of a forever world in the sense that if it goes online and someone else has it, even if you go back and delete that post or that thing, it's out there now. And so I think also parents should be aware certain apps and devices are better at protecting privacy than others. And so I would just say in particular, TikTok has been shown to be very leaky with user data and also has admitted that Chinese employees are allowed to access US user data. And so this then gets into the realm of national security threats that other countries could be gathering this data on our kids and on us.

And so I do just try to warn people to be wary, particularly of TikTok. But then more generally, social media websites in the terms of service, they have the right to collect this data on us. And when we really don't own our data, we agree that to use their service means they get to collect our data. And so while these services might be free, we are paying with our time, our attention and our data, which they use to sell ads and make their money off ad revenue. So I think people aren't always aware that you don't really own your data.

You kind of can't take it back from the company or move it if you want to use a different app or platform. It stays with them. And so parents do need to warn their children about being really careful about the things that they post online, as well as just being cautious about certain apps to just keep them off entirely. Last question.

What do we do? We don't want to scare our kids away from technology, right? Because there's lots of good stuff on the Internet. That's a great resource.

It's a great thing to learn how to do. So how do we do that? What are the kind of conversations we're having with our kids where we're trying to explain how to get to the good stuff without really being ensnared? The biggest thing you can do is actually model that for your kids. And so I think our children are watching us, and they learn, I think, a lot more from the things that we do than necessarily what we say. And so I think parents modeling a healthy relationship with technology, using it in your home in ways that brings the family together, if that's playing an online trivia game together or watching a movie, those types of things that are really using technology to create real life relationships, to build and invest into the family, versus using them in a way that's really separating and kind of isolating people by everyone being on their own screen and not interacting with each other. And so we should watch our own use of technology, how often we're on our phones or computers around our kids. Whether we're giving more attention to that than to our children is, I think, a very big thing that we can do as parents is to really watch our own relationships and then putting in place those boundaries that we talked about, like not having phones at the table and enjoying meals together or having a phone box where everyone puts their phones at the end of the day when they come home to create those times and spaces for everyone to really be together. And so I think then there's ways you can show children how to use technology well, maybe it's for educational purposes, like you want to do a family kind of research into the country of Spain. And so you're going to pull up the internet together and look at, oh, what could they eat in Spain and do activities that are helping kids to learn things from the internet that is involving the whole family, is not just kids going off on their own playing a game or chatting with friends on an app. And so I think modeling it and then just showing kids how to use things well to learn, to engage with technology in a healthy way rather than kind of just allowing them to go do whatever they want on their phone. So it's going to take a lot of intentionality from parents. Okay, great.

Well, we're just about out of time. Before we go, where can our listeners go to follow your work and find a copy of your report, Raising a Family in the Digital Age, a Technology Guide for Parents? You can go to the website So that's the acronym for our organization, You can click on my scholar page, Claire Morrell, where you can see all the articles I've written on these subjects.

And you can also then click on the Big Tech Project page. And that is where you'll find a link to this new parents guide that has a nice downloadable PDF you can use to read in detail more about the things you can do as a parent to protect your kids. Claire Morrell with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, thank you so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.

You've been listening to Family Policy Matters. We hope you enjoyed the program and plan to tune in again next week. To listen to the show online and to learn more about NC Family's work to inform, encourage and inspire families across North Carolina, go to our website at That's Thanks again for listening and may God bless you and your family.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-07 09:34:38 / 2023-03-07 09:40:26 / 6

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