Friday, August 29, 2014

Let's Talk

I feel like I need to do a follow up to my blog post that spread around like wildfire the other day.  It nearly got more hits than my entire blog has for the past eight years.  Between the link to Rod’s post and this website, there were a lot of comments and a lot of judgment about the fact that my 7-year-old even has an iPod. 

For the record, not that it matters really, but my husband and I did not purchase any of the devices they have. One has an old iPhone (with no phone) and a kindle and the others have very old iPods. They were gifts.  Could we have said no?  Absolutely!  Do I wish we had?  Not really.  The fact that they have the devices was not the point of my article nor is it the issue here.  Having the iPod for entertainment - to play games, to listen to music, to use the walkie-talkie app they love, to take pictures of their dogs and make movies of their Lego creations - none of that is the problem.  We try to regulate and balance the amount of time they spend with these things but give me a break….we just returned from a nine hour road trip to and from Florida and I would have gouged my eyes out had they not been able to Cut the Rope and Craft Mines in the back of that minivan.  Maybe some other kids entertain themselves with quiet rounds of I Spy and reading classic novels for hours on end.  Mine don’t.   On that same trip they also ate Lunchables and had some blue box macaroni and cheese.  Send me to mommy jail. 

I did experience a parent fail moment and that was why I posted the article.  To maybe save another parent from the same sad, tearful conversation I had to have with my little boy.  For another point on the record, we don’t even have cable TV.  We have a subscription to Amazon Prime and we did have Netflix until we realized it was redundant with the Prime account that I can’t and won’t cancel because I like having paper towels and coconut oil delivered to my door in two days.   But guess where my son heard the word that led him to the search on YouTube?  Cable television in our condo from the vacation we just returned from.   Not even cable with HBO or any other channel like that - just regular run of the mill cable TV.

I could (and perhaps should) have disconnected it in the rooms where my children were hanging out but honestly it didn’t cross my mind.  Mainly because my oldest son only wanted to watch Duck Dynasty and they were all excited about watching Full House and America's Funniest Videos and Jessie or whatever non-stop.  As far as I saw, that’s all they watched when we were all even there. Was he channel surfing and heard it?  Or was it on a show he was watching?  I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter.  He heard it, he searched for it, and the rest is blogger history.  It's all over regular TV you know.  Porn that is.  Let's call it what it is.  I was watching Miss America with my daughter last year and the network showed a preview for something that sure enough looked like porn to me.  

No, my fail wasn’t in allowing him to have a piece of technology, even though some may disagree.  My fail was in knowing there was a small crack in the boat and filling it in with Elmer’s glue.  I knew there was the capability on that iPod to get on the internet through what we believed was a strong filter.  For the last point on the record, my husband is an IT professional and this was the strongest filter we knew of.  We had tested it and it had not failed.  Until it failed. 

My main point of the article and my mistake was in abandoning my responsibility as a parent and entrusting it to someone (something) else.  And in saying we need to "soldier up" as parents, I mean that fighting this war starts in our own homes.  Porn is an ugly word.  In all honesty my stomach turned just seeing that word in the same sentence with the reference to my precious little boy.  It’s so ugly that I was shaking as I hit publish and put that article out there.  And it’s so ugly that no one wants to talk about it.  

But it’s the elephant in the room.

It’s the elephant in our living rooms.  It’s the elephant in our schools.  And it’s the elephant in the pew next to you at church.  Parents, we need to be talking about it.  And if you’re in the ministry, particularly children’s and student ministry, and you’re not talking about it, you’re really contributing to the problem.  We need each other!  Like my friends and I discussed, because we are neighbors and our children spend so much time at one another’s homes, we need to be in solidarity.  We need to know what our kids' friends are allowed to have and see at their homes. We need to know how much unfettered access they have to the internet at school and church.  Yes church!  Because even if your kids don’t have access to any devices at your home, even if you don’t get a single television or movie channel in your home, even if they have no access to the internet whatsoever - if they go to school, or to someone else’s house, (or a condo at the beach!), chances are great that they will have access.    We simply can’t escape it because it’s there and it’s all around us.   All we can do is the best we can do.  We need to talk about it.  And then we need to do.  

Keep the conversation going, friends. 

Note:  I received many, many emails from friends and strangers in response to this article who had similar experiences.  There are some great resources out there:


Wendy said...

Grandparents. As if 'the talk' isn't hard enough as a kid with your parents, having this talk with grandparents is even harder in some ways. Our son searched a word out of curiosity too. On his grandmother's iPad. Kids will find stuff we think we've put away. He went where he shouldn't have and got something he didn't have permission to get. And it happened.

Bring grandparents into the loop. Have the awkward conversations with our parents too. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and babysitters too for that matter. Circle all the wagons.

Rod Dreher said...

I appreciate the tough stand you have taken, and completely agree with you. As I said in my own blog post highlighting yours, there will always be people who find every reason to downplay what you're saying, to dismiss you, and so forth. Pay no attention. I let that stuff run right off my back. The mothers and fathers who understand what's at stake are grateful to know that they aren't crazy, and they aren't alone.