Issue 25 | July 31, 2015
SPECIAL EDITION: PART 4 OF 5
Disclaimer: This edition includes details on how one may access inappropriate content on various devices for the sake of parents being aware of how they can proactively protect their tech-savvy kids. Please be aware of this before reading this article if you (or anyone you refer this edition to) may find that this adds more temptation options to their lives.
BATTLE PLAN PART 3: SET UP AN ATMOSPHERE OF PROTECTION & ACCOUNTABILITY
Beyond helping students see pornography as God sees it and praying for their hearts and minds, we adults also have a responsibility to create atmospheres that are safe, loving, and based on accountability. That means we need to be held accountable first, so that we are visibly demonstrating the vulnerability required for accountability, as well as the growth and freedom that come from it. Then we need to put accountability measures in place that protect young minds from unnecessary exposure and that help older children choose to run from temptation and addiction.
If your family has even one device of any sort with Internet access, our recommendation for accountability is Covenant Eyes (it doesn't work exceptionally well on Apple devices--see following section--but it is still the best option currently available). The program will run in the background, tracking not just websites visited, but also any inappropriate searches made on apps (like iTunes). Customized reports are then emailed to your chosen accountability partner on a regular basis. Initially, parents can be a child's accountability partner, but we encourage parents to eventually find a trusted mentor to provide this accountability.
Covenant Eyes also has an Internet filtering component that works well in conjunction with the accountability program, especially if children are using the device. Most of the objectionable content online will be filtered out, but if something occasionally breaks through, it will appear in the accountability report, enabling you to have the appropriate conversation with your child. This service is available at a flat family rate of $13.99/month total for as many devices as your family owns. If you're interested in this software, check it out here. (If you use "axis" as your promo code, you can try the software out free for 30 days!)
Also, since such a large percentage of porn temptation usually occurs at night, consider implementing a family device curfew: all devices must be "retired" (ie plugged in to charge and ignored until the next morning) at a certain time each night in a public room, like the living room or kitchen. In addition to helping with accountability, this could also be useful for carving out a sacred space in your day where family members can interact with each other device-free.
*Note: To our knowledge, there are currently no options for device accountability on video game systems. Handheld systems, like Nintendo DS, and any standard game system with Internet access can provide access to inappropriate content through browsers and the games themselves.
DEVICE ACCOUNTABILITY: APPLE
When it comes to Apple device accountability, things aren't straightforward. The Covenant Eyes app for Apple product is an Internet browser designed to replace Safari, with the accountability function and content filter built in. However, Apple maintains a high level of regulation with iOS, which means its apps are unable to communicate with each other. What this effectively means for accountability is that an app like Covenant Eyes would only be able to monitor content accessed through its browser and nothing accessed through other apps on the device. And given that many social media apps like Vine, Twitter, and Tumblr do include pornography, you can see how this is problematic.
Additionally, a great number of apps for iOS have web browser capabilities built into them. It may not always be obvious how to access the web browser, but here's an example: a student could find Google's profile, which has a clickable link to google.com, on either the Twitter or Facebook app, click on the link, and have unrestricted access to Google's search engine, even though the Internet browser has been disabled. (Here is a blog post that includes a list of all the non-browser apps the writer used to access unrestricted Internet.)
Therefore, for an app like CE to work optimally on an Apple product, a large number of other apps and features would need to be either disabled or deleted, and then nearly every function redirected through the CE browser. (You would also need to disable the App Store and keep it under a restrictions passcode to keep your child from re-downloading everything.) Unfortunately, the CE browser is sometimes slow, glitchy, and will occasionally crash, so this may be frustrating, but to our knowledge, all iOS accountability apps (including x3watch) run into these same obstacles because of the design structure. There is another program called TeenSafe that uses iCloud backups to report on a variety of things, including websites accessed through Safari. It costs $14.95/month and allows you to monitor several other aspects of the phone (like text messaging), but if your family already has a Covenant Eyes subscription, the mobile app comes with the family package and will offer about the same amount of Internet coverage.
In the final part of this series next week, we'll cover setting up accountability on Android devices.