Establishing Safeguards to Prevent Legal Trouble Online: A guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich

As parents, we know excessive screen time and online mischief can impact our kids’ physical and mental health, grades, spirituality, and values. What we often forget or don’t realize, though, is getting into trouble online can have legal consequences for our kids. Today’s guest post from Carver, Cantin & Mynarich offers their legal perspective on why we need to keep our kids safe online.

 

Today’s children are the first digital natives. They were born into a world surrounded by digital devices- the perfect tools for education, communication, and entertainment. Unfortunately, the internet is also a dangerous world with issues ranging from cyber-bullying to inappropriate content. Here are a few ways parents can keep their children safe online and help them avoid legal trouble.   

 

Begin by limiting online time. The longer a child is exposed to digital media, the greater the chance of being exposed to its harmful effects. Several of the harmful effects of lengthy screen time include obesity from a sedentary lifestyle, sleep problems, and behavioral problems like bullying, learning developments, and violence. Additionally, more screen time means more time to find inappropriate content or get into other trouble online.    

 

So, just how much screen time is too much? According to the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), children under the age of 18 months should not be exposed to any. Those between 18 to 24-months can be exposed to very limited amounts, while those between 2 to 5-years can handle just one hour of supervised exposure. Beyond the age of 5, an allowance of no more than two hours per day is recommended.

 

Next, parents should monitor online time. Besides exposure time, parents need to determine the quality of the content their children consume. They should help their children choose positive educational content and talk about how to make good choices online. This could entail helping kids discern what is “fake news,” putting in place parental controls to ensure kids aren’t looking at overly-sexualized or other age-inappropriate content, or just talking about things online that might interfere with their emotional, physical, or mental well-being. Moreover, parents should watch programs with their children and discuss what they are watching. This will not only help parents monitor what their kids are doing, it will also help teach their kids the boundaries of what is and isn’t appropriate.

 

Consider installing protective software. Given that adults aren’t available 100% of the time to monitor what kids are watching, protective technology can be really helpful. There are a myriad of technologies that can protect them from potentially harmful content. One such tool is Clean Router. This enables parents to manage and monitor all digital devices in their home. As such, it blocks internet pornography, filters Youtube, enforces time restrictions, and logs all activity.

 

Finally, when it comes to your kids’ online time, be consistent with rules and consequences. One of the negative effects of online exposure to inappropriate content is violence, which includes physical and emotional bullying.

 

Cyberbullying is on the rise, especially among teenagers. It is bullying carried out via digital technologies, such as texts, emails, and social media. Among other things, bullying can cause low self-esteem, drugs and alcohol abuse, poor grades in school, and physical and emotional health issues. Moreover, cyberbullying has serious legal ramifications.   

 

Kids also may not realize the danger of sharing personal information or photos online. This is especially true when it comes to sexting, which involves sharing sexually explicit content via digital devices. Your teenager may think they are just sending a cute picture to their significant other, but in some states, sexting between teens can be legally considered the distribution of child pornography. In fact, several states have specific laws on teen sexting. In Missouri, for example, distribution of a minor’s sexually explicit content can attract a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.

 

With serious risks like this, it is critical that parents establish safeguards to protect their children online. Though the internet is an incredible resource, it also opens the door to emotional, physical, and legal risks, especially for kids and teens.

 

 Carver, Cantin & Mynarich are a team of criminal defense lawyers in Springfield, Missouri. The firm specializes in Internet crimes, along with serious felonies, criminal tax, death penalty prosecutions and a wide-range of other criminal cases. The firm is a 2017 and 2018 U.S. News & Best Lawyers Best Law Firm in America.

 

Thank you, Carver, Cantin & Mynarich!

 

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Pastor Nathan: “How should we prioritize prevention vs. addiction recovery?”

When it comes to online pornography, should parents and youth leaders focus on preventing kids and teens from encountering pornography or helping those who are addicted break free? In the latest Pastor Nathan video, he explains that placing barriers between youth and pornography is essential, but, for many teens, it’s too late to prevent the initial exposure. The most effective approach, then, is to prevent further encounters while simultaneously helping kids and teens heal from any contact with pornography they may have already had.

 

See Pastor Nathan’s full response below!

 

 

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Kids and teens who watch porn more dissatisfied later in life, study finds

Research published in The Journal of Sex Research found that teens who watch porn feel less satisfied and watch more porn later as adults.

 

The study, conducted by Brian J. Willoughby, Bonnie Young-Petersen, and Nathan D. Leonhardt, asked 908 adults about their prior and current pornography use, personal relationships, and mental health. These adults were asked to provide data in these areas for each year of their lives beginning at age seven.

 

The responders roughly fell into four different categories based on the age at which they began using pornography:

 

*Early engager: 7-10 years old

*Pubescent engager: 11-13 years old

*Late engager: 14-17 years old

*Abstainers: Almost no engagement with pornography at any age

 

The participants in the first two groups, those who began using pornography consistently between the ages of seven and thirteen years old, were more likely to have continued using pornography throughout their lives and consumed more pornography than the other two groups. They also were more likely to agree with these statements:

 

“My thoughts about pornography are causing problems in my life.”

 

“My desires to view pornography disrupt my daily life.”

 

“I sometimes fail to meet my commitments and responsibilities because of my pornography use.”

 

“Sometimes my desire to view pornography is so great that I lose control.”

 

“I have to struggle not to view pornography.”

 

Unsurprisingly, these early engagers were also more likely to use pornography compulsively as adults.

 

 

The participants in the abstainer group were more likely to be married as adults and reported slightly better mental health and greater life satisfaction than those in other groups.

 

The data from this study also suggested that those who used pornography infrequently or inconsistently demonstrated similar patterns and outcomes to the abstainer group. This may be the best news of the study, because it means healing really is possible for those who leave pornography behind!

 

Despite all the positive outcomes for teens who avoided pornography, the researchers found that these teens were less sexually knowledgeable and confident than their peers who watched porn. The study’s authors stressed the importance of providing teens with appropriate sex education and preparing them to be confident in their sexuality as adults.

 

 

The authors of this study also repeatedly emphasized the negative consequences for pornography use as children. These children grew up to use more pornography, display more dysfunctional pornography use (like addiction and compulsive use), were significantly less satisfied with their lives, and were least likely to be married as adults. As parents, we may not be able to shield our children from pornography forever, but simply protecting them through childhood will pay off dividends for their future.

 

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You CAN talk to your five year old about pornography– and here’s how

Hey parents– imagine yourself talking to your kids about pornography.

 

How old are your kids?

 

If you’re like most parents, you probably pictured your kids as teens, maybe tweens, shifting uncomfortably in their seats as you talk about addiction, sexuality, respect, and exploitation. There’s only one problem with that plan.

 

It’s way too late.

 

By age fifteen, your teenager is more likely to have seen pornography than not. The average age of a kid seeing pornography for the first time? Twelve years old.  Focus on the Family cites research claiming it’s now eight years old!

 

Parents, if you want to get to your kids first– and believe me, you do– you need to start the conversation about pornography with your kids far before the teen years.

 

How?

 

If you cringe at the idea of discussing prostitution, sexual violence, and addiction with your kindergarten, you’re not alone. If you are ready for the birds and the bees, go for it! If not, you can still break it down for them in ways they can understand.

 

At five years old, kids are ready for a label, a definition, and an action plan:

 

“Pornography is pictures, videos, or words that describe or display private parts of people’s bodies like a woman’s breasts and vulva or a man’s penis. Reading or looking at pornography may make you feel good or excited or uncomfortable, or all of these things. Pornography is unhealthy for your brain, so if you see pornography, look away and tell Mom or Dad as soon as you can. If Mom and Dad aren’t there, tell a teacher or another grown-up.”

 

Your family media rules will also provide opportunities to talk to your kids about internet safety and the power of media.

 

Before you hand them an iPad:

 

“Hey bud, come out here while you play Minecraft. You should always have an adult with you while you’re online.”

 

Explaining media rules:

 

“Pictures, videos, and music can influence our thoughts and emotions, which in turn influence our beliefs and attitudes. That’s why we only allow media in our home that fits with our family’s standards.”

 

 

Turning off an inappropriate movie:

 

“We’re not going to watch any more of this movie because it makes X (drinking alcohol, promiscuity, smoking, being unkind to family members, racial prejudice) look cool. X is really very uncool– it’s bad for Y (our bodies, our families, our minds, society, etc.) because Z (it’s addictive, it causes cancer, it makes people feel unloved, it weakens families, etc.). I know you know X is not ok, but if we watch media that makes X look cool, over time, our brains get tricked into thinking that X really isn’t so bad.”

 

Keep things basic and concrete– anything too abstract will only confuse a five year old. Above all, keep the conversation comfortable and open! As your child grows, he or she will be ready for more information, and you will have laid a foundation by starting early.

 

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Pastor Nathan’s religious perspective: “What do you think God wants us to do to protect our families?”

This week’s video focuses on Pastor Nathan’s religious principles and why his faith in God motivates him to fight against pornography. If you are religious, or just curious about how religion and and the anti-pornography movement go hand in hand, check out his answer below!

 

 

Pornography erodes personal dignity, harms children and teens, and damages marriages– sometimes beyond repair. Click here to read more about the negative effects of pornography!

 

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4 ways to porn-proof young children (without shattering their innocence)

When do you need to start talking to your kids about pornography? According to internet safety experts, it needs to begin before your kids go online for the first time. Sounds reasonable, right? Maybe fifteen years ago, but thanks to tablets and mobile devices, most kids are using apps and streaming shows before their third birthday. Sure, you might begin explaining the basics of human reproduction to a three year old, but most parents aren’t ready to break down sexual violence, addiction, exploitation, and safe sex at this point.

 

Luckily, you CAN prepare your little children against pornography in an effective and age-appropriate manner. Here are four things you can do– and none of them involve a nitty-gritty sex talk.

 

1. Teach them to respect others’ personal boundaries

Pornography is intensely confusing because it blurs the line between consensual and non-consensual sex. Research indicates that pornography users are more likely to support violence against women and to sexually harass others. You might not be ready to talk to your child about sexual harassment, but you can teach him or her from toddlerhood to respect others’ bodies and boundaries. Have firm rules in your house that no means no, and if someone is not enjoying a certain activity, that form of play stops immediately. If your child develops these values, he or she will be able to recognize the unhealthy dynamics of pornography, no matter his or her age.

 

2. Respect THEIR personal boundaries

Here’s the flip side of respect– children need to have their bodies and boundaries respected as well, even if the activity seems harmless or someone’s feelings will be hurt. Pornography is tricky– it tries to create gray areas where boundary violations and abuse seem acceptable because of who did it or because the person whose wishes were ignored seemed ok afterwards. As a parent (or grandparent, or teacher, or caretaker), your job is to demonstrate their bodies and boundaries should ALWAYS be respected– no exceptions!

 

3.Watch TV with them

Media is unrealistic, and that’s often what makes it fun. Sometimes the fantastic aspects are obvious– dragons, Jedi, zombies, balloons that can lift a house. Other times, though, it’s less obvious– put-downs that don’t hurt feelings, inept adults, implausible romances. Kids need to consume media alongside parents or trusted adults to open a dialogue about what is real and what isn’t. This can prevent media of any kind, including pornography, from warping their developing expectations.

 

4.Kindness counts

This one’s simple: pornography shows everything except kindness. The higher value you place on kindness in your home, the less likely your children will be to perceive a lack of kindness as attractive. Gordon B. Hinckley, a prominent religious leader, once said that love “is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.” This is what pornography doesn’t show– and it is what children of any age desperately need to see.

 

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Teens are more likely to sexually harass if they watch porn, study says

In our national conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault, we’re leaving out an important factor– pornography. Research from multiple studies shows consumption of pornography is highly correlated with violence against women. For ethical reasons, it’s difficult to prove causation in studies, but this study shows that, for many teens, pornography consumption often predicts sexual harassment.

 

The study, published in academic journal Communication Research, surveyed almost one thousand young teenagers. 66% of the boys reported they had seen pornography in the last year at least once. Two years later, the boys who had seen pornography were more likely to have sexually harassed someone than the boys who had not seen pornography.  These boys also had less progressive gender role attitudes, more permissive attitudes about sex, and were more likely to be sexually active.

 

You can read more about the study here.

 

They say we are what we eat, but as members of modern society, we’re equally likely to become what we watch. Our brains are wired to pay attention to sexual imagery, and teens are already eager to learn about sex from whoever will teach them. In pornography, violence and degradation are made attractive, commitment is undesirable, and love is irrelevant. Obviously, this is not what we want our teenagers to be taught. Exposure to pornography at an early age shapes attitudes about gender, sexuality, and relationships for life!

 

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Porn use predicts support of violence against women, study says

A recent study found individuals with a history of heavy pornography use are more likely to support violence against women.

 

The study surveyed 200 Danish young adults about their history of pornography use, attitudes about sexual violence against women, and certain personality traits. Researchers found that the individuals in the study who had a history of heavy pornography use were more likely to support violence against women.

 

There are several interesting aspects of this study. First, Denmark is known for extremely liberal pornography legislation and is often held up as an example of a society that has supposedly benefited from pornography use. Linking pornography use to support of violence against women indicates that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, something is indeed rotten in the state of Denmark. The genders of the participants are also noteworthy. While many studies on the effects of pornography use focus on men, this study includes both men and women. Lastly, the study convicts both violent and nonviolent pornographic content. Individuals who merely experimented with nonviolent pornography were also more likely to support violence against women if they also scored lower on a trait termed in the social sciences as “agreeableness” (Agreeableness is a term used in academic literature that normally encompasses tact, warmth, friendliness, optimism, and the ability to get along well with others). While some hold up “ethical” pornography as harmless, this study indicates no pornography is innocent.

 

You can read the original study here.

 

Pornography brings out the worst in viewers. While violent pornography is obviously destructive, even nonviolent pornography can desensitize users until they support atrocities against women– even if the users themselves are female! Such disorientation of ethics and personal values would be especially destructive to children and teens. For the sake of communities, families, and individuals, we must teach our children to shun pornography.

 

Pornography has no place in our homes.

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Porn associated with marital instability, study says

 

A new study further illustrates the awful effects of pornography on marriage.

 

The researchers, drawing from data from the National Portraits of Life study, studied married couples surveyed in 2006 and in 2012. The couples were asked in 2006 about their pornography consumption habits, and, in 2012, the researchers checked to see if the couples were still together and again assessed the couples’ pornography consumption.

 

Analyses of the data showed that couples who viewed pornography in any amount or frequency in 2006 were TWICE as likely to be separated in 2012 as the couples who abstained from pornography. Furthermore, the correlation remained even after controlling for marital happiness and sexual satisfaction in 2006 and other sociodemographic factors. To read more about this study, click here!

 

Pornography is frequently sold as a way to “spice up” marriages and relationships, but modern research debunks this myth. Drs. John and Julie Gottman, prominent marriage and family experts, published an open letter on the harms of pornography, including reduced relationship satisfaction, decreased emotional connection between partners, and a higher likelihood of extramarital affairs. Anecdotally, spouses of individuals who use pornography report lower levels of self-esteem, body image, and trust, and higher levels of depression and anxiety. In short, pornography is more likely to torch a marriage than to spice it up.

 

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Pornography use predicts decreased religious observance in teens and young adults, study says

Faithful families, take notice! A recent study suggests that viewing pornography leads to lower levels of religious observance and belief in God.

 

The researchers, Samuel L. Perry of University of Oklahoma and George M. Hayward of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wanted to explore “how viewing pornography may shape young Americans’ connection to key social and cultural institutions, like religion.” They used data from the first three portions of a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of young Americans. When the survey began, the participants were between thirteen and seventeen years of age. At the end of the third portion of the study, the participants ranged in age between eighteen and twenty-four years old. For those unfamiliar with academic research procedure, such data is difficult and expensive to obtain and considered the “gold standard” of data collection.

 

Upon examination of the data, Perry and Hayward found that, the more often teens and young adults viewed pornography, the less often they attended church and prayed. The participants who viewed more pornography were also less likely to value religion, perceived less closeness to God, and had more religious doubts than those who did not view pornography.

 

The article reiterates previous research in noting the probable role of cognitive dissonance in these results. In other words, religious individuals who engage with pornography feel the conflict between their actions and their religious values. Such conflict is extremely emotionally uncomfortable, and we as humans either change our values or our behavior to alleviate these feelings of guilt and shame. Unfortunately, changing one’s values is often easier in the moment than discontinuing habit-forming behavior like pornography use.

 

To read the study in full, click here!

 

Research shows again and again that pornography erodes the best of each of us: our values, our self-control, and our relationships. Parents who want to protect their homes and families can no longer afford to do nothing! Talk to your children about online pornography from infancy. Initially, these conversations won’t be about sexuality or explicit content, but about kindness, respect, and house rules for technology use. However, these simple themes will lay a foundation and prepare both the parents and the kids over time to tackle more advanced topics like pornography, self-control, social media use, and more.

 

Talking to your kids about pornography can be intimidating, but it is easier than it sounds and absolutely essential. Click here to read more about family internet safety on our blog and start the conversation today!

 

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