By J. Wylie Hartwell
mom and dad, how many pornographic web pages do
you think your children can easily access via
the Internet? Would you believe half a billion?
Believe it! Don’t think for a second that your
children will not fall prey to pornographers if
left to surf the Internet without proper
safeguards. These peddlers of filth and
immorality are not only destroying children’s
innocence but entire families as well.
The “Pornification of America” has been coined
in recent years to describe pornography’s
skyrocketing climb from seedy magazine stands
and adult movie stores to mainstream society. It
is now everywhere but, most prevalent and at its
most vile, on the Internet.
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security
thinking that you or your children are immune to
this plague ravaging society. The multi-billion
dollar pornographic industry uses many forms of
deception to lure Internet surfers
unsuspectingly to their websites. I can
guarantee you that if you have children using a
computer with no parental controls and filtering
software, they have already been affected. Even
with filtering software, technology is not the
complete answer. There is much you need to know
and do to protect your children.
How can I convince you that your children are at
risk? What if I told you that one of the largest
groups of viewers of Internet pornography are
youth between the ages of 12 and 17, and that
the average age at which children are first
exposed to online porn is 11-years-old? One in
five kids, 10-17-years-old, has received
unwanted sexual solicitations online. The U. S.
Attorney General reports, “at any given time
there are 50,000 predators on the Internet
prowling for children.” In my opinion, that
number is low due to the fact that there are
more than 600,000 registered sexual offenders in
the United States (the ones that have been
caught) with nearly 40,000 in Florida alone.
These sobering facts should put to rest any
doubt about the absolute necessity of taking
precautions to protect your family. You can
begin by educating yourself about the various
computer products on the market that will help
you safeguard your children.
Next, install Internet filters and parental
controls on your computer. When selecting a
filtering system, keep in mind that most will
work for younger children. However, by the time
they are 10 or 11-years-old, you will want a
system that incorporates features that you can
tailor to your family’s specific needs. In
addition to website filtering, you may want to
consider features such as chat blocking, email
filtering, a key logging function, detailed
computer usage reports and immediate override,
to name a few.
It is important to remember that technology
safeguards are not the total answer. No filter
is 100 percent effective. You need to combine
high-tech filtering systems with low-tech
Internet usage ground rules.
Sit down with your family and discuss computer
usage rules. Establish a checklist of rules and
post them next to the computer. The list for
children should include:
• No personal information (name, home or email
address, phone numbers, school name, home town,
etc.) is to be shared with anyone on the
• Never upload your picture or those of your
family and friends.
• Never reply to emails or participate in chat
sessions containing threatening or vulgar
language - and be sure to tell mom and dad.
• Never meet someone in person that you met
Parents, you may want to consider the following
• Place the computer in the most public area of
the home, such as your family room or the
kitchen. Monitor children’s usage.
• Never allow a computer in the child’s bedroom.
• Have a serious talk with the older children
• Set time limits on Internet usage to allow
time for some real family interaction.
• Keep secret all passwords used for filtering
systems and parental controls.
• Get to know who your children’s “online”
friends are, just as you would want to know who
their real world friends are.
Be aware that the home computer is not your only
challenge. You should consider the computers in
the homes of your relatives, your children’s
friends, the school and public library, the
latest Web enabled cell phones, and video iPods.
Do you know what a social networking site is? It
seems like every kid in America over the age of
nine has contributed to one. My Space.com is the
largest with some 200 million members. Every
parent needs to know if his or her child has a
personal site because predators frequent chat
rooms and social networking sites looking for
targets - your children. You must learn the ins
and outs of social networking: how to check if
your children are members, what to do if they
are, how to remove their profile or at least
make it private.
In closing, I would like to quote from Bishop
Paul S. Loverde’s 2006 pastoral letter, Bought
With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the
Living Temple of God. “We stand at a threshold -
either we can continue to allow this plague to
spread … or we can take concrete steps to uproot
it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods
and our culture.” The battle lines are drawn and
families - moms, dads and extended family - must
be the first line of defense in protecting our
kids. It is time to take a stand.”
J. Wylie Hartwell is a parishioner at St.
Catherine Parish in Orange Park. He has
published a booklet entitled, Kid Safe
Cyberspace: A Parents Guide. To order a copy,
Helpful Resources for Parents
Your Family and Cyberspace, a statement by the
U.S. Catholic Bishops, June 16, 2000. To view
www.usccb.org/comm/cyberspace.shtml or order
the printed version by calling (800) 235-8722.
Ask for publication number 5-381.
The National Coalition for the Protection of
Children & Families. Visit
FilterReview.com - the website designed to
help you find the Internet Safety solution that
will best suit your needs.
What the Church Teaches about Pornography by Our
Sunday Visitor. To order the pamphlet, call
(800) 348-2440 or visit