If You Don't Read Anything Else, Then at Least Read This

Being a parent isn't easy. It can often feel overwhelming.  Throw in the Internet, social networks, computers, mobile, and gaming devices and things can often seem impossible.  That's where this safety guide comes in.

Jointly developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), this site is an attempt to give you some simple, straightforward advice and tools on how to navigate this digital world with your family.  We don't expect you to read every page on the site.  Each article and section has been designed to be a self-contained reference.  However, even if you don't read anything else on the site, there are five things we want you to know:

First—and most importantly—we want you to know that the Church cares about you, cares about your children, cares about your family, and cares about digital safety.  In fact, we not only care about digital safety, but we also have something to say about it!  We want to help you in a way that's simple, straightforward, and practical.

Second, your Christian faith matters.  Looking at technology through the eyes of faith is critical.  Just because you can access something doesn't mean it's appropriate; and just because something is being used in a certain way doesn't mean that it fits with our Christian faith and values.  Any technology we use should help us grow continually in our relationship with God—that's our primary goal!

Third, digital safety is not about spying on your kids or finding out everything they have been doing online.  While some oversight of your kids' digital habits is part of responsible parenting, teaching you how to spy on your kids is not the intent of this guide at all.  Rather, the intent is to promote healthy dialogue within your family on how to use technology appropriately.  With that in mind, we'll offer you guidance on some optional tools and resources that you may find helpful in protecting your family from unsolicited and unwanted content.

Fourth, while we will be talking about things like Internet safety and parental controls, we want to emphasize one critically important thing: no technology, no piece of software, no parental control is ever a substitute for active, involved, and loving parenting. The most effective Internet safety tool is you!  In fact, parents are considered the biggest influence on what kids see as appropriate and inappropriate "digital behavior".

So get involved! Every gadget, game, and online experience is a starting point for conversation about navigating the digital world.  These conversations are fundamental to your kids' formation towards responsible and faithful adulthood.  In fact, a 2011 study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that parents are more likely to talk with teens about digital safety and behavior than they are to monitor or restrict their kids.[1]  That dialogue between you and your kids is so important to online safety that each chapter of this guide ends with a family "Discussion Starter" to help you identify topics to talk about with your kids.

Of course, all of the tips, tools, and information covered in this safety guide assume that you are already an active parent in the life of your child.  If you're not an active parent or you feel uncomfortable talking with your kids, then we hope that this guide will help you take some steps down that road.

Fifth, like it or not, it will be impossible to protect kids completely from illicit content or deviant behavior.  No matter how much active parenting you do, no matter how many safeguards you might put in place, some kids will still be exposed to inappropriate things.  However, when such situations do occur, we strongly encourage you to use them as opportunities for conversation while—above all—providing the appropriate Christ-like love and guidance to your child.

So, if you never get a chance to read any further, please remember this one thing: Internet safety isn't about the right software or service. Rather, real safety in the digital world is all about active, involved, loving parenting.  It's a team effort that builds a strong Christian family!