Today’s post (which is sadly long overdue) is by our friend Erin Schreyer. I’ve loved her friendship since the day we met at the park down the street a few years ago. I relish any time we get to chat. Not only are our chats fun, they are usually thought-provoking and enlightening. Erin has an uncanny ability to meet tough issues head on in an honest yet non-judgmental way. It’s really a gift. She also thinks before she speaks. Something I could do a
little lot better. Here’s a part of the to-be-continued from one of our latest chats. I asked her to loop us all in … and she did.
Thanks Erin! … and thanks for walking the road with me.
“Hi, I’m Erin Schreyer. You don’t know me, but our sons are in the same grade. I want you to know I’m not calling you to point a finger or to place blame. I just know I would want another mom to tell me if she found out what I did…
…our sons have seen pornographic images, and I wasn’t there, so I don’t know who showed who…but I do know they’ve seen them and it sounds as if they looked together. I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but I’m just calling mom-to-mom, because we can be in this together too…”
I spoke these very difficult words recently to a woman I’ve never met before. I haven’t met her son, either. As much as I’m a “people-person,” this isn’t how I enjoy meeting people…but at least I was comforted knowing I wasn’t alone in this.
Together makes a difference.
It’s comforting to know someone else is traveling the same journey. The more difficult the journey, the more comfort we gain from having someone walk the road with us. The bigger the obstacles, the more empowered we feel to jump over them with someone by our side. The harder it is to see the way out, the more relief we gain from having others to help navigate our way through.
People need people. It’s just the way we were created. From the beginning, God said it’s not good for man to be alone. We’re wired for community. We have a need for empathy. We crave understanding. We thrive with support. We’re strengthened by encouragement.
So, in a united front, two mothers of middle school boys agreed to scour devices, have serious (and awkward) conversations with our sons and remove any apps that could not adequately be filtered by Internet protection software.
And, what I want all other moms to know (because we ARE in this together) is that Instagram is NOT safe for your children. Because it has a search capability, kids can use it just like Google. When they do, the search results produce relevant users who have used very “strategic” names, ensuring they come up in these searches. Knowing they can be searched, their accounts are filled with explicit photos AND video. Yes, video. Totally. Unfiltered. Video.
It’s important for parents to know that most, if not all, Internet safety products can’t protect against this either, unless Instagram is accessed only through an Internet browser with protection. If it’s being accessed through the Instagram app (which is how most use it,) it escapes any controls that I’ve been able to find. Which means, what your teen searches for, your teen WILL find. Think of any word that turns your stomach as a parent. (Or even one that any kid might think is hilarious – like “butt.”) It’s all there. In abundance.
The good news is that we parents can also be there for our kids. In abundance. And, we can stick together. Communicate well with each other. Warn each other. Educate each other. Share experiences and new learnings. We can help protect more than just our own. Together, we can work to protect our communities and our collective children.
We need to realize that even just a few kids/teens with regular access to pornography will not only change the way they think, it will also change the way they interact with others. Boys may be quick to show it to other boys (and they’re naturally wired to view it with pleasure too.) Those boys will think of girls differently. Not just sexually, but also in more selfish and domineering ways. Dynamics will change, and not for the better.
But, we can impact change. Together. We can be quick to notice. We can be quick to talk. We can be quick to share with one another. We might even feel compelled to speak out to lawmakers or to Instagram to change policies and provide better protection. Frankly, they should be more responsible, considering their primary age demographic.
What I do know is that it’s scary and much less effective all alone.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
But together…together makes a difference. Together, we are not easily broken.
Please comment and share if you’ve had similar experiences and/or if you know of great solutions to protect our youth.
Erin Schreyer is a wife, mom, leadership and life coach and speaker. More information can be found at erinschreyer.com.