The author of this essay is a lawyer and a mom, and a friend and neighbor of mine. She confesses that a few weeks ago, when a post by a mother who discovered hardcore porn on her 10-year-old’s smart phone went viral, she sort of bragged that she and her husband paid for a super-intense web filtering system that would allow their three young children to play Minecraft and watch Netflix on their devices without having to worry. And:

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

She goes on to talk about how she handled it with the seven-year-old child, and it sounds like she did about as well as anybody could have done. After it was over, she was really upset and brokenhearted. But the crying passed:

I’m mad now. And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence. I need my guard to be up and to stay up. This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war. It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children. I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah. I don’t care. I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them. I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life. Don’t do as I did, friends. Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids. Do as I am doing now. Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first. Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed. But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.

Read the whole thing. My wife and I are going to do this today with our children’s devices. We’ve been meaning to, but it kept slipping our minds (true confession: this was supposed to be my job, but I forgot). Our younger kids play with this mom’s younger kids a lot, so I told her yesterday that whatever she and her husband decided to do about protecting their children’s online experience, we would do with our kids too. Solid wall of Mom and Dad. Adding to what my friend says in her essay, I would say that you and your spouse can’t be the whole line of defense. If your kids are playing with kids whose parents don’t take their responsibilities in this regard seriously, and act on them, it’s not going to make much difference.

When my friend told me this story in person yesterday (I only just now found her blog entry), I told her a story about the Older Brother problem. A Dallas friend of ours mentioned that she and her husband worked hard to protect the innocence of their young child, and were chagrined to learn from their kid that he had been playing with a school friend (first graders, we’re talking about) at the home of some Christian family friends, and the little boy’s teenage brother had played an R-rated movie for the first graders. This forced our Dallas friends to have a conversation with their first grader that they shouldn’t have had to have had until he was older.

It’s really hard to be so vigilant about your children in the online world. The evil out there is just a click away, and there is scarcely any shelter. In our family, we don’t shelter our kids from nudity entirely. When we were in Paris a couple of years ago, we took the kids to museums, and when nudity presented itself in a sculpture or on a canvas, we talked to them about the beauty of the human body, and how it is not a dirty thing, though it can be depicted in a dirty way. We want them to learn that the body is good, and that sexuality is good, before they have to confront the ruin that perverse people make of these gifts.

But the world doesn’t work according to our priorities. What really ticks me off are parents who know that they’re not doing the right thing with their children and their access to the Internet, but who let themselves off the hook by telling themselves that there’s really no way to prevent it anyway, so let’s just not even bother trying. It’s an excuse for laziness. You can try hard, like my friend, and still fail. The vile pornographers of the world are always and everywhere trying to poison minds, even the minds of seven year olds. We have to be merciful with ourselves when despite our best efforts, something slips over the wall. Still, that just means we have to redouble our efforts. Because once a child sees, he cannot unsee.

We talk about the Benedict Option; here’s a practical consideration: I want to live in community with parents who share my wife’s and my conviction about the evil of pornography, and our militancy about protecting our kids from it online. Not only do I want to know that my kids are safe when they go over to someone else’s house, but I want to be held accountable by other parents. I’m very sorry for what my friend had to go through with her seven-year-old son, but I’m grateful that she shared it with her readers, and I’m grateful that it made my wife and me have a talk about how we have let down our guard in ways that we ought not to have done.

OK, readers, I’m off to Russian History class with my son. I’ll approve comments later, as I can.