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For when technology hits home, family accountability called vital

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–No filter that parents can install will keep all high-tech smut out of their homes as effectively as will a sense of family accountability instilled in their children, two Fort Worth teachers told a Texas Baptist group.
Nancy Crossley, a high school English teacher, and her husband, Lyle, a parochial school physics teacher, led a conference on “When Technology Hits Home — Blessings and Boundaries,” one of more than 100 family-related seminars offered during the Texas Baptist Family Reunion, July 4-10 at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Broadcast television, cable and satellite TV, video tapes, video games and the Internet all present challenges to parents, said the Crossleys, members of Western Hills Baptist Church in Fort Worth.
“Don’t assume just because it’s on broadcast TV that it’s OK,” she said. “Be aware of the ratings.”
The couple recommended that parents view TV shows with their children. That enables them to monitor and discuss content, as well as regulate the amount of time spent watching television.
Realizing some programs appropriate for older youth may not be appropriate for younger siblings, Nancy Crossley suggested reminding older children that they are responsible and accountable for what younger children in the household view.
Particularly on cable and satellite television, some sexually explicit and graphically violent programs are just “over the edge” and not acceptable, she said. For instance, in their household, MTV is banned.
“Sometimes it’s just a broccoli situation,” she said, noting not every parental decision will be popular. “Sometimes you just have to be the adult.”
Parents need to consider where VCRs are located in their homes, the Crossleys noted. A video player in the living room is easier for parents to monitor than those in children’s bedrooms.
Parents should pay attention to ratings noting violence, rough language, sexually explicit material, nudity and other objectionable content in entertainment media, the couple said.
Ratings are particularly important with video games, Lyle Crossley said, because they are multi-leveled and more difficult for parents to evaluate. A game that may be completely innocent at the introductory level may be interspersed with highly objectionable content as the player’s skill level increases and playing time lengthens.
In addition to violence and sexual content, video games also can contribute to addictive behavior, produce short-term aggression, be upsetting to younger children and be counterproductive for children with Attention Deficit Disorder, he noted.
The computer, particularly if it has Internet access, is another medium that is difficult for parents to regulate and monitor. The Internet is a tremendously helpful tool for research and communication, but it also “brings the big bad world right into your house,” Nancy Crossley said. Supervision and communication are crucial when it comes to keeping children safe on the World-Wide Web, she said.
Drawing ideas from a number of organizations committed to making the Internet safe for all ages, the Crossleys offered several rules for children:
— Don’t talk to strangers. Never enter private chat rooms with only one other person.
— Don’t arrange to meet privately and in person someone you encounter in a chat room.
— Never give out personal information such as a home address, telephone number, last name, photo or any other information that would enable someone to pinpoint your whereabouts.
— Don’t answer questions that make you feel uncomfortable. “If it feels wrong, report it to your family,” Lyle Crossley said.
— Learn to use the “back” button to escape an objectionable Web page.
The Crossleys suggested that parents learn how to “surf the ‘Net,” that they keep their computer in the family room or common living area, that they set limits on the amount of time children spend on-line and that they never reveal personal information on a family web page.
They also recommended controls such as blocking or filtering software for the Internet, just as some parents choose to use lock boxes to keep objectionable cable channels out of their homes.
However, parents need to realize that no filtering system is fool-proof, and any technological blocking system can be circumvented. The Crossleys suggested parents establish acceptable use agreements with their children.
“It all comes back to family accountability. Stay involved,” Nancy Crossley said. “We want to be responsible parents, and we want our children to become responsible adults.”

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  • Ken Camp