Question for Parents from Those Who'd Like to Be


Hello again.

I feel a little odd posting in this forum, since I’m not yet a parent. However, my long-standing SO and I are pretty certain we want to have children at some point (being young, naive, and stupid) but are also fairly certain that children are complicated (having once been children ourselves) and want to put a lot of thought and planning into the endeavor. We are not married, and likely won’t be for a few more years (both being students). Being a good couple, it’s not likely that we’ll have children before then.

We had a bit of a question, related to the flow of information from the outside world to children, and I expect that we’ll have a different answer from everyone who responds to it: How much should we censor what our children are exposed to?

What’s fair game? Internet-tracking and filtering suites? Reading restrictions? Television Restrictions? I myself agree with most parents that I probably could have spent less time on the computer as a child and be healthier for it, but I wasn’t exactly allowed free-run (not until I was about 13 or 14, anyway), and I don’t think I’d ever had any parental restriction on my library card. By comparison, my SO grew up with a moderately strict parent, and was allowed to read whatever she liked, but wasn’t permitted to use the internet much at all before I’d met her. We both (seem to have) survived that just fine, with our only real problem being that we’re both too busy processing new data of the “adult” world to put any truly serious thought into whether or not the access we had before was a good idea.

What do you think? What’s a good age to let your kid “wander where they may”? How much freedom is too much?


Sorry to post twice, but I guess I’m not allowed to edit right now, perhaps because the last post was also the first one, but I wanted to add a very specific question.

My SO’s parent frequently checked her email and read through them, even though she had always been aboveboard with her parent about the state of her life. How acceptable to you as parents is reading your children’s correspondence?


I don’t think this is a question that there is a universal answer. Everyone will have their reasons for why they make their decisions about such exposure. It is wise to talk about your ideas with the person you are courting, but ultimately till you’re there, you probably won’t make you’re final decision till then. Besides by the time your kids are old enough to be censored, what you need to censor them from will have changed.

Aside from that, I would just caution you against thinking of your SO as your future spouse. Its a hard one to do, but since you both acknowledge you’re not ready yet for marriage, you need to focus on where God wants you now.


[quote="HerrZJA, post:2, topic:243387"]
Sorry to post twice, but I guess I'm not allowed to edit right now, perhaps because the last post was also the first one, but I wanted to add a very specific question.

My SO's parent frequently checked her email and read through them, even though she had always been aboveboard with her parent about the state of her life. How acceptable to you as parents is reading your children's correspondence?


My mom used to do this even into my 20's. It had nothing to do with protecting me, but rather had more to do with her desire to over-involve herself in my life. I think if a parent has a legimate concern about the safety of the internet, than that parent probably shouldn't be allowing their child to have access to email. Allowing email but then reading that person's email isn't just a violation of their child's privacy, but a violation of the privacy of whoever is sending the email.

I'd say if you two are in highschool, than I wouldn't advise a fight, but would advise that she find a compromise and be willing to forgo email. If however she is an adult, than she does need to put her foot down and demand her privacy. I permitted my mom to do this for far too long and honestly it offended a number of good Catholic men who recognized that there was just something disordered about my mother snooping through my email and even sending emails while pretending to be me (often telling me after the fact) to try to get a relationship started for me.


We have four kids. Our oldest is nine and the other day she was wondering what sex was. So we talked about it. She was still wondering exactly how the baby got into and out of the mother. We talked about that too. The conversation was very natural because it was a true question. We were ahead of the story enough to be prepared.

The way we accomplished this unusual level of innocence is be tightly controlling what she exposed to. We don’t have cable and the kids don’t watch anything but PBS and some shows from Netflix. We try to pre-screen movies. If the movie is generally ok, but contains some touchy subjects, we address them before the movie and then let her watch.

My wife and I try to anticipate what she will be exposed to and pre-expose her. As she gets older, we will naturally lose more control over what she sees, hears and does when she is out of our sight. We know that there are bad things that she will be exposed to and she needs to know how to process and react to those situations, so we try to stay just ahead of it.

The other big thing is Catholic school. She, her brother are in Catholic school. Her two sisters will go as well. That kind environment is critical to raising kids properly. It’s expense, but completely worth it.

God bless and good luck!


My oldest is only 8, so I'm not quite at that stage yet. I was very worried about the influence of the world on my children, but as time goes on, the worry is reducing. I think it is not right to keep your kids so sheltered that they cannot interact with the world. However, there are many dangers in the world for a young, impressionable mind.

Therefore, my very vague answer is that I intend to let my kids experience the internet, televison (although I really dislike the way they bombard kids with advertising and dubious morals, so I limit this a lot), music, friends, the news etc. But I want to be present while they do so that I can guide them, explain things, use their experiences as opportunities to teach them, so that they always have a sound, Catholic perspective for what they've seen. As they age, I'll trust them to go off by themselves more and more.

My biggest goal is to maintain open communication, so that they will be happy to talk about things with me, and when necessary, we can work through an issue. I pray for my kids' protection, as my grandmother did for my mother, so that when I can't be with them, they will be looked after.

Yup, I'm still pretty idealistic. Ask me in a few years and I may feel differently.;)


While it's true that children can be complicated, parenting probably isn't as complicated as you think. Remember that you don't have to make these heavy-duty decisions all at once! So much depends on your own child's personality, and obviously you won't know that in advance. As your children grow, God will guide you into what is best for them. You'll find that each child is unique and will need unique guidance.


It is good for you to ask questions and that you are concerned for your possible future family!

However since you are not even engaged yet you are likely talking minimally 7 years before you will need to make solid decisions right? The world changes a lot in that time! Several years ago I would have probably let my children watch some tv programs without that never happens. Even with good shows the commercials can be ghastly it's very sad.

Much also depends on the temperament of your child, their maturity, their needs, their friends, family all come in to play to complicate matters. I know I am not answering your question because I don't think I can...but I will be praying for you and I wish you peace.


[quote="Monicad, post:8, topic:243387"]

Much also depends on the temperament of your child, their maturity, their needs, their friends, family all come in to play to complicate matters. I know I am not answering your question because I don't think I can...but I will be praying for you and I wish you peace.


Yeah, I think this is the best overall answer to the direct question...

Besides, this particular issue is one that isn't normally an issue for many years, though... most kids probably don't even get email until they're closer to being teenagers (or at least that's our plan...)


My opinion is that it is a near occasion of sin for anyone to think that their right to privacy constitutes a cover. The sense that one is above suspicion and that one has surpassed one's peers in virtue provides a very real temptation to those who have spent a lifetime in virtue. How many people have fallen to the devil's temptation: "Why should I have to always be the goody two-shoes? I have better-than-average judgement. This is not a violation of trust; it is not that dangerous. Besides, I've never gotten into any trouble. This would be a first offense. What is one time going to hurt?" And so on. How many sad stories come from that!

Give this as a reason for telling your children that they should not expect that anything they do, anything they commit to paper, or especially anything recorded by electronic media as permanently secret: not now, and not when they are elected to Congress. In addition, the older they get, the more of their lives will be recorded without their knowledge. This is common sense! The sooner they learn this rule, the better. It is better to act as a child of the light than to be brought up thinking we are entitled to a certain amount of darkness. Darkness never lasts.

That is the context into which we ought to start talking about the need for and expectation of privacy. Yes, you think that their diary is not to be used as your personal pulp fiction. No, you will not promise that there are not circumstances under which you will feel compelled to read it. Be up front: It is more important to you that they get safely to heaven than that they have a safe place to hide their sins.

As for censoring, that question gets more complicated by the day. Ask again in the era when your children actually arrive, and the actual dangers you face and tools at your disposal are more fully known. I guarantee that they will be different than they are today.


Internet filtering is a MUST. It MUST be done, from when they are babies. Why wait until they have seen something they shouldn’t or been tempted by something before they are ready to understand?

You can now do it from the router level, which means no software necessary. I just got this, based on recommendations from another forum member. I have not hooked it up yet. If this device had been available 5 or 6 years ago I may not have had a need to install monitoring software.


Monitoring - I would not do this unless there was a reason. In our case, our son was rebelling, running away, stealing stuff - I had to know if he was using drugs or anything else. The consequences of kids’ bad decisions are MUCH more severe now than when I was growing up.

If Facebook is still around years from now (probably won’t be), I would never allow my kid to have an account without friending me and giving me the password (no changing the password and not giving me the new one). Any time they start hiding stuff, you have cause to worry.

Protect them as long as possible, but TEACH them while you are sheltering them. Otherwise they will just try to get under the fences to see what’s on the other side.


[quote="HerrZJA, post:1, topic:243387"]
How much should we censor what our children are exposed to?


This depends on so many factors that it’s really difficult to list and discuss each one. The important considerations are the chronological age of the children, their maturity levels, and the value system the parents have put in place for the family.

Our daughters are ten and are fairly mature for their age, the younger twin more so than her highborn sister. Before they started school, which means until they were five, they were not exposed to televised media or commercial advertising at all except for what they heard on the radio and encountered in the supermarket and on the street. Netflix and the Internet were off when they were awake. We didn’t take them shopping for anything except for shoes, which they had to try on for fit, and groceries. Their grandparents turned off their television and laptops when they babysat the girls.

Some people thought we went overboard, but we stand by our conviction that we didn’t want our kids bombarded with “get your parents to buy you our new, cool toys!” messages. Nor did we want their brains to have to cope with the frenetic imagery and actions that’s in so much television programming aimed at kids. Most importantly, we were old when they were born; we knew they were going to be our only shot at parenthood, and we just wanted to spend as much time with their baby and childhood selves before they grew up. Time they spent in front of the tube was time we weren’t doing stuff as a family.

When they started school we knew they were going to enter the realm of marketers, and that’s when we instilled our money saving mentality on them. It was rather ham handed, but we basically told them that advertising was aimed at getting them to spend money, and we think it’s important to keep our money rather than give it to a company. Our catchphrase was “We’re people of the savings, not people of the spendings.” I think they got it because they rarely bugged us to buy them stuff. They occasionally ask to be taken to see a movie, and there was one infamous Christmas when they asked for $400 dolls, but we can take them to a store and not have them beg and whine to be taken to the toy isle.

When they were in third grade they got our old Macbooks, but they’re only allowed to use them in the living room or at the dining room table when there’s an adult nearby. In fact, the they're stored on a bookshelf in the living room. Their dad’s more the web surfer with them than I am. There’s a gaming site for tweens they like to visit, and their dad takes them to all manner of science and technology sites. They also use them for school work, obviously. We’ve not put filtering software on them because we haven’t had a need to yet. If we find we need to then we will.

We’ve also never really filtered what they read except in the broadest terms, i.e., no Struwwelpeter, no Stephen King, etc. We’ve been reading to them since they were en utero, we read a bazillion picture books and pop-up books, and when they were about six we introduced them to children’s novels, starting with the Harry Potter series. We’ve read a several dozen children’s books as a family. The caveat is that we always, always have a discussion about the plot right after we finish reading each day to give the girls a chance to have their questions answered.

And now that they’re older we keep an eye on the books they’re choosing. We’ve never found anything objectionable, but neither my husband nor I insist they read a certain genres or books that have certain plot traits. So far they’ve not chosen anything wildly inappropriate, although they have tried to plow their way through science and history books that were too complicated for them to really understand.

[quote="HerrZJA, post:1, topic:243387"]
What do you think? What's a good age to let your kid "wander where they may"? How much freedom is too much?


There's really no one-size-fits-all answer to this one, either. It truly depends on the kid and your value system. Intellectually we want our daughters to have a rich and vibrant life of the mind, so we really don't put too many restrictions on what they read, what we talk about, or what they discuss amongst themselves.

Socially, yeah, we're a little stricter than that. One of our neighbors lets her 12-year-old daughter have a "boyfriend," and we've decided we're not going down that road. (But who knows what we're going to do when one of them tells us she's "in love" in two years. Probably try to lock her in a broom closet for five years. :p)

Believe it or not, however, kids want limits and structure in their lives. This much I know. They may grumble about it and try to test the boudaries, but kids who go completely off the rails as adolescents generally do so because they want someone - preferably a parent - to push back and tell them, "No, you can't do that, but you can do X or Y instead." You know, boundaries.


While I thought most of your post was awesome, this is kind of an unfair, blanket statement to make. Plenty of kids are “raised properly” attending public schools.


[quote="mini_me640, post:13, topic:243387"]
While I thought most of your post was awesome, this is kind of an unfair, blanket statement to make. Plenty of kids are "raised properly" attending public schools.


And, not all Catholic schools are fantastic. The one my son went to for middle school didn't work real well for him. I think the school was so-so in general, but it is a feeder school for the Jesuit high school his brother attended, and he might not have gotten in without being an alum of that school.


Thanks everyone for your feedback, and your patience in waiting to be thanked. There's just a few points made I wanted to address, if only because I just want to make sure I'm reading you correctly. I also want to express agreement with everyone who says that the primary factor is the personality of the child or children in question -- I was more looking for general advice than a hard-and-fast battle plan.

Fermat, you wrote that a Catholic School is an essential part of raising a child. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea, but do you mean that sending our children to Catholic school is an absolute must under canon law, or that it's generally preferable to public schooling? For the record, the Canadian public school system is in somewhat better shape than the American one seems to be from hearing all the commentary.

EasterJoy, you wrote that the right to privacy isn't enough when there's a possibility for sin. Isn't that a matter for my children and their pastor? I realize that, as a parent, I'm responsible for their spiritual growth, but strictly speaking, I'm not their confessor. Isn't there a decent risk that them being punished for something like viewing pornography or what have you would cause them to harbour resentment and, ultimately, not make contrition?

TheRealJuliane, you refer to internet monitoring. Just so that I know I'm reading you correctly, are you referring to actually looking at what they're looking at, or simply blocking questionable material?

Everyone else, again, thank you. Your advice is well-taken. ^_^


First of all, it is your house, and it is your right to absolutely prohibit pornography in it. It is your perogative to make certain that prohibition is observed. If you are very clear about what expectations of privacy your children ought to have and if you don’t have a double standard, then there isn’t a reason in the world they ought to think they have some right to read stuff like that. They can resent all they like, but this how life goes when room and board is free. You ought to give them as much privacy as you can, but you cannot abdicate your responsibility to ride herd on your own home. The priests can’t be everywhere.

Actually, I think the saying is: God couldn’t be everywhere. That is why He gave us mothers.


Filtering is blocking questionable material. Monitoring is watching what they are doing on the internet. Filtering is absolutely necessary, and you have to keep up with technology because the porn industry is very determined to get to everyone.

Monitoring, only necessary if your kid starts sneaking and other stuff. Keep the computer in common rooms, don’t allow it in their bedrooms. But again, you have to make sure they understand they have no right to privacy. That you will not snoop but that they have to give you access to FB or whatever technology is in place when your kids get up to that age.

And you have to educate them as to WHY this is necessary, so they don’t think you are just crazy out of your mind.

Phones will probably be more and more powerful so if and when you get one for the kids, it’s got to be limited, no photo texts, no web access.

Of course as they grow up you have to let them off the leash a little bit, with limits.


Spoken like someone who hasn’t had kids yet. You don’t worry about causing resentment, you just do what it takes to protect your kids from filth. Once they see it they are affected in ways you cannot imagine.

Better to prevent it while you educate your kids to stay chaste until marriage.


Exactly. If they never resent you, then they are going to suffer from a crippling lack of boundaries. A healthy childhood depends on secure boundaries.

Part of your job as a parent is to guide the formation of their consciences and keep them from near occasions of sin, especially under your roof. You have to hope that if you give them true knowledge of a decent life that they will develop a taste for what is good.

No computers or significant others in bedrooms. If at all possible, the only thing that they do in their bedrooms is sleep, dress, read, and possibly to play with things that are not electronic. They don’t have a right to eat any junk they want, and they don’t have a right to put junk into their minds and souls, either. God gave us freedom to live as sons and daughters of the Lord, not so we can make ourselves into slaves to sin.


No internet, no facebook, no cell phones, no drivers license, No!, No!, No!:mad:

I do mean No to all the above until the appropriate time (in my mind) for EACH child. You will need to discern when ANYTHING is ok for your kid. They are all different and they don't come with a manual:(

For my home, generally no license until 17, No cell phone until college (or outa my house), Oh, we have no regular TV either. Only DVDs so my wife can screen what they watch (can't control commercials for erectile dysfuntion, etc.) and No internet, they can go to the library if needed.

May sound so 1950's but as another poster said, there is too much filth and ways for children to be mis-lead.

PS. Homeschool if you can:thumbsup:

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