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Eyes in the back of your head

By Nathan Rice

A group of second-graders gathered around me as I introduced myself to them again. I told them we’d be together all week and shared the basic rules of the campground. One boy who was paying close attention asked me, “Do you see everything, like mom and dad?” “Yes,” I replied. “Yes, I do.”

Later that evening they were in their bunks. I said the evening prayer, which meant they were now supposed to be quiet so that everyone could fall asleep. I had to get something out of an adjoining room, so I slipped out of the room quietly. I grabbed the item and was returning to their room when I heard one of them begin a phrase. “Shhhh. Guys, just because he isn’t here doesn’t mean he doesn’t,” I finished his sentence as I slipped back into my bunk saying, “Hear everything.” It was perfect timing!

A few of them gasped at my ability to finish the sentence while others became instantly silent. The only one who spoke was the camper from my church who yelled, “I told you! I told you!”

Every one of them was fully convinced I heard everything and had eyes in the back of my head, just like mom and dad.

Eyes in the back of the head are something that has been associated with parents and teachers for a very long time.

My concern is that many parents and adults who work with children have begun to forfeit those additional eyes. Many are no longer paying attention to the activities of their children, especially when it comes to media and digital content.

Children in our country have unprecedented access to the world. Television, books, movies, video games, video sharing sites and audio podcasts provide access to things like never before. Add the countless pages of the Internet, and children can see or hear nearly anything.

This can be a great asset in learning, but it also opens a dark and scary place that children should not be forced to navigate on their own.

Unfortunately, many children are placed in this digital world without supervision. They are free to roam throughout an immense library of digital content.

Children should view not every site on the internet, and there are countless movies, television shows, songs and online video clips that children are not yet mature enough to process.

Parents, teachers and all those who love children need to retain that second pair of eyes and keen sense of hearing so they can be used in the digital world.

There are online sites that review movies, music, television shows and video games for parents. These sites explain the content of the media and share the amount of foul language, sexual content, violence and more. Parents can use this to help determine if a particular media item is appropriate for their children. There’s no reason to guess what something might contain when this type of information is readily available.

Filtering and monitoring programs are available for computers, tablets and phones. These programs report activity to parents and block certain sites from even appearing. It’s a great way to help parents know exactly what is being viewed on the computer.

Where media is used can also make a big difference. Computers kept in common areas of the home allow parents to see and hear what their children are watching. There are many children in their rooms cruising through media, which leaves parents with no knowledge of what their children are viewing.

Monitoring children’s media use will take work. It takes an investment of time and energy, but it’s needed if we wish to protect their hearts and minds.

None of us would hand children a handful of knives and tell them to go have fun while we cook dinner, but many of us give children unfiltered access to a digital world that can hurt them much more than a sharp blade.

We must — I repeat, must — use the eyes in the back of our heads in the digital world as well as in the real world if we wish to protect our children’s hearts and minds.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.