Mormon Channel Blog

Self Reliance: Staying Safe Online

October 3, 2015

Zach Duvall is a counselor with LDS Family Services, specializing in Internet safety and pornography addictions. He shares his tips with us here on how to protect yourself and your family from unsafe online activities.

Picture this: after two years of online communicating, 15-year-old Sarah is excited to meet her boyfriend in person for the first time. Her relationship with James began with chatting on a popular social media app and progressed to sharing pictures (boy, was he attractive!), telephone calls (resonating deep voice!), and sending intimate gifts in the mail (romantic!)—flowers for her birthday, chocolates for Valentine’s Day, and concert tickets to her favorite band for Christmas. James asked Sarah not to tell her parents about him, because he wanted to make a good first impression in person—and that was to happen after their romantic dinner date tonight!

What comes to your mind when you read this story? A healthy beginning to a lasting relationship? A romantic teenage fling like so many wish for? Or dangerous interactions riddled with red flags of grooming and deception?

Unfortunately, such dangers on the Internet are as numerous and present as are the miracles. With unprecedented access, how can we protect ourselves and our families from the risks and, as the late Elder Richard G. Scott stated, “be wise in how you embrace technology” (“For Peace at Home,” April 2013 general conference)? While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, below are some helpful suggestions.

Be aware! Look for signs in yourself and those you love that an unsafe online interaction may be happening, such as:

  • Increasing amounts of time spent alone online, especially at night.
  • Participating in or finding evidence of pornographic images or sexual conversations in the computer’s history.
  • Telephone calls to or from unrecognized phone numbers, often long-distance.
  • Receiving letters or packages from unfamiliar persons or addresses.
  • Tendency to hide digital screens or quickly close apps and websites when others are around.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Requests for or sharing personal contact information online.

Control your surroundings and be accountable! It is important to recognize things we can control. For example:

  • Allow trusted individuals access to review web and app history and downloads.
  • Set mutually agreed upon guidelines for where, when, and how the Internet is accessed.
  • Install filters and disable access to potentially harmful apps and programs.
  • Use uplifting pictures, quotes, and reminders as home screens on electronic devices.
  • Avoid clicking on or downloading links or files from untrusted sources.

Develop internal defenses! In the April 2014 general conference, Linda S. Reeves stated that “the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us” (“Protection from Pornography—a Christ-Focused Home”). Some examples of how we can do this are:

  • Talk regularly and openly about potential online dangers.
  • Develop a plan for responding to dangerous or inappropriate material.
  • Increase understanding of and desire to use uplifting websites and apps.
  • Continue frequent and regular activities in the home and online that invite the Spirit.

We may never completely avoid the threats now inherent to Internet use, but we can do our best. And every effort, however small, may make all the difference! Decide for yourself and discuss with your family which of the suggestions above may be helpful for you.