If your kids are on devices of any kind, then this is one episode you DO NOT want to miss. We continue our summer mini-series, “Boys and Technology”, with a chat that had me on the edge of my seat. Sean Clifford, CEO of Canopy, shares some eye-opening statistics, and also helps us understand what most internet filters do…as well as what they do NOT do (hold on, this might surprise you!) He also shares a new type of filter that uses cutting edge technology (artificial intelligence!) to prevent porn or sexting from ever reaching our kids’ devices! This interview is packed with helpful information and some sweet encouragement, too!
Check out CANOPY’s website. **Use this link for a 30-day free trial: https://canopy.us/boymom/
Some of Sean’s notes from the interview:
Porn is worsening atomization by making healthy relationships less possible
- Teenagers are not biologically prepared to resist the temptation of online porn. Without a firm commitment and preventative measures, most teenage boys and a strong minority of teenage girls will become regular porn users.
- For many kids, porn is their first important exposure to both sex and romantic love. Unsurprisingly, it shapes their future relationships in deeply unhealthy ways.
- Porn takes our natural and healthy desire to form an intimate bond with others and subtly redirects it in a way that seems satisfying at first but actually makes real connection harder to achieve.
The internet of addiction
- The modern internet is shaped by the commercial incentives that underlie it. Currently, since attention is directly monetizable, technologies that are more addicting are more profitable.
- Online porn isn’t a separate “red light district” of the internet. Porn is emblematic of the trends and incentives that shape the whole modern internet. On our modern attention-driven internet, all content will increasingly come to resemble pornography – as it has done. The most popular (and therefore lucrative) content will be that which is sensational and exploits our natural biological and social weaknesses.
- The largest porn companies in the world today flaunt their tech bona fides. This is not a coincidence.
- In the absence of a significant course correction, the default values of the internet will be those of porn. Parents will increasingly have to take action to make sure the values their kids grow up with their own and not the unhealthy ones promoted online.
Raising device natives
- Today’s teenagers are the first generation to grow up with smartphones. Unlike previous generations of digital natives, their devices are with them 24/7. There is almost no experience that isn’t at least partially mediated through a smartphone screen.
- It’s literally harming their well being. Teenagers have been committing suicide and reporting the symptoms of mental illness in larger and larger numbers since the year the smartphone was introduced. It’s now clear: The smartphone is to the brain what the cigarette is to the lung.
- Parents of kids today are facing an unprecedented challenge. No previous generation has been so deeply ingrained into the digital world, and we don’t yet know how it will turn out. Parents are tasked with raising healthy kids, as difficult of a task as ever, but without the benefit of guidance or experience regarding this major part of their kids’ lives.
How can I raise boys in light of the challenges of porn?
- Prepare them (good discussions, always be open for a conversation, impress upon them that it is okay to be different. )
- Protect them (there are no silver bullets, but there are things you can do, like putting a good filter on their devices). You need to give them the space to be kids and develop without toxic and addictive elements in their life. Don’t let phones in their rooms.
- Provide an example (lead their hearts and minds to want something more than titillation and instant gratification. Don’t always be on your phone. Show them that tools have a place). Find a tribe to do life with.
- Expect some resistance. They may not love safeguards now, but they probably will thank you for it later.
- Think of devices like you think of a car. You would never hand over the keys to an 8 year old. Freedom comes with responsibility.
- Find a tribe to do life with that adopts similar safeguards. This is an opportunity for you to be a light for your community.
- Impress on your kids that it is fine (even good!) to be different.
- Replace the void with something good.
- When they are young, shower them with attention.
- When they are older, gift them adventures.
- When they are even older, help organize outings with their peers that are real experiences unmediated by screens.
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About Sean Clifford
As the CEO of Canopy and a father of four young children (including three boys!), Sean aspires to build products that give families the good of the Internet without the bad. Sean founded Canopy in 2019 to help build a world of healthy tech users, starting by protecting children from pornography. He previously served as vice president of Baron Public Affairs, where he advised leading tech ventures, nonprofits, and Fortune 500 companies at the intersection of culture and policy. Sean earned his BA from Williams College, an MA in the Great Books from St. John’s College, and an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Sean, his wife, and their four kids live in Austin, Texas, where they enjoy exploring local trails and relaxing on tech-free Saturdays.
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My book, BOY MOM, was released in August of 2019 (Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers) and is full of practical advice and helpful resources for raising boys. It’s great for personal reading, or to use as a study for small groups!
Order it here: Boy Mom: What Your Son Needs Most from You
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