March 2013 – “Don’t drink the water!” It’s probably the first piece of advice you get when a friend learns you’ll be visiting a Third World country.
Similarly, “get a filter” should be the first advice you receive from friends when they learn you will be traveling on the Internet. Like contaminated water, the Internet is full of pathogens that can cause spiritual and financial illnesses.
Filtering at home
AFA founder Don Wildmon saw the danger inherent in the Internet decades ago. He knew the Internet could be a powerful tool for good. He also knew it could spread smut and pornography.
In 1998, Steve Ensley began working with AFA to develop American Family Online. The vision was to create an Internet filter that would protect users by blocking pornography and violence.
“What you view becomes a part of you,” Ensley told AFA Journal. “That is our motto and why we want to protect each person using the Internet. We first wanted to protect people from pornography. But more and more danger crept onto the Internet, and so our vision and filter grew with it.”
What started as a filter has grown into a comprehensive Internet service. AFO now offers dial-up and high-speed Internet home and mobile filtering.
Filtering on the go
Three years ago, Ensley saw a new need in the world of the Internet. Mobile devices that connect to the Internet exploded overnight and have been the fastest growing consumer electronic technology ever since. Things like smartphones, tablets and even handheld gaming consoles put the world at users’ fingertips.
Ensley wanted to meet this need head-on. His solution: Mobile Web Guard. He said, “This new world is all about the apps (applications). An app is like a computer program that runs on phones or tablets. We made a downloadable app which allows you to subscribe to our filtering service. This makes it a filtering browser. It’s really an exciting thing.”
While the app acts like a regular browser used on a computer, it has much more functionality on a smartphone. Ensley said, “Our app is also a control device, meaning parents can control when a child accesses apps or websites and how long they access them. For example, parents may decide Billy can’t access YouTube when they are away from home, so they set this software to block YouTube except between 5 and 7 o’clock.
“It also sends an email to parents about where their child went online the day before, giving parents more knowledge and control.”
But even in light of his exciting work, Ensley said, “The best filter is a parent being involved. Our filters are a tool for parents to use. I’m so surprised at the lack of parents who understand how their kids’ phones work and what they can do on them. Parents need to grasp today’s technology. As a man, if I am not involved in the technology that my family is involved with, then I am not the spiritual leader of my family.”
To see all that AFO has to offer, visit www.afo.net. To download the Mobile Web Guard app and get a special deal for AFA supporters, visit www.MobileWebGuard.com.
Free filtering for your church
Many churches are now offering wi-fi hotspots in their buildings. While this comes with many positives, it can also be dangerous. AFO offers churches free filtering to protect users as well as the church’s integrity.
Ensley said, “We want pastors to use our filter as a tool to protect those in the church. All we ask is that pastors mention us in the bulletin or make it known to their members that the filtering is done through us.”
Learn how to bring filtering to your church free of charge at www.afo.net or call toll free 850-362-6180.