My boys (13, 11 and 8) have developed a keen ability to presage a kissing scene in any movie. Their windup to the situation is the same every time — when the music changes and the hero pulls the damsel in close for a tender moment, my boys seize the couch pillows in a desperate panic, pull them in front of their faces as if they were shielding them from acid flying toward them, and then shout “Yucky K, Yucky K!!!” (their code word for kissing). And while it’s annoying because it does immediately disrupt any feelings of movie magic sentiment, I’m fine for my boys to show no interest in girls, kissing or “romance.” However, I know that someday this will change and the same vigor that repels them from these scenes will one day draw them in. It’s those days that I’m most concerned about.

 

As my children continue to grow, so will their interest in sexuality — and this is not a bad thing. God created sex, God has built our bodies to experience and enjoy sex, and these things are good. However, our world has taken something good and re-formed it into something that is broken and outside of what God has designed — and one of the most dangerous expressions of this brokenness is pornography. Pornography represents a serious threat to the physical, emotional and spiritual well-being of our children, and parents need to take every precaution to protect them from this threat.

In the coming paragraphs I intend to cover three points of concern. First, how pervasive is pornography among children? Second, in what ways does pornography bring damaging consequences. Third, what should we as parents do to protect our children?

First, we need to understand the current exposure of pornography to children so as to understand how pervasive the issue is. The following statistics were taken from Covenant Eyes, an online resource for those looking to stop porn use. So, take a deep breath and consider the significance of the following data.

  • 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography online before the age of 18.
  • The first exposure to pornography among boys is 12 years old, on average.
  • 83% of boys and 57% of girls are exposed to group sex online.
  • 71% of teens have done something to hide their online activity from their parents.
  • 28% of 16-17-year-olds have unintentionally been exposed to pornography online.
  • 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext.

These numbers should cause us great pause. Numbers suggest that 9 out of 10 boys and 6 out of 10 girls will have been exposed to pornography by the time they enter adulthood, with the average age of exposure being 12 years old. What are some of the implications of these numbers? Well, assuming that a young man or young woman marries right out of college at 22 years of age, numbers would suggest that their impressions have been influenced by pornography for a decade. Their understanding of the mechanics of sex, the purpose of sex, the practices of sex, have been shaped by actors portraying fictitious sexual encounters. With the ease of access via phones, tablets and computers, the opportunity for extensive viewing is staggering.

What are the ramifications of porn use? Certainly because it’s prolific doesn’t mean it’s damaging. Yet, we can find evidences all-around of the damaging impact of porn. I will list three here. First, pornography rewires the brain to require greater and greater sexual stimuli catapulting a person into addiction (article). Just like a chemical addition, our brains can become so dependent upon pornography for a sense of pleasure, rest and relief, that we return to porn for the next hit of pleasure. Why do men and women look at pornography at work, at a stop light or when they’re bored? It’s because their brains have become enslaved to porn and the addiction holds them to return again and again. Second, it breaks relationships between real people. Naomi Wolf[1] in her article the “Porn Myth,” laments the relational damage done to men and women because of the wild expectations porn creates, especially in men. Why would a man be interested in a real women who isn’t digitally and surgically enhanced? Why would he choose to do the work of building a relationship with an actual woman when he can simply get what he wants from an online harem? As men are drawn into a synthetic world of pornography, their interest and ability to engage (and be satisfied) with a real woman are extinguished. Lastly, and most importantly, porn damages our relationship with God. Sin leads us away from God and it destroys the hope and peace we experience as a child of God (see Hebrews 3:12 and Romans 8:13). As parents, we must stand in the gap in order to protect our kids that they would not suffer the damaging effect of sin.

This brings me to my third point, how do we do protect our kids? I’d like to suggest three things for you to consider. First, we must manage well the digital portals that can lead to pornography. What phones, tables or computers do your kids have access to in your home? Are there appropriate filters and accountability software that help protect them from accessing mature content? What abilities do your kids have to install apps on their phones? What about the access points that your kids will have when they’re with friends? Have you had conversations with their parents about how they manage their kids’ digital content? To be sure, this can be an awkward conversation, but one too important to forego; we cannot sit idly by and assume everything is handled, we must investigate and make some unpopular—but loving—decisions. Second, we must have regular, intentional and grace-filled conversations with our kids. Asking questions about struggles with porn are undoubtedly uncomfortable for your child as well as you, but we must have these conversations. At some point our kids will view pornography, and that first conversation must be filled with grace remembering that sexual sin is absolutely covered by the grace Jesus offers. When your child confesses a struggle (or you discover the struggle), shame and horror are not the way to move forward; it’s running to Jesus (1 John 1:9). Lastly, we must show them something better — we need to take them to Jesus. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see Jesus.” How great is it that as we do the hard work of denying ourselves the pleasure that porn brings, Jesus promises that the great reward we have is to behold the beauty of the Savior. As parents, we have the privilege of regularly presenting them with the Son of God, who offers abundant life. May we as parents continually point them to Jesus by the words we speak and the testimony of our actions.

Resources:
Articles/Videos
The Science of Pornography – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ya67aLaaCc
The Porn Myth, Naomi Wolf[2]http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/trends/n_9437/
Your Brain on Porn – http://www.covenanteyes.com/2012/01/09/your-brain-on-porn-e-book-book-review/
http://www.desiringgod.org/books/killjoys
Vimeo – “Dr. Mary Anne Layden – Effects of Porn”

Filtering/Reporting
https://www.accountable2you.com/
https://meetcircle.com/circle/
http://www.covenanteyes.com/
https://www.netnanny.com/
https://www.toptenreviews.com/software/security/best-internet-filter-software/ (a comparison of different filters)

Resources
Coming Clean: Breaking Pornography’s Hold on You, David Powlison.
Good pictures, Bad Pictures, Kristen Jensen and Gail Poyner.
More Than Just the Talk: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-to Person About Sex, Jonathan McKee
Passion and Purity, Elizabeth Elliot.
Pornography: Slaying the Dragon, David Powlison.

https://www.covenanteyes.com

  • When Your Child is Looking at Porn
  • Covenant Eyes Porn Stats
  • Parenting the Internet Generation
  • Your Brain on Porn

http://www.purelifeministries.org/

https://www.xxxchurch.com/

[1] I recommend this article with a word of caution. Wolf is not a Christian, nor does she espouse biblical sexuality. However, her article is helpful here in that she identifies one damaging aspect of pornography on the interpersonal engagements between college aged men and women. Read this article with caution knowing she uses crass, albeit honest language around this complex topic.

[2]This article contains references to explicit acts, and while it speaks critically of the acts, please read this article with caution.

 

Micah Barnum

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