Your Kids and Porn

I am a parent and I am a counselor. Both of these roles give me significant motivation to write on this topic. It is time to get educated about kids and porn. The world our kids live in is so drastically different than the generations before. We cannot afford to believe that our children beat all the statistics.

When I was a teen the culture I lived in was not all that different from the culture my mother grew up in. While differences in music and dress were obvious the main things were very similar. My media influences were basically the same as hers; television and radio still held the corner market on entertainment. The telephone was the way friends made plans. The modes of communication also hadn't changed much. While phones had just begun to be mobile in my teen years they were antiquated, bulky, and not superior to the home phone. From my mother's youth to my own teen years, we saw updates but nothing drastically new.

Not so for my kids. In one generation entertainment and technology have changed significantly. We still have television but most of the viewing that my kids do is via the internet. In fact if we watch a TV show or movie it is only with the aid of some internet tool. Communication has changed almost entirely. When I was a teen if the phone rang people rushed to get it. Now if our home phone rings it is usually ignored and the answering machine collects the calls from unwanted solicitors or the gratuitous appointment reminders. Even cell phones are not used primarily as a "phone".  Communication is primarily through texting, email, chats, and video calls.

So what do these changes have to do with kids and porn. When I was a kid, pornography was not something kids had easy access to. Partially rapped in paper, on the rack behind store convenient store clerk, the untouchable and forbidden magazines were kept from getting into young hands. Of course there were always those kids who found hidden stashes at home or had their own secret contraband. But even in those situations, supplies were limited to the pilfered amount. Those days are completely gone.

Modern technology has eliminated the barrier that once kept porn out of reach. The changes in entertainment and communication have brought some terrifying realities, namely the rapid propulsion of the porn industry and the innovative idea of personally made pornography. Kids growing up today are living in a society saturated in porn.

So what can a parent do?

1. TALK 
The first and most important thing to do is talk. Talk to your kids. Do not let certain words be taboo in your family. I had one Christian mom tell me that her kids (middle school and high school age) didn't even know what the word "porn" was. While I think that was supposed to be a positive claim I see significant danger in this (and I have my doubts of it's actual truth). If the world is speaking so loudly why are we silent? Use judgement but talk to them early. I find that most parents wait too long and begin talking after their kids have already been exposed to more than enough information on the subject. Talk to your kids about what they will certainly encounter and how they can respond to it. They need to hear the consequences of "just looking". They need to understand the critical connection between pornography and their relationships. One survey found that of the teen boys surveyed 1 in 3 were actively "using" porn. If you are a parent of a teenage boy the next time you see him in a small group with a couple of his friends remember this statistic. Which one of the three is he? That is not to scare anyone but simply to educate you on the reality of how prevalent it is. If that is true than parents need to be talking to their kids about this. As a counselor I see so many relationships struggling because of mistrust stemming from an early exposure to porn. Porn objectifies people, eliminates the reality of responsibility, and breeds discontentment in a relationship. 

2. PROTECT 
The next thing is to protect. Get a filter. Today. When I hear another parent tell me that their child has been viewing porn I will ask the parents if there are filters on their kids computers and phones. Time and time again the answer is no. Filters are a first line of defense in protecting your kids. They are easy to install and maintain and most start around $5 a month. If you don't have one, stop reading this and go get one now. I recommend Covenant Eyes. You can download it HERE. While nothing is fool proof, if a kid wants to view something they will find a way, you can put up barriers to at least make it more difficult. Another thing you can do is set stricter sensitivity on your browser and on certain key sites. Most browsers allow you to set a sensitivity within the settings. This blocks certain things from showing up in a search. This is especially helpful with younger kids who can easily stumble on to things while doing random searches. YouTube also has a setting for safe searching. Most of these settings will be found at the very bottom of the main page or in the settings. They are easy to turn on and off so they should never be the only means of keeping your kids safe from unwanted pornographic images.

3. CHECK  
Finally check in. Parents should have access to their children's accounts. Your child cannot open a bank account, go to the doctor, or drive a car without parental permission and engagement so why do parents think that having access to their children's phone, computer, email, or social media is out of bounds? Parents should have the passwords to their children's devices and accounts and they should check in at times. This is normal parenting. When I was a child my mom always knew where I was, what I was doing, and who I was doing it with. Parents, your child's online location, activity, and relationships are your business. In our home it is our practice to let our kids know that we will be checking in on them. This helps us to know how their time is being spent as well as any concerning activity. It has been a means of continued education for our children and growing awareness for us. Parents, just because your kids may be more technologically savvy than you does not mean they have the wisdom to go along with it. Check in on your kids internet use and talk to them about what they are doing and what ramifications that may have in their future. Teach your children they are leaving a digital fingerprint and it may not be mom or dad who will be checking on it in the future. Begin teaching them to live as if their online activity is being recorded and can be retraced at any time...because it is and it can be.

There is so much to say on this subject and it is difficult to cover in just one post but I do want to say this as an encouragement to parents: Don't freak out. As you begin to talk with your kids or investigate into their digital world the best thing you can do is to calmly engage them even when disappointments happen. While porn has reached an epidemic state you do not have to be fearful. You are a significant voice of direction in your child's life. And while there may be some discouraging set backs they are being shaped by you as you walk with them and help them navigate better through life. Trust God to work in your child as you show them the way. Pray for them to have a biblical perspective on sex. Teach them what it means to love and honor people. And above all, lead by example. This is more powerful than any website, search engine, or video clip. Be in their life right now when they need you most. How are you engaging your kids on this crucial subject? If you are not talking to them about it then who is?

Statistics About Teens And Porn
This chart is 5 years old. I have yet to find a more comprehensive one that is more up to date. I am not sure how much the stats would have changed in 5 years. I do believe that an updated list would include stats about teens engaging in sexting, Skype sex, and private production of pornographic materials by teens.




If you want to read more on the subject check out this article published in the Telegraph earlier this year exposing more closely the reality of children and porn (warning- some graphic language).
Children and the Culture of Pornography


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