Responsibly Warning Your Children about Porn

“Help! I just caught my 10-year-old son looking at porn on his tablet he uses for games!”

“Checking my child’s phone for something else, I came across the sexual pictures she was exchanging with a boy out of state—at least that’s who she thinks it’s with…one she met in a chat room.”

“Our 12-year-old just tried to act out sexually with his little sister. Where did he learn such a thing? And how do we help our daughter now? How does such a thing happen to children?”

“My 18-year-old daughter just announced she wants to be a stripper! When and where did she learn that? How long has she been involved in a sexual world of which we knew nothing?”

Responsibly Warning Children About Porn

Unfortunately, I’m often asked the question by parents of when and how to have “the porn talk” with their children after it’s too late. If there has been a communication breakdown for any reason between parents and child, these talks may have already happened in the locker room at school or on the playground or at a friend’s house—unreliable information at best, and a setup for sexual abuse at worse.

The “porn talk” is too important to randomly drop on your child without much thought, and one that makes many parents even more anxious than “the body development talk.”

Statistically, children are viewing porn younger and younger. It is easy to accidentally access porn websites when children are using computers for schoolwork or even playing games. Sometimes, friends share a cool link they’ve found introducing classmates to porn sites. I recently talked to a mom that pulled her daughter from riding the public school bus because a junior high girl was demonstrating how to give oral sex to a boy on the way home from school with most of the other kids watching and blocking it from the driver.

Parents, we are in a different world. Our children must be warned. Yet we must be extremely careful how we speak of those sinful things not to arouse curiosity that will entice immature ones into the forbidden. Ephesians 5:12 warns us to be careful not to speak of shameful and secret sins, but only to expose them to the light of Christ and His Word.

Start Early. Start Simple.

“But when and how do we begin?” is the question parents are asking. As with all learning, line upon line, precept upon precept is the key. A firm foundation of knowledge and trust has to be in place long before the topic itself is approached. If this foundation is not already in place when one day your child stumbles upon pornography elsewhere, the damage may take years to repair.

When a child is old enough to ask a question, be honest and give an age appropriate answer. For example, when my three-year-old daughter asked how the expected baby brother got into my tummy, an age appropriate answer was that because Mommy and Daddy love each other very much, God gave us a baby to grow in Mommy’s tummy. Though a simple answer, it began to lay the foundational understanding that the covenant of marriage was between a man, a woman and their God, and that children were the heritage of the Lord to be welcomed with joy into that family.

As she asked other questions, I gave answers that were honest, but on her level of understanding—enough but not too much information for her to process. We wanted to help her develop a Biblical view of her sexuality from early childhood. By adolescence, we wanted her to know that sex is good with the right person—her spouse, and at the right time—within the covenant of marriage. God created her as a sexual being not only to produce children, but to share this joy with a spouse, and that it is worth waiting for!

With two brothers in the house, I began to teach her early about body privacy and modesty. She could see that boys and girls were different, and we talked about how God created both in His image, yet male and female, for the purpose of becoming parents and having families to the glory of God. We were laying the foundation for her own marriage and family in God’s time.

But most important, we as parents became her source of information. We wanted open communication about any and every topic she questioned. When classmates talked at school, she wanted to talk to us about their discussions to see if they were correct. That openness paid rich dividends so many times through their teen years as all three of our children came to us with their questions and concerns.

When they were tempted, the foundation was in place to know God’s perspective on the issue. That made them less vulnerable than children or teens with little understanding of their own bodies and their sexuality. Even as young children they knew there was an appropriate familial “yes” touch and an inappropriate “no” touch. They understood that body privacy meant they didn’t show their private parts to others and they didn’t look at others. They knew they could say “No!” to anyone who wanted to violate that privacy, and that they could talk to us about it. As they matured, they understood that pornography is the abnormal and is a violation of those privacy issues we talked about when they were children. Line upon line, precept upon precept.

Monitoring Technology

As soon as children are using electronic devices (which seems to be younger and younger) there must be guards, guidelines, and boundaries in place. Having a filter or parental controls is absolutely necessary! Talk to them about why these guards are necessary. Warn the children about the possibility of inappropriate pictures popping up and what to do if that happens—have a plan in place.

This conversation must take place so that they understand any violation of the plan must be handled as a serious matter. An accidental pop-up that was immediately shut down by the child is handled quite differently than when he searches out those sexual pictures. Children need the accountability of knowing parents are watching and aware of what they are seeing online until they reach moral maturity and are choosing moral purity consistently, whether in thought, communications, or actions.

Parents, even if you assume your child won’t get into porn, don’t assume everyone else’s child won’t! We are warned in 2 Timothy 3:1-7 that the last days would be treacherous for us and especially for our vulnerable children. We may have control and influence over the very young, but as their world expands, the influences on them may be disastrous if they are not thoroughly warned (1 Corinthians 15:33). This conversation may be too late for some by age thirteen, so we must lay the foundation throughout their childhood as we teach and train them, yes warn them, to guard their eyes, their ears, their friendships, their bodies, their hearts and minds.

In Scripture, the established model for change is through the renewed mind (Romans 12:1,2; Ephesians 4:17-24). Parents who both teach and model holy living are helping their child to think biblically and to put off sinful habits and to put on Christlikeness. The flesh is drawn to sin in general, and to pornography and all sorts of sexual perversion in specific. Children must be trained to resist wrong thinking that opens them to wrong actions, wrong choices. If any person is to put off pornography or any other sexual sin, he will only put it off and keep it off if there is a righteous replacement. In other words, he must put on a biblical view of his sexuality.

A Vision for Moral Purity

That is why I stressed in the beginning to start those conversations early, to teach them about their bodies as a reflection of God’s holy image, to teach them about God’s plan for families, and to teach them about moral purity. Then pray, pray, pray! Let them know you are praying for them to make wise choices as they grow up. Pray for them and with them about any and all of their concerns. Take time to listen to their concerns, and to just enjoy them as your children. This time is an investment into their lives that will pay rich rewards as they mature into godly young adults.

They will thank you for guiding them into moral purity as they stand at their own wedding altar some day.