Being a parent in the digital age is difficult. The doorways to distorted and false information are wherever there is Internet access. Parents having the right conversations at the right times isn’t a guarantee that their children won’t make poor decisions, but recent data provided by The Barna Group prove that accountable families who take the spiritual formation of their children seriously are successful in passing on their values to the next generation. Consider these two very different stories.
A Story Without Accountability
In a church much like yours, a dad walked up to one of our Covenant Eyes representatives and said, “I wish I had met you just one year earlier. That was before the FBI showed up at my door to arrest my 15-year-old son.”
He continued, “It all started on an innocent Christmas morning when my son’s grandparents gave him a computer. This gift was designed to help him in school and even to help him connect with friends and family, but it also opened the door to pornography.”
After his arrest, he told his dad that his headlong dive into an online sexualized world started with simple curiosity. He began looking at Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models and then he moved on to nudes. With simple Google searches he unveiled pornography of every variety, and chat rooms and forums on porn.
A new pornified world opened up to him, and he was not prepared for it.
One day while chatting with whom he thought was a 13-year-old girl online, he asked her to meet him for sex. He was ready to have sex with a child, when the FBI knocked on the family’s door.
This dad wore worry and fear for his son’s future on his face. And he desperately wanted to go back in time to warn his son. He wanted to defend his son and spare him the pain and humiliation of being a registered sex offender. This dad wanted a do over.
It’s easy to say, “that would never happen to my son.” But, why not? This young man made great grades in school, played sports, and went to church with his family every Sunday morning. This is a boy every dad would brag about. But, one critical piece was missing–this young man was never given the tools to know what to do when he was exposed to pornography. There was no culture of accountability in place.
A Story With a Strong Foundation
Contrast that story with this true story, which was relayed to me by a friend at Covenant Eyes named Sam about his teen son, Ben.
One day after school, Ben got into the family car and said, “Dad, guys are dumb.” Any dad who talks with his son regularly can recognize the opening of what is bound to be a good conversation.
“Ok, I’ll bite,” said Sam. “Why are guys dumb?”
“Today after school, guys are standing around talking about their favorite porn,” Ben said. “All of them are comparing notes and websites and saying what kind of porn they like to watch and what their favorite porn sites are.”
“They notice I’m not saying anything, so somebody says, ‘What’s your favorite porn to watch?’ And so I said, ‘I don’t watch porn.’”
“They are like, ‘What? You don’t watch porn?’ Dad, it’s like they can’t even imagine a guy wouldn’t watch porn.”
“They said, ‘Why don’t you watch porn?’ So I told them, ‘I don’t watch porn because I’m a Christian. That’s the first reason I don’t watch porn. But did you know it’s also addictive? The more you watch it, the more likely you’ll become addicted to it.”
“They were like, ‘No way, porn’s not addictive. I can stop anytime I want.’”
“Well, it is addictive. That’s why there are so many people seeking therapy for it. Tiger Woods was married to a supermodel, but that wasn’t enough.”
“And what does it say about you if you get off by watching a slave? Do you know porn contributes to sex trafficking? Did you ever think that when you do a search for porn that you’re likely looking at a slave? What does it say about you, if you get personal satisfaction by someone being a slave?”
Picture this 13-year-old boy surrounded by his peers, all of whom have been entangled in porn. He is a lone voice. He is the minority. Yet, he is educated enough and bold enough to look other boys in the eye and say, “I don’t look at porn, and it’s wrong.”
Counter the Cultural Norm
Who do you want your son or grandson or daughter or granddaughter to be? Do you want your son to be the one who is comparing porn notes with his friends? Do you want your daughter to be the one sending sexts or watching porn herself? Do you want the FBI knocking on your door because your son stumbled into child pornography? Or do you want a courageous son or daughter, who can stand in a world awash in porn and say, “I know my Savior has a plan for me, and I will protect my purity because it matters to God, it matters to me, it matters to a world that is enslaved, and it will matter to my future spouse and children.”
Friends, this is our time! Google is relentlessly providing answers to our kids’ tough questions. It’s up to courageous and persistent parents, like you, to counter the cultural narrative that porn is the norm. You can do it!