3 Principles to Protect Your Kids from Porn Addiction

“The sins of a father are passed down to three of four generations ” (Exodus 20:5). We see this played out daily as porn or sex addiction often trickle down from our grandfathers to ourselves and eventually to our kids. But you can break the cycle.

And when you set out to be a proven parent, God promises to pour out blessing to a thousand generations through you (Exodus 20:6). That’s a pretty good incentive for you to break the addiction cycle in your family and to retain sexual integrity.

3 Principles to Protect Your Kids From Porn Addiction

Why do sexual sins seem to flow through blood lines? It’s actually not a curse, but something often born through a lack of communication between a father and a son or mother and daughter. In fact, this lack of open conversation between a child and a parent or trusted mentor is often one of the biggest reasons why children become ensnared by porn or sex addiction.

It’s easy to blame easy accessibility to Internet porn as the reason why so many kids struggle with porn today. But porn’s availability is not the root issue.

I was a full-blown lust addict long before a person could download porn on a computer or cell phone. Porn is really just another form of lust in which we create fantasies about being sexually pleased by someone without the effort of a real relationship. In short, porn or sex addiction is rooted in replacing real forms of intimacy with false ones. If you really want to protect your kids, then embrace the bitter truth that porn addiction is not simply due to the availability of porn.

Rather, porn and sex addiction are often fueled in part by keeping portions of a person’s life off limits. Simply stated, secrets kill real relationships. Secrets are also the essence of porn or sex addition because sexual fantasies are the foundation for chasing after false forms of intimacy, whether it is porn, masturbation, sexting, or friends with benefits.

Related: Failure–The Making of a Mentor

Our Kids Need Proven Parents

I refer to the solution as “bitter truth” because it takes a lot more work to model openness and honesty and foster that in your relationship with your kids than keeping porn off a child’s cell phone. It means you strive to develop accountability relationships and model them for your children. It also requires commitment and energy as you reshape your own worldview and relationships and help form them in your children.

In a Facebook generation which daily urges everyone to post “What’s on your mind?” for the world to see, most people detest or are utterly unable to openly discuss struggles with sexual integrity with a trusted friend. Although social media engages billions of people on a surface level, it actually trains us to hide our struggles and pretend all is well. But remember, the issue is not with the Internet, but the family-net.

Kids need a proven parent–someone willing to invest time and energy in fostering healthy relationships, which include asking hard questions and admitting our own struggles.

For the past 15 years, I have asked every man that went through one of my Proven Men support groups to describe their relationship with their fathers. Virtually none had recurring open and honest talks with their dad about sex or porn. In fact, only a few even had one or two discussions about porn with their dads. This lack of communication fosters false forms of intimacy, and porn is the king of false intimacy today. Porn is the drug of choice when we want to feel what we think of as “intimacy” (which we tend to equate with sex) without the effort of revealing the real you or building deep relationships.

Think about what your kids face today and ask yourself if you want them to navigate this world alone. Sexual messages bombard your children each day, enticing them to either watch porn or have sex.

How to Become a Proven Parent

The best thing a parent can do is build trusting relationships–where no conversation is off limits for their kids and where their trials and struggles are accepted without judgment or condemnation. When you journey with your kids, rather than simply preaching “do’s and don’ts,” you’ll be a better guide in your child’s life.

Here are three principles to help you become a proven parent.

1. Be open and honest.

Be real. Purpose to have open and honest discussions about everything in their lives, including porn and sex. Be sure to listen and not judge or preach. Don’t get so upset with them that they choose to lie the next time you ask questions. Let them know that you understand and that it’s normal to be tempted. Be upbeat and positive. Thank them for being courageous enough to talk to you.

Communicate more than once. Purpose to schedule regular times to engage. If you make it frequent and relaxed, they will loosen up and be able to share with you the tough things they face. Consider a weekend away with them with a plan in place to have a conversation and let them know in advance some of the topics. Ask them to suggest topics too, such as peer pressure. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions, such as “Have you looked at things on computer or cell phone that makes you uncomfortable or things you ought not to be looking at?” Address their thought life too!

2. Build relationships.

Your children want a relationship with you. Plan to eat meals together, play games, and do family devotionals. Read a book together or take a hike in the woods. As long as you spend time focusing on them, it really doesn’t matter what you do.

Related: 32 Reasons Your Family Needs a Digital Detox

The more contact you have in these areas, the more you get to know your child and the more they will be able to trust you and talk about the hard stuff. In these times where you plan to just be with them without an agenda, kids are more likely to open up or even raise issues with you.

3. Set boundaries.

Kids hate, but desperately need, boundaries and accountability, which makes this principle difficult. But don’t just give rules—tell them why you set the boundaries. An essential boundary is an Internet filter. Other good boundaries could include: not allowing computers in their bedrooms, setting curfews for being home, or turning off cell phones at a certain time at night.

Related: The One Way to Parent Well in the Digital Age

Know their friends. Bad company corrupts good children. Placing limits on certain friends or dating is a part of being a parent. Although your child will scream and it might feel like you are invading privacy, consider also granting yourself access to their Facebook account and buying monitoring software that allows you to read their texts and e-mails. This is where most kids get into trouble with porn and get sexual advances by others. Be sure to keep building relationships so that they know that you have their best interests at heart even if they disagree with the boundaries.

If Porn Ensnares Your Child

If you have a teenage child that regularly views porn, you need to be even more intentional to have open and honest conversations. There are no shortcuts. It will take weeks, if not months, to help your child detox and rewire their brain.

We suggest that you go through a 12-week daily study with them, such as one of our studies. You should each spend between 20-30 minutes a day going through a workbook study designed to not only engage the brain with new ways of thinking, but also engage the heart and soul. Then, purpose to discuss the study together at least weekly. We also have a leader’s guide that helps parents lead the conversation.

Related: 3 Accountability Steps Before Your Child Leaves Home

The more you engage in open and honest conversations, the more you and your child will learn how to replace the allure of porn’s false intimacy with real intimacy found in relationships.

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