Christian parents often have questions about what to do after looking at critical factors that play into the problem of teens viewing pornography.
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What Can Parents Do?
Parents face a frightening realization when they become aware of the temptations their teens face. But it is important to not overreact. Shaming our children for what they have seen or could see online only feeds the mixed soup of emotions that comes with this territory. Every parent needs to learn the art of speaking frankly about sexual issues without stirring curiosities or desires.
There are no quick fixes for this problem. Short of shipping your kids to a desert island, nothing will remove them from the culture in which we find ourselves. As parents, the best thing we can do is implement short-term preventions against seeing pornography, and equip them for a long-term engagement with a pornographized world.
Internet filters are great tools, especially for younger children. Finding a good Internet filter with adjustable settings such as the Covenant Eyes filter can be an extremely helpful tool for children who need to use the Internet. Beyond filter use, it is important to recognize that technology cannot do the hard work of parenting for us. This is why quality parenting is needed.
Parents need to create a standard of accountability in their home. It is a parent’s job to pursue, model, and teach accountability as a way of life. The home needs to be a place where secrets do not need to be kept, especially sinful secrets. The home must be a place where there can be open and honest communication about the temptations we all face. It isn’t enough to assure ourselves with the mantra, “My kids know they can come to me when they have a problem.” Our kids are finding more answers online than they are from parents. Are we proactively discipling them with a biblical picture of sexuality (at age appropriate times)? Are we modeling a lifestyle of confession and repentance?
One story highlights the importance and value of accountability in the home. A pastor who uses Covenant Eyes accountability software recently wrote an email to us:
“I would just like to say thank you for your service to our children. My 13-year-old son accessed a porn site without knowing that we had installed Covenant Eyes, and my accountability partner confronted me, immediately thinking it was me. Knowing it was not me, I immediately confronted my son. He admitted fault and what happened afterwards was a great breakthrough that brought us closer together, and more importantly brought him closer to God. This was truly a timely God-send. My son confessed that he hadn’t felt God in a couple of years, and we encouraged him to seek God. . . . You can imagine how proud and how blessed we are as parents.”
If your teen has already seen pornography, take some time to find out the details. When did s/he see it? How often has s/he seen it? Did s/he seek it out intentionally? What exactly has s/he seen? How should we react to this information? How did these things make him/her feel? Our culture would have our teens believe that they can separate their emotions from their sexual drive. But chances are, if they have had any exposure to pornography, they have a memorable emotional reaction to it.
Above all, teach them a God-centered, positive view of sexuality, and model a healthy respect for the power of our sexual drives. Be intimately involved in their sex education. Take time to talk openly about pornography as a perverted form of sexuality in our culture today. Talk about its negative effects. Help them recognize the open doors of pornography and other sexual media in their life. Don’t shy away from talking about topics that you know your children are likely to overhear in the locker room. (If your children are hearing about topics like “hooking up,” oral sex or “friends with benefits,” you must speak to them frankly about these topics.) Communicate what healthy sexuality is, and display utmost compassion for how difficult it is to grow up in a culture surrounded in unhealthy and sinful messages.
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Where to Start
1. Where is your computer? If your teen has access to a computer in your home behind closed doors, it is time to change that. If you have a household computer everyone uses, put it in a common room in the house. This is a great way to begin the process of setting up a standard of accountability in your own home.
2. Have you spoken to your teen about pornography? Set aside some time to ask your teen what s/he has seen online or other places. Talk to your teens honestly about the dangers of pornography.
3. Have you given your teen a positive view of sexuality? We’re talking more than the “birds and the bees” discussion. Does your teen know that his/her budding sexuality is a good and powerful thing? Set aside time to prepare your teen to understand the sexual desires that s/he will experience.
4. Have you used software to your advantage? If you don’t have a good filter, perhaps it is time to find one. Look into accountability software such as Covenant Eyes. This will be a great tool to help you model accountability in your home.