“I am sixteen and I’ve struggled with lust for a very long time. Tonight, I was going to sext a boy I don’t even know.”
When I read that line from a recent e-mail to me, I thought of my high school girls. I worked as a high school teacher for 5 years, and during those 5 years, I saw it all. My students snuck away to have sex, built fake Facebook accounts full of sexual material, gave each other notebooks of sexual content, and more.
I taught at a Christian school, and it sickened me the security parents had in that name—“Christian”—as if since their children went to a Christian school it was okay if they were 15 and had an unrestricted iPhone.
I was raised in a good Christian home, and even with the restrictions placed on my teenage self, and church three times a week, I still found a way to get into trouble. I got hooked on pornography and sex chatting when the Internet was still dial-up and cell phones were the size of a shoe box.
In a way, I’m thankful that I didn’t have the ease of access teenage girls have today. I don’t know where I would be if I did, and that makes me worry about where they are going.
I am burdened for our young women. I spent two years sitting across from women who grew up in the church, and knew what purity was, yet faced a crisis pregnancy. I spent 5 years watching as my high school girls spiraled out of control because their parents thought they were safe. So speaking as a woman with a heart for these girls, to you parents, youth leaders, and pastors, hear me:
1. She isn’t safe.
We don’t want young women walking home alone at night. In fact, I have a father figure who tells me to call him if I am ever walking home at night, even if it’s just the 100 yards from my car to my house. He wants me safe. Are attacks common in our neighborhood? No. We’ve never had one, but the circumstances still exist and he would rather make sure I get home safely.
We all know how to see unsafe situations in ‘real life.’ Yet, the same parents who would tell their daughter that no she can’t hang out with that boy because he is no good, will turn around and give her a smart phone with unlimited access to the Internet. How is it not the same?
I actually think, from personal experience, that the Internet might be worse.
You might be a missionary family. You might be the pastor of your church. These girls might have been in that pew since the Sunday before they were born, but the Internet is the same for everyone. The risks are the same for everyone. It is not a respecter of person, gender, age, or background.
2. She needs boundaries.
We all need boundaries. We need to know what appropriate behavior is, and what is inappropriate. We need to know where the rules are and need the surety those rules will be enforced. We see this best with small children. They will test boundaries, not necessarily to see what happens when the boundary is crossed, but to see if the boundary changes.
Then, they grow up, and start talking back. They try to negotiate their boundaries and throw out great teenage clichés labeling you the worst parent/youth pastor ever and calling you too strict. They guilt trip those boundaries into falling. But they cannot fall.
Purity is all about boundaries. Integrity is all about boundaries. Without boundaries—physical, emotional, spiritual—purity and integrity fall. If her boundaries start to fall when she’s 13, do not be surprised when she’s 27 and acting like there are no rules.
3. She’s not thinking.
I know that might offend some people, but did you see that excerpt from that e-mail at the beginning? This young woman, sixteen years old, was contemplating sending images of her naked body to a complete stranger. When I was seventeen, I did just that. At 27, I’ve often asked my 17 year old self, “What were you thinking!?” And the answer: I wasn’t.
I was a smart kid. I graduated high school with a 4.0 and maintained a 3.65 in college even though I always skipped my 8 am chemistry class. Still, I look back at when I sent those pictures and I just wasn’t thinking. I don’t know if it was the underdeveloped frontal lobe, being blinded by sin, or consumed by the need to be accepted, whatever it was, I threw all logic out the window. I wasn’t thinking.
None of us want to believe that this could be a young woman we know. I get e-mails every day though from girls who grew up in church, live in a Christian home, and have fallen. They are hooking up in college. They are single moms. They are teenage girls sexting strangers. For many of them, it all started with pornography, and the porn started when their parents let go.
If you are a parent, don’t let go. If you’re sending them off to college, send them off with their computer and smart phone with Covenant Eyes on it and make sure you’re an Accountability Partner.
For their own sakes, love them enough to protect them.