2 minute read

What if my child is addicted to porn?

Last Updated: October 30, 2020

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

The following is an excerpt from When Your Child is Looking at Porn:  A Step-by-Step Guide for Christian Parents.


If you discover your child has developed a habit of looking at porn, or even something that looks like a full-blown “addiction,” ask for help. You may not feel equipped to handle this situation, and that’s okay. When habitual sin has taken over our lives, we often need help from spiritual leaders to restore us (Galatians 6:1-2).

What drives an addiction to pornography? Certainly there is a biological component at play. Through overexposure to pornography, a person’s brain releases a rush of hormones and neurotransmitters, and in some cases, these are similar to the chemicals released during the use of illegal drugs. A drug addict and porn addict are similar in that both, in a sense, are addicted to the high their brains produce. Sin doesn’t just affect our mind. It also affects our bodies and brains (Romans 7:23; James 4:1).

Therefore, like other addictions, there are methods that are helpful for allowing a person to “detox.” A good counselor can help give your child resources.

Addiction to pornography is also a matter of the core desires of the heart. Pornography is often not a stand-alone issue, but is a symptom of much deeper, more hidden sins. For instance…

  • A boy might live his young life feeling rejected and inadequate, so instead of turning to God, he turns to the fantasy world of porn to feel accepted by the women on the screen who never tell him no.
  • A young woman might struggle with a deep insecurity about her body-image, so instead of turning to God for her sense of worth and identity, she turns to the fantasy world of porn to make her feel desirable.
  • Teens might desire to be in romantic relationships, but they fear the vulnerability of getting close to someone else. Instead of trusting in God to work through their relationships—even their failed relationships—they turn to the “safe” digital world of porn where they can feel “connected” to images that don’t require them to be vulnerable.

Of course, other traumatic circumstances can also cause teens to turn to porn as a refuge—divorce, family dysfunction, abuse, and many other problems.

When Your Child Is Looking at Porn - spreadThere are many underlying sins and issues that might turn a young boy or girl to pornography, but once children are using porn habitually, it is no longer mere curiosity that is driving their behavior. They are getting wrapped up in “the story” pornography is telling them, the fantasy world where they can escape and “feel right,” if only for a brief moment.

Unpacking these underlying sins and beliefs should likely be handled by a skilled counselor or pastor who has experience in this area.

Download and read more in the free book, When Your Child is Looking at Porn:  A Step-by-Step Guide for Christian Parents.

Pure Minds Online | Issue 40 | More in this Issue: Why Your Resolution to Quit Porn Will Fail Miserably | Turning Your Values into Online Values | Join the Fight

  • Comments on: What if my child is addicted to porn?
    1. Thomas Brian Carney on

      This is a wonderful thing you are doing here, and I am sending this material to some of the staff at my church here in Fort Worth, Texas.

      We do talk to our children, even adults, about preventative things to do to not get into “porn.” However, nothing is done about the large percentage of adults and teens already involved and addicted to pornoagraphy.

      Though God’s calling and the power of the Holy Spirit, I have made a small dent in getting our church to address the pitfalls of internet porn, so I want to thank you for your ministry. Thank you very much.

      Thomas Brian Carney
      Fort Worth, Texas
      Men’s SI (Sexual Integrity) Ministry

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Thanks, Thomas! Hope our resources can be a great help!

    2. Rescue Rehome Animals on

      I have been heartbroken and overwrought with guilt that I have done something to cause my 21-year-old son to find it okay to watch pornography online-and things I don’t even want to think about-in our home. My son’s dramatically increased attitude of not wanting to talk to me, be bothered even with walking his beloved dog, and above all refuse to come out of his room-is making me frantic and I don’t know where to go to get the best most urgent help I can.

      He even watches it on his cell phone now-this all just exploded into an addiction overnite! He sleeps all day and stays up all nite so that I am not suspicious, but asleep.I have never allowed anything like this into our lives, our home or our behavior. Above that, my son has come home ill from his mainland college university with a mental health disorder-we are surrounded by a treatment team but I fear they are not doing all they can for his health-or well-being. This condition he suffers currently from includes depression. I am becoming angrier by the day-at these disgusting women online and also my dear son.

      Please help suggest what you can-before my handsome, very intelligent son gets even deeper than he already is into this behavior and addiction and I cannot help him out.

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Sorry to hear about your situation. You might ask your son if he is willing to consider how porn is damaging his mind. He might really enjoy this book (you can download it for free): The Porn Circuit.

      • Ethia Elggren on

        Hi my son is 12 years old and he told us he is a need help. He is been looking on he’s phone for pornography , he is been addicted for 1 year. Please help me .

      • Luke Gilkerson on

        First, I would talk to him about the need for serious safeguards against pornography. He needs to be willing to do whatever it takes to cut off access—even if that means downgrading to a phone that only makes calls and sends text messages. Other access points should be examined as well.

        Second, it would be a good idea for him to talk to another adult about this, especially if you feel unequipped to help him. For one, a 12-year-old boy isn’t often eager to open up to mom or dad about these matters.

        Third, your son is becoming an adult, so I would start looking for adult resources to help him. You may not need to find teen-specific resources to help him. Instead, you might pass along our books, Your Brain on Porn or Coming Clean, to him.

        I’m so sorry to hear about this, Ethia. This can be devastating to a parent to find out about this. Rest assured, young men have recovered from things like this. He needs some solid guidance and a will to change.

    3. candice on

      My son is almost 14 and has been caught searching porn sights on multiple occasions. The first time was when he was 10! It appears that every available opportunity he has, he searches for porn. When asked about it he always says “I don’t know”. He sees a counselor on a routine basis for ADHD. My ex-husband, my son’s step-mom and I are all at a loss as to where to go from here. The problem seems to be progressing.
      Thank you in advance

      Reply
      • Luke Gilkerson on

        Hi Candice,

        So sorry to hear about this situation. Let me see if I can get more information from you:

        1. What have you done to limit his access to pornography?

        2. What has the counselor mentioned to you about the porn use? For someone who has ADHD, Internet pornography can be quite a temptation because it feels his desire for constant novelty.

    4. theresa on

      Hello, and god bless to all! Our 15 year old son is addicted to porn, as of right now he is in a psychiatric hospital, he has been in and out of this hospital for 1 year.we just found out about his addiction by unlocking his cell phone he has hundreds of porn videos on it.my biggest question is why , and did this happen, thisIis not the son we have always known, where did my husband and I go wrong, we’ve raised all our children as Christians, he knows he is sinning.where do I go who do I turn to , and is this my fault? Please help !!! Thank you in advance, god bless

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Hi Theresa.

        First of all, I’m sorry your son is having such a hard time right now. If he’s in a psych hospital, then I’m assuming he has some other struggles besides the porn. If he’s struggling with severe depression or anxiety, then I might tend to see the serious porn use as a part of that bigger issue.

        Any time we’ve got a problem like porn, of course we want to stop the troubling behavior. But, we also need to address the underlying issue that’s fueling the behavior. It may well be that in the course of treatment for the other issues, the problems driving the porn issue will also be addressed. I hope that proves to be true.

        Secondly, I want you to remember that he is a CHILD. Many, many children these days find themselves accidentally exposed to porn, and then they fall deeper and deeper into habits without any idea of how to get out of those habits. I am sure he DOES know that he is sinning. However, the story of the Bible is that we can’t help ourselves out of our sin; God has sent Jesus to do that for us.

        As parents, we’ve got to take that kind of approach with our kids. They can’t help themselves out of this mess by us telling them how sinful they are. They need ACTUAL HELP and LOVING CARE, just like we see Jesus doing for us. Your son needs help getting the behavior under control, but he needs to know he is LOVED and ACCEPTED even while he is struggling.

        Please do help him with the practical issues as well. He probably needs to have a dumb phone instead of a smart phone, to start with. All the internet in your house needs to be filtered and monitored. After he leaves the psych hospital, he will need ongoing care. Find a counselor that HE LIKES, who’s good at adolescent care, and keep taking him there for as long as it takes.

        This situation doesn’t mean that your son’s life is ruined, that he’s not a Christian, or that your family is destroyed. In fact, as you love and serve your child through this crisis, you may find that your faith and your family are stronger in the end. This is an opportunity for you to love your child the way Christ loves all of us: fully, completely, and sacrificially, while we were lost in our mess.

        Finally, I think it will be important for you to process your emotions and beliefs about this situation with a counselor. One of the things I see here is your great fear that this is your fault, you haven’t raised him right, etc. As a mom, you’re going to need to process through the painful reality that our children make choices that are their own. At some point, you’ll need to let go of this idea that you can control your child’s life by being the perfect parent. Even God didn’t control Adam and Eve’s choices. He gave them a free will, they made a mess with it, and that’s been the human story ever since. We all have to work through that with our own kids as well.

        Blessings, Kay

    5. Brie on

      Hi, my almost 15 yr old son is addicted to porn and it seems to be very intense. He also has been lying for years and juat stole from my work where he just currently started working for as well. He has no remorse and barely admits hes done anything at all. With 4 other sinlings younger then he, we are lost! We do not know what to do. There seem to be no consequences to his actions which seem to edge on this behavior. Am I wrong that he needs to feel the weight of his choices? How can I just love on him? Im so angry and hurt.

      Reply
      • Kay Bruner on

        Of course you should be able to have boundaries with your son, such as removing phone and internet privileges if he is unable to manage them in a responsible way. He should definitely face the full consequences of stealing from your work. You don’t need to shame your child, and you don’t want to take our your anger and hurt on him, but you should definitely have boundaries with him. You might appreciate reading Boundaries With Teens by Cloud and Townsend.

      • Brandy McMorris on

        How did things turn out for you? In the same boat!

    6. Hui on

      I’ve been a CE user myself for many years now, and have used multiple CE materials with fellow men in our battle against sexual immorality in pornography. But recently, I find myself out of depth – I’ve just started to help a friend who discovered his 7yo boy’s exposure to online pornography. He seems addicted. I reckon much of what I’ve learnt from CE can come in handy, but one additional factor makes me unsure – I’ve noticed that this boy suffers ADHD. Could you advise, especially given his young age and ADHD condition? I’ve read your material on ‘when your child is looking at porn’.

      Reply
      • Dan Armstrong on

        Thanks for the question. We can’t provide medical advice, but we would definitely point toward the child’s pediatrician to help on both fronts.

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