4 minute read

4 Myths About Our Kids and Porn

Last Updated: February 6, 2023

Chris McKenna
Chris McKenna

Chris McKenna is a guy with never-ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. He is the founder of Protect Young Eyes, a leading digital safety organization. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, podcasts, and most recently on Capitol Hill for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation that could radically change online child protection laws. With expertise in social media usage, parental controls, and pornography use in young people, Chris is highly sought after as a speaker at schools and churches. Since 2016, Chris has worked with Covenant Eyes creating educational resources to help individuals and families overcome porn. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, and candy.

A mom recently contacted me because her 11-year-old son had been looking at porn. She didn’t know what to do and needed to talk to someone. Just the week before, Julie [name changed] was having a conversation with her 18-year-old son about life. At one point in his teenage years, he had struggled a little with looking at porn, and they were talking about that during this particular conversation. The older son is doing really well and has some protections in place to keep him pure.

Julie didn’t know her 11-year-old son heard the conversation and the word “pornography,” a word he didn’t understand. Jason [name changed] did what many digital natives do when looking for answers–he went to Google and typed in the word “pornography.” This happened on Friday.

Fast forward to Sunday. Jason was using the computer in the home’s small office, when his teenage sister walks in on him, catching a glimpse of the screen before he minimizes it. His sister immediately goes to Julie (mom), who is crushed by the prospect of her sweet, little boy looking at porn. Dad has left for a business trip and won’t be home until Tuesday night.

She calmed down a bit, and on Monday, had a grace-filled, loving conversation with Jason. While Julie was talking to Jason, he said something that she didn’t understand, “Mom, I just couldn’t stop clicking. It was like I wasn’t in control anymore.”

When Julie heard this, she began to question a lot of things about her parenting. How could he just keep clicking? He knew it was wrong! This is a Christian home! He knows better.

The Brain Is Wired for Sex

Now we’re on Tuesday. I began to encourage Julie for how well she handled the situation with Jason. I’ve spoken to many broken, emotional mothers who just don’t know how to talk to their kids after something like this happens, but Julie did fabulously.

Next, I began to unwind Jason’s comment about feeling like he wasn’t in control.

The truth is, Jason was right.

And, I bet millions of girls, boys, women, and men know exactly what he’s talking about. Clicking for hours, skipping a whole night’s sleep, unaware of the passage of time, hyper-focused on a screen that is flooding your brain with a toxic excitement that cannot be contained.

The brain is wired for sexual stimulation. Nothing fires up the brain’s reward center like sexual arousal. That first image causes a release of dopamine, a chemical that causes intense focus, as well as unwavering motivation, energy, and goal-directed behavior. And guess what? That dopamine feels great. It makes you want to, “go, go, go!”

Related: Neuroscience Speaks: How Using Porn Destroys Your Willpower

That’s where the prefrontal cortex is supposed to play a key role. It’s that part of the brain responsible for our willpower, regulating our behavior, and making decisions based on wisdom and morals. But, in an 11-year-old boy, those prefrontal lobes aren’t quite as developed as they might be in an adult. Additionally, with the unnaturally high doses of dopamine being fired off during a porn fix, dopamine receptors break down, causing the prefrontal lobes to weaken.

Normally, the prefrontal lobes are there to exercise “executive control” over our urges. But when this region is weakened by continual porn use, willpower is eroded and there is nothing to stop the craving for pornography. As a result, the person experiences not just an urge, but an intense need. Literally, a slave to the porn, unable to stop the clicks.

Related: 5 Reasons Porn Impacts Kids More than Adults

4 Myths About Our Kids and Porn

There are a few takeaways from this story because it’s a very common tale being played out in homes all over the world today. Julie, like many good moms, believed a few myths that are worth unwinding here.

1. My child is a good kid and wouldn’t do that.

As Julie discovered, Jason’s three day binge on porn really didn’t have anything to do with him being a good or bad boy. He acted on a curiosity, and neurology did the rest.

Probably the biggest takeaway here is that Jason had not been given any education about the word “pornography.” He didn’t have any tools to know what to do when he saw porn. It’s not a matter of if a kid will see porn, but when. Our free ebook Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives has age-specific conversation guides for talking to kids about tech and tough subjects.

2. If my child saw it, he or she would just look away.

Again, he or she might want to turn away, but the urge is strong. And the enemy swoops in quickly to whisper, “just one more click won’t hurt anyone,” and that’s a killer. Again, remember the neurology lesson above.

For anyone who has battled against this addiction, they can attest to the paralyzing urge to keep clicking.

3. The measures I have in place are good enough.

With guilt in her voice, Julie admitted that when they purchased a new computer last December, they didn’t take the step to install any accountability or filtering on the device. This was a crushing realization for her–that mom and dad were mostly to blame for Jason’s discoveries.

There is no such thing as passive parenting in the digital age. Open windows to the internet must be guarded. Covenant Eyes is an internet guard that can help create an internet-safer home.

Related: 6 Easy Ways Your Child Can Bypass Your Internet Filter

4. This is only a boy issue.

This has never been entirely true, but it is increasingly more false in the digital age. As more boys learn from porn that girls are sexual objects to be conquered, girls are responding by becoming more like the porn they see so that boys will “like” and notice them.

Google never rests, and so neither can we! In the digital age, parents must be observant, engaged, and informed. We can teach our kids how to use technology wisely, but it takes hard work. You can do it! Download Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives today to take an important step to parenting well in the digital age.

  • Comments on: 4 Myths About Our Kids and Porn
    1. Great read. I am a counselor that specializes in sexual issues. I wish more people would take the time to protect their children. Too many times I hear people thinking their children wouldn’t have problems. The days of ignorance around this issue are long gone, if we want to help this generation. Thanks so much for your work in this area. Blessings.

    2. Thank you CovenantEyes team for rising to the occasion to protect our children, enlighten parents and give direction. Its a herculean task in this generation, I must confess, being a Sex Educator myself,working with parents and youngsters in West Africa. The level of parental ignorance is amazing!
      However, we will keep teaching, instructing and offering guidance. Thank you for being a voice in this generation,I enjoy reading your works.
      Grace to you.

    3. Barb

      Thank you for this blog article. I am wondering if you know of a place where mothers can get support as moms of children addicted to porn. I have been searching for two years for an online support system specifically for moms – a place where they can talk about their feelings in relation to having a son or daughter addicted to pornography. I am praying about starting an online community to offer this support, as I have been unable to find one. As my son is still under age & has only confessed his addiction to his parents & a few others, I would like an anonymous place. Thanks for your help.

      • Chris McKenna

        Hello, Barb – a friend of mine recently started this forum that might help. Please let her know that I sent you her way: https://www.mediasavvymamas.com

        Regards, Chris

      • Carla

        It’s not online, but it is anonymous: check out your local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have an addiction recovery program for both the addicted and loved ones who need to heal. It’s a loving environment of people that know how hard it can be for the best of people to turn away from addiction. It’s modeled after AA, but relevant to any addiction and can give guidance to all who are effected.

      • LaDonna

        You might inquire at Pure Life Ministries. They focus on marriages and men, particularly, but may have resources.

      • Tina

        Hi, Facebook is a great place to start a group. The settings allow a group to be private so only others in the group can see posts. I am in several groups and they help tremendously.

      • Nancy

        Settingcaptivesfree.com were of great help years ago with understanding this addiction.

    4. Sandy

      Pretty soon the porn isn’t enough. Men of age start reaching out to sites like Yesbackpage for human interaction. Only to find out it isn’t as satisfying as what they have watched. But they can’t stop. It ruins many marriages and relationships.

      • Robin Hooper Hanan

        Your correct it ruined mine as he became very sexually violent and crude. The Christian man I married became a monster I couldn’t be around. The abuse grew to something that was sick and mortifying. His expectations were unrealistic and there was no love only demands and forced sexual rape. I hate porn as it makes more than just the viewer a victim.

      • Kay Bruner

        I am so, so sorry Robin. I hope you’re getting lots of support and care as you heal from this abuse. Peace to you, Kay

    5. Newman

      This explains why I have been fastidiously “clicking my mouse” 2-3 times per day since 1992.

      • Jennifer

        Hahahah, don’t worry they won’t get it

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