Parents have dreams for their children.
The parents I know constantly ask God to guide and protect them, to make their children the saints they’re called to be! They want to protect their children from negative influences, including a sexualized culture that tries to shove itself into children’s faces at a young age. They desperately want to keep pornography from creeping into their children’s lives, but they’re just not sure how to do that.
If you’re a parent, does this sound like you?
If so, then we have good news! Through some survey findings and a bit of research, we’ve discovered a few practical steps that any parent can take regardless of your technical knowledge.
In 2016, a large US Catholic high school anonymously surveyed the majority of their male students on pornography use. The results below, published here at the first time and without naming the diocese at its request, are the cumulative percentages for all grades. The survey was administered anonymously during Theology classes. We pray that this information will encourage parents to protect their children from pornography.
(There are several questions where percentages did not equal 100%, possibly due to incorrectly filled out scantrons and quick rounding of percentages.)
Here is the data from the anonymous survey:
1. How often, typically do you view pornography?
- More than once a day (6%)
- Daily (15%)
- Not daily but more than once a week (49%)
- Once per week or less than once per week (20%)
- I do not view pornography (11%)
2. What device do you MOST use to view pornography?
- Smartphone (57%)
- iPad/Tablet (24%)
- Home Computer (7%)
- I do not view pornographic websites (10%)
3. Where do you view pornographic materials?
- In my bedroom (61%)
- At my “study space” (6%)
- Other locations in my house (21%)
- In my car (5%)
- I do not view pornographic websites (11%)
4. Which of the following pornography is your preferred to view?
- Pictures of people in suggestive poses but fully clothed (3%)
- Pictures of people in suggestive poses but scantily clothed (8%)
- Pictures of naked people (23%)
- Video of people performing various sex acts (58%)
- I do not view pornographic websites (8%)
5. What feeling do you usually experience before viewing pornography?
- Loneliness (20%)
- Anger (15%)
- Anxiousness (14%)
- Frustration (3%)
- Boredom (48%)
Here’s what stands out to us at Covenant Eyes about this survey. A high percentage of pornography consumption by high school students happens on smartphones (57%), in the bedroom (61%), and/or when they’re bored (48%). Thankfully, these are things parents can control.
In 2016, the Barna Group published its study The Porn Phenomenon: The Impact of Pornography In the Digital Age, wherein they state that 88% of most teens (child ages 13-17) have a phone and 82% of teens sleep with their phone in their bedroom. Further, the survey explains that 48% (nearly half) of preteens (children ages 9-12) have a phone, and of those, most (72%) sleep with their phone in their bedroom.
If you’re like the majority of parents, you’ve chosen to provide your children with a smartphone and internet access. Sometimes, this decision is made without fully understanding all of the ways in which our children can access pornography. But the following tips can help limit your child’s exposure to inappropriate content:
1. Protect Your Family’s Devices
Use parental controls, and if a device doesn’t provide or allow parental controls to be downloaded, don’t buy it for them. As another layer of protection, use Covenant Eyes Accountability and Filtering Services on your family’s smartphones, tablets, and computers.
2. No Smartphones, Tablets, Computers, or TVs in the Bedroom
Keep computers in an open room. Don’t allow devices in your children’s bedrooms that can access the internet or cable.
3. Talk to Your Children
Use the weekly internet use reports from Covenant Eyes to strike up good conversations. The aim is to manage small issues before they become big problems. Parents have the biggest influence on their kids’ behaviors–more than their friends, school, or parish church. Put that influence to use. Set aside times to talk to your kids about their God-given sexuality. Also, be prepared to talk to your child or teen on the fly when opportunities present themselves. Talking isn’t preaching. Be willing to listen, too. If you don’t feel prepared to talk to your children on these topics, a great resource to help you is the free Covenant Eyes ebook, Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives.
4. Give Your Kids Responsibilities and Encourage Life-giving Hobbies
It’s more and more common that our young people aren’t given responsibilities at home or in the broader life of the community. God has given them many gifts to use and share, so give them the opportunity! Both young and teenage children can really thrive when given responsibilities like folding clothes, drying the dishes, mowing, and meal planning or helping cook once a week. Also, children are just bursting with energy and ways to be creative. Pay attention to what they enjoy and what comes naturally to them and cultivate that in the child. Are they good at drawing? How about the guitar? Does your son enjoy wood working? Maybe your daughter likes taking photographs? Encourage growth in these areas and other hobbies they have interest in. This will get them away from the TV and smartphone, which decreases their likelihood of ongoing use of pornography.
In the digital age, it’s not a matter of if your child will see something inappropriate online. It’s only a matter of when. Although no plan is 100% safe, we believe that following the steps above will significantly decrease the opportunities for our sexualized culture to have undue influence on the hearts and minds of your precious children.