4 minute read

3 Ways to Help Young People Stop Coping With Porn

Last Updated: August 1, 2022

Ben Bennett
Ben Bennett

Ben is an author, podcast host, speaker, and serves with Josh McDowell Ministry as the Director of Resolution Movement–a global movement helping young people overcome hurts and struggles and thrive in life. For the past 11 years, he has partnered with world renowned therapists and ministry leaders, helping individuals young and old understand and work through the underlying factors driving the unhealthy patterns in their lives. He and Josh McDowell recently co-authored the book Free To Thrive: How Your Hurt, Struggles, And Deepest Longings Can Lead To A Fulfilling Life

I grew up in a family that was disconnected emotionally and relationally. At an early age, I learned to hide what I was thinking and feeling from others. I felt that the challenges of each day were up to me to deal with on my own. I began to experience anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The weight of each day was close to unbearable. Eventually, I was introduced to porn and masturbation by some friends, and this was yet another unhealthy coping mechanism I learned in order to survive. These challenges plagued me throughout my teenage years and into early adulthood. Ultimately, I craved and needed connection with others–to be known, seen, and safe–but that was not a possibility at the time in the environment around me, so I learned to cope instead.

Many young people today have similar experiences. Approximately 73% of Gen Z often or always feel lonely.1 Young people today are more connected than ever through school, social media, and their phones, yet lonelier than ever. How can this be? Well, loneliness isn’t caused by a lack of friends; it’s caused by a lack of meaningful connection. It’s caused by not having safe relationships where they can identify and process their fears, stress, and doubts and feel affirmed. It’s caused by a lack of feeling accepted for who they are. And it’s caused by a lack of feeling seen and heard in their opinions, thoughts, cares, and beliefs.

The impact of disconnection on this generation is devastating. Anxiety and depression are at an all-time high,2 suicide is the second leading cause of death,3 and porn is normative and the new sex ed4 for an entire generation.

Despite this, change truly is possible. I’ve seen God do it over and over as we’ve reached millions of young people online through the Resolution Movement. Here are three ways you can help the young people in your life curb the disconnection and unhealthy coping crisis!

1. Help young people grasp a greater vision for their life.

The narrative of the world often teaches us that a satisfying life will come through money, career success, and possessions. But God teaches us that our greatest purpose and satisfaction comes from deeply loving and knowing him and others and being deeply loved and known by him and others (Matthew 22:37-40). We were created as relational beings who need God and one another.

Harvard, in one of the longest studies ever done, found that good relationships are what lead people to the happiest and healthiest lives.5 Young people’s greatest satisfactions in life are going to come through connecting with God and others rather than coping. Their greatest chance at changing the world around them and influencing others is going to primarily come through entering other people’s worlds, being a safe person, and offering meaningful connections. God wants to use them to help the hurting, help their friends know that they are created in God’s image and valuable, experience the love of Jesus, and flourish in life here and now.

2. Help young people move toward meaningful connection.

In our biblical and psychological research, Josh McDowell and I have found that God creates every human being with seven basic longings. We long for acceptance, safety, the affirmation of our feelings, and more. When these God-given longings are satisfied, we feel connected, secure, free to be ourselves, and able to thrive. When these longings are unmet or outright rejected, we feel disconnected and hurt and can’t help but do something to fill the void. We isolate, watch porn, or go to any number of thoughts and behaviors that offer a counterfeit of what we are longing for.

In an age of disconnection, young people need connection. They need others to enter their world and ask about their fears, feelings, hopes, and cares. They need to feel loved and accepted and to be able to process what they are experiencing. And they need to learn how to do so with their friends. When this happens, rather than coping in unhealthy ways, they learn to connect with others and move toward emotional and relational health.

3. Lead young people by example.

Some things are taught, but most things are caught. One of the greatest things you can do is model what connecting looks like when you’re stressed, worried, sad, or hurting.

Be vulnerable about what you’re experiencing and share how you’re processing it with God. Share what God has been reminding you of or saying to you. Share what peer in your life has been helping you and how they have been helping you. God created us for connection, not disconnection. As young people learn to connect rather than cope, they’ll thrive and experience true satisfaction. You can be part of their life change.

Take these three steps and watch God work!


1 Newport Academy, “The Facts About Loneliness in Young People,” May 15, 2020. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.newportacademy.com/resources/well-being/loneliness-in-young-people/

2 A.W. Geiger and Leslie Davis, “A growing number of American teenagers – particularly girls – are facing depression,” Pew Research Center, July 12, 2019. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/07/12/a-growing-number-of-american-teenagers-particularly-girls-are-facing-depression/

3 National Institute of Mental Health, “Suicide.” Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/suicide

4 Stephanie Pappas, “Porn is the top source of ‘sex education’ for young adults,” Live Science, January 26, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.livescience.com/pornography-sex-education.html

5 Zameena Mejia, “Harvard’s longest study of adult life reveals how you can be happier and more successful,” CNBC Make It, March 20, 2018. Accessed June 9, 2022. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/20/this-harvard-study-reveals-how-you-can-be-happier-and-more-successful.html