Charles*, a rambunctious 13-year old, first started watching internet porn at a friend's house, while he was there for a one-night sleepover. He now engages regularly on online porn message boards, even sharing nude photos of himself with girls he has virtually met. Diedre*, a 15-year sophomore who plays multiple sports and maintains a 4.0 GPA, stumbled upon internet porn while doing research for a class project. She now views online porn, two or three times a week, as a means to "zone out" and relax. These are just two students, who by all appearances have it "all together," but are secretly living out a hidden life.
They are not alone. The facts support that a vast majority of kids will see pornography before they are 18, even if they are not looking for it.
The challenges that parents are facing in raising their kids is becoming even more perilous:
- 35% of all Internet downloads are related to pornography,
- 25% of all search engine queries are related to pornography,
- 32% of teens admit to intentionally accessing nude or pornographic content online,
- In America, 93% of boys and 62% of girls have seen pornography in adolescence.
What can parents do against this visual media onslaught?
This is one of the cases where ignorance is decidedly not bliss, and it could lead to unhealthy and even dangerous online habits. Unfortunately, simple internet blocks will probably not be enough. One mother of a teen porn abuser recently said,
"People have to realize, if your child was exposed to heroin and he said, 'I'm having a hard time with heroin,' you wouldn't say, 'Well, you just need to stop. Let's put some blocks up.'"
Though the heroin analogy may seem a little harsh, scientists are just now beginning to understand that many electronic pastimes trigger the release of dopamine, the same feel-good neurotransmitter that drives substance addictions. For many young people, these electronic pastimes include viewing internet pornography.
Have the conversations.
It would be nice if one conversation would cut it, but the reality is that it will take multiple conversations about online viewing habits. When talking to your children about their online viewing habits and social media use, let them lead the conversation.
- Ask them to walk you through their apps, explaining how they work.
- When talking about adult content, be sure to explain that viewing it while still growing up can oftentimes be stressful, misleading and even risky.
- Remind them that the internet is not private and that their viewing habits are most likely being tracked by outside sources, which can often lead to unwanted and even dangerous attention.
- After speaking with your child and with their full knowledge, install age-appropriate blocking, monitoring, or tracking software on all devices and computers that they use.
Through it all though, as parents train up their children in the way they should go, this should never include a "gotcha" attitude, but rather a clear, concise goal to remain pure before God.
This struggle is one all parents must address-even when you don't think it's affecting your child. It's no longer about the "birds and the bees." It's "The birds, the bees, and the search history."
*The names used are fictitious; however, the struggle of these teens is indicative of students across the nation-even at schools like TCCS.
Written by Rob Richards,
TCCS Junior High Bible Teacher