How To Keep Your Kids Safe When They Carry Porn In Their Pockets

Thomas Costello Christian Living, Journey Blog

I came of age in the eighties and nineties, the very beginning of the modern digital age. I remember when my parents forked over a full months pay for a Packard Bell Computer for the family, complete with a dot matrix printer, a 5.25″ floppy drive and a screen glare reducer for the monitor.  It was a sweet rig.

It allowed us to get onto the internet through our dial up service, Prodigy.  For those of you who have never had the joy of picking up a phone and having it scream on you because someone is using the internet, consider yourself blessed.

This also marks a time in history where pornography went from inaccessible to readily available to everyone.

When I was a pre-teen and in my early teenage years, it took a lot of work for a kid to get his or her hands on pornography. My friends knew kids who would steal from their Dad’s stash and then resell magazines at school at a 1000% mark up for his trouble.  Porn was expensive, rare, and yet kids found a way to get their hands on it.

Today porn is just the opposite – free, common, and right at everyone’s fingertips 24/7.

Before the digital age, parents had a much higher level of control over what their kids were able to consume.  If parents didn’t subscribe to premium cable, and kept a tight reign on the company their children kept, porn was hard to come by.  Good parents did everything they could to keep their kids for seeing things they shouldn’t, and they had some measure of success when doing so.  As long as they could act as a filter, they could keep their kids safe.

In today’s world filtering what our kids see  is not enough.

I had the privileged at speaking at a youth camp a few weeks ago, and had a chance to speak on the topic of sin and repentance. We invited the young people in attendance to respond to an invitation to get things off their chest and ask God for forgiveness.  We made leaders available to pray with the kids, and they came up to respond in droves.  In talking with the leaders afterward, they shared that nearly all of the kids who came up to receive prayer shared that they were addicted to pornography.

Keep in mind who these kids were.  Most of them were from Rural Christian families here in the Midwest. This wasn’t a study of latch key kids with absentee parents.  Most of them had Moms and Dads who would be shocked by this response.  Some of them had lived very sheltered lives, and almost all of them had a problem with pornography.

Sadly these kids are not outliers.  They are the norm. A recent study reports that the average age that kids first consume pornography is 11.  Eleven.

It is not that parents aren’t trying to keep pornography away from their kids.  They put blocks on computers and TV stations and hope for the best.

At the same time parents are doing everything they can to keep porn out of their kids hands, they often placing unbridled access to porn in their hands via their smartphones.

Maybe you say you have put blocks on their phones.  Well let’s face it, your kids know how to use your phone better than you do most of the time. Even if they don’t, all it takes is one friend with a parent who isn’t quite as discerning, and the dam is open.

While filtering and separating our kids from pornography is a worthy cause, and one we should never stop doing, we have to come to terms with the fact that they are almost certainly going to encounter pornography sometime in their childhood. Isolation and filtering alone will not prevent this from happening. If we are serious about breaking the trend of porn addiction, we need to do more.

Mothers and fathers, we need to have conversations with our kids about porn. I know that sounds like the absolute worst way to spend an evening, but if we love our kids we have to do it.  I am not talking about discussions with five year olds, but sometime in their pre-teen years, this topic has to be broached. We need to help them understand the harm that porn does to marriages.  They need to understand the abuse that occurs to those in the industry.  We need to help them understand the emptiness that it leads to 100% of the time.  And we need to love them even when they fall short of the standards they agree to.

Many of us are still trying to keep our kids safe using the same methods our parents used on us.  I don’t know about you, but their methods didn’t work so well on me.  Now we are in a time where the stakes are even higher, and danger is even more present, and the tools we used in the 80’s and 90’s just don’t work any more.  We are living in a new world.  One where isolation will only keep the danger at bay for so long.  We are at a time where we need to move from defense to offense.  Our kids future is riding on it.

Talk to them.  It won’t be fun, but it will be worth it.

I promise.

 

On a side note, I do encourage internet filtering in addition to conversations with your family.  A whole home solution is always preferable to filtering individual devices.  At our house we use OpenDNS.  It is a regularly updated filter that blocks out 99.9% of all adult content on an entire home network.  While no system is perfect, this one is great.

Also, if you struggle with pornography, please tell someone.  Chances are you have tried to get free many times before and have come up short.  It is not going to get better unless you have humility to admit your weakness.  You are not alone, and there is freedom in Jesus.  Make a point to tell someone.  Be Courageous.  You won’t regret it.