A mother reached out on facebook today after finding that her 9 year old son was viewing pornography on his dad's phone. I know no other particulars than that. Her search for advice on what to do came through a Christian forum for mothers of boys.
With five boys and another on the way, I am passionate about this issue. How do we protect our kids from the influence and addictiveness of pornography when it's EVERYWHERE?? And to be clear, this is not just an issue that affects boys. Parents of girls need to be vigilant too.
So, what advice was given to this mom? As I read the first several comments I was shocked. There were the helpful links to protective software, and several people saying they had gone through this with their own kids. But a lot of what I saw were what I considered to be soft, politically correct answers. "It's natural", "boys are just curious about sex", "make sure he feels no shame over this discovery". And even one who suggested that mothers shouldn't be the ones talking with their boys about sex.
I'm sorry, WHAT?
Yes, curiosity is normal. Viewing porn is NOT. Pornography - especially for children - is never "natural". Saying that someone should feel no shame in viewing pornography is basically giving the go ahead to enjoy sin. And intimating that only one parent should openly speak with children can create confusion and lead to more secrecy.
I couldn't keep my mouth shut. Here's a snippet of what I wrote in reply to this mother's question:
I have to strongly disagree with the comments that curiosity is normal and not to worry about it. With a husband who's a pastor we see far too often the devastating effects of porn addiction. Nobody sets out planning to wreck their life or family through viewing what is pleasurable. If you don't take the time to teach your son self control now it will be so much harder for him as an adult.
I know my comment is passionate and stern, but these are MEN we are raising! Men who we hope will be responsible, productive, leaders with great character. That takes diligence and often hard choices on the part of the parent. This is a crucial moment.
I also talked about the precautions we take as a family regarding internet and media, and briefly shared that we had personally faced this issue at home.
I posted my comment assuming based on previous replies that my comment would be taken as harsh, rigid, and all about rules. Less than three hours later more than 200 people had liked my comment and several had verbalized their agreement.
So why all the soft comments before mine? Why hadn't others taken time to state the obvious - that protecting the purity of our children is ULTRA important? And why weren't others voicing the very real dangers of pornography?
I honestly think that we've become so used to having to keep quiet and only agree with one another that we're afraid to speak up or be different. Here's the thing. When it comes to your family, have the guts to stand up for what is right! Be the mean parent if you have to be. Be the weird ones that don't participate in the "latest, greatest". If you deem it as damaging, then say no. Long term health for our kids and our families is so much more important that fitting in for the moment. I'm preaching to you adults here! Show your kids that self control is possible through your own decisions. Demonstrate for them how to be different, pure, strong. Share with your kids about your own struggles with sin and allow them to be vulnerable with you. Please, don't assume your kids are "fine" just because you haven't heard of any issues yet. Check in and begin conversations.
I recently had the privilege of hearing some parents talk with their teen about the pornography they had found him looking at. He quietly admitted that the day they found out was the worst day of his life. He was so ashamed. BUT THEN, he looked at his parents and said they had done the right thing by removing his phone. He thanked them for their interference because he no longer had to hide and he felt safer from that which was so tempting to him. His honesty floored me. But it also confirmed what I've known for a long time. Kids want their parents to watch out for them!
Parents, the buck stops with you. There is an endless barrage of material for our kids to see and hear at any moment. And as we all know, they are curious by nature. Guide that curiosity and TALK, TALK, TALK! Be vigilant, be proactive, stand firm. Your kids are counting on you and our society needs men and women of character. It's up to you.