By: Chris McKenna
Reality: Most Kids Eventually See Porn – No Matter How Hard You Try to Prevent It.
Parents - we live in a porn-saturated digital world. Did you see the recent headline about how the Google Play Store, which distributes apps to Android tablets and smartphones, discovered over 60 gaming apps marketing to young people were displaying pornography? Did you know that it’s possible to search for pornography through the Bible app by accessing Twitter? Were you aware of the backdoor on Kindle Fire tablets to a web browser if you don’t disable app pop-ups?
In the digital age, it’s not a matter of IF my child will see pornography. It’s only a matter of WHEN.
And, this is a really big deal in a world where today’s pornography is so much more graphic and damaging than the now-boring still, 2-D images I was exposed to in magazines when I was a young boy. According to Fight the New Drug founder, Clay Olsen, while speaking at the Set Free Global Summit, “This material [today’s pornography] is more aggressive, harmful, violent, degrading, and damaging than any other time in the history of the world.”
Today’s pornography glorifies violence toward women. A 2010 peer-reviewed study found in the National Center for Biotechnology Information database, found that 88.2% of scenes contained physical aggression toward women. Pornography turns unique, unrepeatable human beings into objects to be used and discarded and then teaches its watching consumers to do the same. A 2016 study of 600 Australian teen girls found that young men routinely harass girls, comparing them to the bodies of porn stars. One young lady commented, “To them, no just means persuade me.”
So, if this is our digital backdrop, what can parents do?
It’s naïve to parent a child as if you can prevent every possible inappropriate exposure. I’m not saying don’t try. I’m saying that in my experience, the kids who navigate the digital culture successfully are those who know what to do WHEN they see something inappropriate.
Does this mean that I talked to my five-year-old about pornography? Absolutely. This horrifies some parents but imagine this exchange between me and my youngest son Blake when he was five:
How to Talk to a 5-Year-Old About Pornography
[Standing in the kitchen at the island]
Dad: “Hi, Blake! I see you’re using the iPad. That’s great. You like using it, don’t you?”
Blake: “Yea, dad, I love this thing.”
Dad: “Well, put it down for just a second. Cool. Blake, you know what your private parts are, right?”
Blake: “Um, yep. I sure do.” (Come on now…he’s a 5-year-old boy, which means he plays with them all the time. If you’ve raised boys, you know what I’m talking about!)
Dad: “Okay, great. Now, mom or dad will usually be with you when you’re using the iPad, but if you ever see anything weird, scary, uncomfortable – if you ever see someone else’s private parts, do you know what I want you to do?” [Now he’s really listening]
Blake: “No, what?”
Dad: “I want you to put it down and tell someone. That’s it! Can you say that back to me?”
Blake: “Sure, put it down! Tell someone!”
Dad: “That’s awesome, buddy! Can you give me an example of a someone you might tell?”
Blake: (thinking) “Aunt Susie, Dad, Grandma McKenna, Mom.”
Dad: “Yes! Exactly! Awesome job, Blake. You can always tell me. Okay?”
And, as often as I remembered, I would ask him, “Hey, Blake, what do you do if you ever see something strange or any private parts on the Internet?” And, he would tell me, “I put it down, and tell someone.”
I just taught my 5-year-old son what to do when he sees pornography and I never said the word. Guess what? Now that he’s six and sometimes rides the school bus, he knows the word “pornography” and what to do if he ever hears it. “Tell someone!” No big deal. It’s just a word.
Dad: “Blake, do you remember when I told you about seeing weird things on the Internet? Like someone’s private parts?”
Blake: “Sure, dad.”
Dad: “Well, there’s a word for that. It’s called pornography. And, if you ever hear a kid say the word pornography, do you know what I want you to do?”
Blake: “What, dad?”
Dad: “Same as before! Just tell someone. Tell me! No big deal. Sound good?”
Keep the Porn Conversation Going As They Grow Up
I’m sure it’s obvious, but talking to your kids about pornography isn’t a one-time event. Chances are, many of you, like me, were “victims” of a one-and-done sex talk. It wasn’t enough back then and in today’s 24/7 Google environment, it definitely is not enough today.
We must embrace regular opportunities to ask our kids if they’ve run into anything unusual online. The middle school years afford us the opportunity to incorporate discussions about sexting and how sending nude photos not only often violates the law, but it’s a crushing of our dignity and privacy as we relinquish control of our private parts to a very “un”private internet.
(By the way, for an amazing anti-sexting video to show young ladies, look no further than this one created by the Culture Project).
It’s during these teen years that we can equip our kids with facts and information about what porn does to impair our brains, our ability to love each other well (instead of see each other as objects to use), and how it infects the world by fueling sex trafficking and the abuse of young children. This blog post that I wrote for Covenant Eyes illustrates how one young man used facts to fend off pressure he was feeling from his friends to look at porn.
Related post: A Tale of Two Sons
Don’t worry about using the perfect words. Just keep using words. For as long as they live under your roof, look them in the eyes, and speak openly, directly, and persistently about why they are so much better than the shallow and distorted stories that porn tells them.
Don’t Let Your Parenting be the Reason They Look at Porn
Parents often make the porn talk so much more difficult than it needs to be. It’s just a word. Say it. Our parental silence might be the greatest contributor to minors being hooked on porn. Don’t expect parental controls to replace your role as a parent. Practice saying it in front of a mirror. Read some books (some of our fav’s are located here). And don’t be afraid of bumbling through it. But do it.
A 2015 study performed by student in the Behavioral Science Department at Utah Valley University surveyed 238 women and 132 men representing 17 countries and 41 states. The average age of the respondents was 35.7, and the average age that they were exposed to pornography was 9.66 for the women and 9.95 for the men. Remember – their exposures to porn were before the prevalence of Wi-Fi and smartphones!
Does this mean every 6-year-old is ready to have a conversation about porn? Probably not 100% of them, but most of them are ready. Would you rather they hear it from you or from the 8th grader on the bus? If the conversation is done properly, in the context of a loving conversation where you explain not just why porn is bad, but why real love is good, then you are giving your kid powerful tools for their digital belt – confidence and knowledge. And, you’ve prepared them for that first smartphone that they won’t receive until high school (at least that’s our hope!).
Parent well! Protect Young Eyes loves the mission of Wait Until 8th. And, we’re here to help.
Chris McKenna enjoys living life to the full! Chris has an eclectic list of professional experience...CPA, business advisor, youth pastor, development director, founder of Protect Young Eyes, and also the Educational Resource Manager for Covenant Eyes. God shares wild ideas with Chris about life while he runs. Protect Young Eyes uses a constantly updated website, live presentations, and virtual curriculum to reach tens of thousands of kids and parents annually. Visit their online resources (here!) to begin protecting your family today!
Please consider delaying the smartphone for your child with the Wait Until 8th pledge. There are so many reasons to wait. Currently the average age a child receives a smartphone is 10 years old despite the many distractions and dangers that comes with this technology. Join more than 16,000 parents by signing the pledge today.
Never miss a Wait Until 8th blog. Sign up today.