If you are a parent of a tween or teen (ages 9 to 19), here’s the unfortunate reality: Your child…
1. Has already viewed pornography
2. Watches it on occasion
3. Is addicted to it
Do you know which it is? Are you 100% positive?
Although there is an extremely slim chance your child hasn’t viewed some form of pornographic material yet, the undeniable truth that we face as parents today remains: if we are not proactively involved in our children’s lives when it comes to pornography and sexuality, the truth is that they are being massively impacted in a way that can hurt them, their marriages, and their future sexual health.
IT’S TIME TO WAKE UP, PARENTS
For some of us, this is a radical, earth-shattering alarm that needs to shake us awake from our slumbers. When the statistics are showing that the average age our kids are being exposed to pornography is 11 years old (some are saying it is as low as 8 – 9 years old), then we know we are living in a different world than the one we grew up in.
“According to a cross-party parliamentary report, published last week, the scale of the exposure is so vast that four out of five 16-year-olds regularly access porn online — while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material.”
One British psychotherapist who works with addicted tweens and teens has the most horrifying stories of what is happening with internet pornography addiction, including young teens who are being dragged into deeper and more graphic and violent forms of pornography, often times viewing 5-6 hours a day without their parents knowing anything is going on. For both boys and girls, this is distorting their growing minds in ways that is manifesting in their social lives: destroying their minds, school performance, and social lives, objectifying women in grotesque ways that often leads to stalking and violence, and scarring their souls when it comes to healthy sexual relationships in the future.
It may sound like I’m being overdramatic, but when it comes to the hearts, minds, and souls of our children, I don’t think we can be dramatic enough with this issue.
WHAT WE CAN DO – STARTING TODAY
Okay, Dean, so it’s a crazy situation, I hear you. But the truth is I’m just so busy with work and getting the kids to school and all of their activities… and honestly, most of all, I just don’t know WHAT I’d say to my kids about all of this – it’s just such an awkward thing to deal with.
Listen, I get it. Raise your hand if your parents created this super empowering environment where you talked about sex openly and felt free to share with them or ask questions or… oh, right. Okay, so your parents didn’t do that either, eh?
Well, that’s the great thing about marriage and parenting: we are free to CREATE A NEW CULTURE in our homes when it comes to sex. And with the incredible onslaught of hard core internet pornography coming at our kids through every electronic device in their rooms, their school bags, and their pockets, we cannot afford to sit this battle out.
So what do we do? Is it too late?
Never. Here are three things we can do (starting today!) to begin creating a new culture of empowerment in our families:
#1. TALK TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT SEX & PORNOGRAPHY
No, seriously, as simple as it sounds, it can be galactically difficult to do. But the statistics are clear from every source regarding this topic: from tweens to teens to our college-aged kiddos, parents influence their children’s attitudes and actions regarding their sexuality more than the media, the culture, their school, or even their peers.
If you have never heard that stat before then close your eyes, breathe, and read that sucker again.
We have to open our mouths and speak – we have to get involved! We are the #1 champion of our kid’s sexual health and success in life.
Take 2 minutes and check this vid out about what kids are saying about porn today – pay especially close attention to what they say about how much their parents are talking to them about sex and porn.
Whoa. So let’s get practical.
Here is the best place to start: reading books with your kids. Yes, even your teens. Reading books with your kids about sexuality is one of the best ways to break through the awkwardness. Why? Because books have done all the heavy lifting for you! Because I know what you’re thinking, “Even if I DID speak to my kids about sex, what would I say?” Well, reading books is the best way to start because it deals with that issue for you.
A book like “Hooked: New Science On How Casual Sex Is Affecting Our Children” is a rad one to start with for your tweens/teens. And I’m talking about taking 30 minutes (and stick to it, unless they are asking questions or sharing), close the door so everyone knows this is private time, and sit on the floor and just start reading. Pause as you go and ask them questions – it doesn’t matter how far you get in that 30 minutes. What matters is the engagement and that some content is coming through.
I started with my 11 year old with, “Preparing Your Son For Every Man’s Battle,” which actually is designed for dads to read with their sons (there is “Preparing Your Daughter For Every Woman’s Battle” as well for moms and daughters). This is from a Christian perspective, but I found it super empowering because I didn’t have to research all about puberty and everything – the book did it for me! When you’re struggling to just say ANYTHING to your child about this topic, trust me, you’ll be SO much more confident if you have a “script” to read from – it truly takes care of more than half the battle right there.
Here’s another incredible resource: fightthenewdrug.org. This is purely social and neuroscience information that explains the harmful and addictive effects of porn on your brain, your relationships, and society. I’d say it’s for mature tweens and definitely for teens and older.
Share the site with your son or daughter and choose an article to read together (especially from the tab, “Get The Facts”). If your teen is active in social media, encourage them to follow this organization on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (as should you, too!) as they do a great job creating a culture exposing porn for what it is: lame, harmful, and destructive.
Now this might sound freaky at first, but I would suggest you have at least one touch point PER WEEK on an issue related to sexuality or pornography (a “touch point” being some form of communication or interaction). I like to email links to videos from fightthenewdrug.org to my two older boys with a short encouragement from me. Or on the weekends I’ll grab one of them and drive out to the beach and read a part of a book with them. Or watch the video posted above to start a conversation with them about porn. The key is that you have to initiate and you have to be consistent. Remember, you are creating a new culture in your family, so it will take time.
I’ll save points #2 and #3 for the next post. We’ll talk about how to build an open and honest relationship with your kids, as well as implementing guidelines in technology and internet filtering software (which is an absolute MUST).
Make time to speak with your spouse about this tonight, then take action asap.
Breathe, soldier. You got this.
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