Pornography & Our Kids

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Our nation was recently appalled to discover that a city government in Flint, Michigan has been serving their citizens poisonous water for over a year. When concerns were raised, government officials gaffed them off as isolated incidents. Tragically, young children have been exposed to lead poisoning which will likely result in brain damage and other long-term ailments.

Gaining much less press is another alarming trend that is far more reaching than the corrupted water of a city. A recent study conducted by the NSPCC ChildLine found that 10% of 12-13 year-olds fear that they may be addicted to porn. The ChildLine study also found that 20% of 12-13 year-olds think that watching porn is normal and a part of everyday life. This study is just one piece of evidence demonstrating what we know is happening to our children. Other studies show that adolescents are having sex younger, rougher and with more partners. The bottom line… our children are daily being exposed to poison. Their smartphones, laptops, game consoles and televisions consistently pipe in the poison of pornography and sexual exploitation.

There is likely to be no outcry and no government intervention to treat the youngest victims of this poison. They will grow up with a twisted understanding of one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity. No doubt, this poison will result in sexual assault, sexual exploitation, broken marriages, sexual dysfunction and broken lives. But no one is sounding the alarm.

As the mom of three teenage boys, this news doesn’t surprise me, but it still alarms me. I know that my children have been exposed to the poison of pornography. I would like to transport my family to the days of Little House on the Prairie, but God has placed us right here in the 21st century. So what can we do to keep our kids safe from this poison? Is there an antidote for what they have already consumed?

Yell and Scream

Pornography has become such an accepted part of society, that few view it as a concern. Although the average wife or mom isn’t likely to get an audience with CNN, we impact people every day.

The Old Testament prophets were sometimes referred to as “Watchmen on the Wall.” God called them to sound an alarm and to warn people of a coming disaster. I believe we are each called to be watchmen on the wall. Wherever you have influence, please raise the concern and call out for schools, churches, families and communities to acknowledge the danger that is eroding our children’s future.

Talk to your kids, often!

My youngest boy is in 7th grade. Because the ChildLine study is about children his age, I told him about it.

“Did you know that a lot of kids your age are already addicted to pornography?”

My son answered, “Wow! That’s sad! But none of my friends are because they are good kids.”

“Well, good kids get addicted to porn too.” I continued our conversation by asking him about when he has seen porn and reminding him about why it is so dangerous. I encouraged him to talk to us any time he sees it.

Will my son always be honest with me about his own experience with porn and other sexual things? Not always. Regardless, I want to do everything I can to share my concerns, to ask questions and to be a safe place for him to talk.  

Talking through these issues with our children is about more than simply issuing a warning. We also need to walk with them when they fall. Discipleship means teaching through all circumstances and every phase of life, including how to handle our own poor and sinful decisions. This gives us the opportunity to make the Gospel tangible and tell our own stories of the goodness of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Be a proponent of the real deal

Porn is a counterfeit. It exploits the powerful beauty of our God-given longings for intimacy and sexual pleasure. The best way to protect against the counterfeit is to exalt the excellence of the real deal. Who wants a McDonalds hamburger if they could have a NY prime steak?

Men and women become addicted to porn at such young ages because they don’t know any better. They are too young to experience or understand the beauty of true intimacy. It falls on the shoulders of parents and mentors to explain and model God’s design for sexuality. Unfortunately, many of parents and mentors have their own warped views of sexuality and marriage.

The ministry of Authentic Intimacy exists to help men and women “reclaim God’s design for intimacy.” Perhaps the most effective way of protecting my children from the poison of junk sex is to have a deep understanding of healthy biblical sexuality. Do my kids know what happens in my bedroom? I sure hope not! However, they are witnessing in our home a very different message from what the world is offering. Imperfect as we are, they have seen the beauty of committed love.

Be Nosey

While your children have the right to some privacy, they do not have the right to electronic devices without filters and accountability. In fact, neither do I! My husband has access to all of my accounts, to my cell phone and computer. I have the same access to his.

It’s loving, responsible and appropriate to check your kids’ phones, computers, social media, etc.… In our home, we don’t allow cell phones or computers in bedrooms. No one is allowed to lock his or her devices without us having the password. Does this guarantee that nothing will slip past us? Of course not. We aren’t constantly checking each other’s devices, but it promotes an environment of accountability.

I frequently ask the Lord, “God, if there is something one of us is struggling with… something I need to know… will you show me?” I pray this because I can only help my kids if I know what’s going on in their lives.

Depend upon Jesus

My heart grieves for the landslide of sexual chaos in our culture, primarily because I know the wake of pain that will inevitably follow. Yet in the midst of these depressing circumstances, I see some really good news. God often uses our brokenness and destitution to bring us to repentance. Our children won’t make it if all they have of Christianity is a shallow faith. They will need a genuine relationship with God.

Nothing gets our attention like a problem we cannot solve.

The overwhelming devastation of pornography and sexual brokenness unequivocally show us that we need help. Counselors, psychologists and rehab centers won’t be enough to heal our children. There is one hope…His name is Jesus Christ. He alone is able to bring healing and restoration through our total surrender to his work on the cross of Calvary.

I believe this generation is ripe for revival. The pain and trauma of the sexual chaos will compel our children to seek a genuine source of hope. C. S. Lewis wrote, “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Unfortunately, the poison of porn is unlikely to stop. In fact, it will undoubtedly continue to worsen as our sexual ethics erode. But that doesn’t mean we have to stand by and watch it destroy the future of our children.

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Porn Affects You, Even if You Don’t Look At It
Unfortunately, the porn industry is a multibillion dollar endeavor that looks like it’s here to stay. One study from 2021 found that approximately 24% of 18-24 year olds considered pornography to be the most helpful source of information about sex.1 Early exposure and addiction to porn continues to increase rapidly, with boys and girls as young as 10 getting hooked well before adolescence.  Porn not only enslaves those who look at it; it also has far-reaching societal impacts on how the general population views sex and defines healthy sexuality. While much of the world celebrates porn as "sexual freedom," my heart grieves. I've seen the impact of pornography on men, women, and children and have found that this type of "freedom" is really bondage.  As a society, we are learning more and more about the negative impact of pornography on people’s sexual and emotional health and relationships, and we know that porn kills intimacy, but we are discovering increasingly that pornography is sabotaging relationships well before they begin. Whether or not you’ve ever used porn, it is impacting you. Why? Because the wide use and acceptance of pornography has changed sexual norms and expectations in our culture. Whether you are male or female, married or single, it’s important for you to understand how pornography has impacted the way you and those around you think about sex.   Porn has decreased the value of sex. I’ve studied the research of sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker in their fascinating book “Premarital Sex in America.” They explain that sexuality doesn’t happen in a vacuum, but romantic relationships are impacted by the attitudes and beliefs of the culture. While pornography use has increased for women (a recent survey found that around 22% of women consume porn regularly) men are still the primary consumers of porn, with around 61% claiming to engage with it on a daily or weekly basis.2 It is largely their engagement with porn that Regenurus and Uecker explore in their research. They note that historically, women have always set the “price” for their sexuality. When a man’s sexual desire drove him to a woman, the woman got to determine what she required for her sexuality. She was the sexual gatekeeper. In God's design, a man needs to be willing to make a lifetime commitment to love and provide for a woman in order to have the freedom to interact with her sexually. Conversely, pornography gives both men and women a sexual outlet that comes at no cost to them. Regnerus and Uecker write, “The ubiquity and perceived quality of digital porn has the capacity to sexually satiate more men—and more often—than ever before… If the porn-and-masturbation satisfies some of the male demand for intercourse—and it clearly does—it reduces the value of real intercourse” (p. 99). Where God's design is for sex between a husband and wife to embody mutual humility, love, and sacrifice reflecting His covenant love for His church, pornography reduces the value of sex to the simple satiating of a need. This means that sacrifice and commitment are no longer prerequisites for sexual intimacy to be enjoyed. Because the value of sex in our culture has decreased, there are many women (and some men) who feel they cannot demand commitment for sex. Instead of trust and commitment in exchange for sex, individuals are more willing to exchange sex for a couple of dates or an hour or two of attention. This is also why we see an increase in hookup culture and cohabitation rather than getting married.  While many men and women may enjoy non-committed sex in the moment, in the long-term, the effects of many sexual partners can and often do impact them for years to come, and research has shown that having sex outside of marriage with lots of partners disproportionately affects women.3 When a woman is involved sexually outside of marriage, she is likely to experience guilt, regret, temporary self-loathing, rumination, diminished self-esteem, a sense of having let herself down, discomfort about having to lie or conceal sex from family, anxiety over depth and course of the relationship, and concern over the place of sex in the relationship (p. 137). Having sex outside of a committed relationship or with multiple partners over a lifetime is associated with poor emotional health in women. Regnerus and Uecker write, “Even getting married doesn’t erase the emotional challenges for women who have had numerous sexual partners in their lifetime” (p. 149).  When men use porn, women are set up for loneliness, regret, and the pressure to compromise their spiritual and emotional health.   Porn has changed expectations of what’s normal.  Even within marriage, we can see the impact of a culture that has embraced porn and sex without hesitation. One of the most common questions I get asked about sexuality addresses young marriages in which men are not interested in sex. I hear from an increasing number of young wives who are devastated to be asking for sex, wondering why he isn’t initiating. On the other side of things, many women feel “broken” because of their inability to react like the women they have seen in porn, and many men feel frustrated that they seem unable to pleasure their wives in the way they think they should. While there are many possible reasons for these issues, without a doubt the greatest culprit is porn. When young men and women have grown up looking at pornography and satisfying their desires through masturbation, they learn to view sex as consumers. I should get what I want, when and how I want it. Sex becomes about obtaining pleasure, excitement, and a release for personal benefit. Porn doesn’t demand anything from a person but exists to immediately cater to every sexual fantasy. Porn trains a person’s sexual response to be impatient, selfish, and always demanding something more exciting than what was experienced last time. Transfer those beliefs to a sexual relationship in marriage, and you have a train wreck. Having sex with a real person who has feelings and their own sexual needs means you have to be patient, understanding, and unselfish. Most sex within marriage will be “normal” (no toys, strange positions, role playing, nor bizarre fantasies) and will not cater to an appetite for something more. The reality is that it takes time and hard work to build true intimacy as spouses explore the gift of sexuality together. Instead of working toward this magnificent goal, the man or woman involved with porn more readily returns to a sexual release that requires no personal sacrifice. While the premise of porn is that it demands nothing, it eventually steals everything. You were not designed to engage in a series of extreme sexual experiences. You are designed for authentic intimacy, celebrated and expressed through sex with a real person who is committed to loving you generously and unselfishly for a lifetime. I have never met a man or woman who is truly satisfied with porn. While porn use may be “normal,” that by no means suggests that it is healthy.    What can you do? This blog post may not be uplifting, but there are facts and issues here that we need to address. I hope and pray that this challenges you to confront the acceptance of porn in your life, in your marriage, and in our culture. Using pornography, whether online, in video, or in written form, is not just a personal choice, it is a decision that impacts the people and even the culture around us. Be confident and courageous in exchanging counterfeit intimacy for building the real deal.   Follow Up Resources:  Java with Juli #369: Changing the Way We Talk About Porn (Because Women Struggle Too) Java with Juli #321: Taking Your Marriage Back From Porn Java with Juli #408: Science Offers Kids a Powerful Reason To Say No to Porn Blog: Seven Reasons Kids Turn To Porn & What You Can Do About It   1 2 3