I am not a parent. I am not even married. But if you’re familiar with my story, then it is no surprise that I was once a kid who encountered porn and became a porn-addicted teen. For me, it all began when I was just 10 years old.
This image is me at the age of 10… just a few months after the discovery of a pornographic magazine in my brother’s bathroom which catapulted me into an 8-year addiction to porn and other sexual behaviors. I show it to you so that you can see with your own eyes, what 10 years old really looks like. I think in today’s culture of kids growing up too fast, we forget how young this really is.
20 years later we know that pornography has only become more mainstream, easier to find… and to hide. And as parents it is your job to both protect and educate your kids about the realities and dangers of it.
Why is pornography a big deal?
I don’t think anyone would argue that pornography is not for children’s eyes (even if you believe pornography is okay for adults). However, pornography is not just a Penthouse magazine stashed in a bathroom closet anymore. Pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry that is kept alive by human trafficking. Men, women and yes, even children, are systematically recruited into the industry every day. It is a system generated by supply and demand. As long as there is a demand (consumers of porn) — it must be met by whatever means necessary.
And the pornography industry is systematically targeting children as a new generation of consumers. For example, porn sites are being named innocent, commonly misspelled words that kids would use in doing research for school. In my day, even WhiteHouse.com was a porn site because the real site had a .gov handle. Pornography is everywhere. And it is just one click away on your phone, your tablet, your computer, your television and even your gaming console.
Parents… Be Proactive
We hear a lot from parents asking what to do now that they know their child has seen porn (caught them in the act, found search history, etc.). And the first thing I ask them is if they had talked about sex with their child before they discovered they had viewed porn. And 99.9% of the time the answer is no. Kids are by nature a curious bunch. And they are curious about sex. Most first time porn encounters by kids are innocent Google search terms pertaining to sex (boobs, penis, vagina).
That is why the porn conversation must begin with the sex conversation. When you talk to your children about sex as God created sex to be (the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects), porn is automatically a counterfeit. And don’t wait. Your child is never too young to begin learning about sex (age appropriately).
You can’t simply wait until you think or know your kid has seen porn before talking to them about sex and/or porn. By then it would have been too late. The hard truth is that most kids (even your kids) have already stumbled upon pornography whether in your home, or at school, or at a friend’s house. And they probably won’t ever tell you.
You cannot ignore the issue of porn and/or sex and pretend it isn’t lurking around the corner. That is like leaving your door unlocked knowing there is a burglar outside. And it is most certainly not enough for you to expect the school system to educate your children about sex properly. One example of school-based sex education is this poster that was recently displayed in a local middle school here in Shawnee, KS where I live. It lists anal sex & oral sex on the same list as hugging & holding hands on how to express sexual feelings. Side Note: Should middle school kids be expressing their sexual feelings?
And here’s an example of the government funded (your tax dollars) sex education curriculum for kids as young as 10 years old (warning: it was too graphic for the Washington Post to place in their paper — but oddly not too graphic for 10 year olds to see). Please know what your kids are being taught in school… I guarantee you will be horrified when you learn the truth.
Parents… Be Brave
I recently saw a commercial (see below) that shows a mom gathering laundry in her son’s room when she hears his phone go off under a mess of clothes and covers on the bed. As she sneaks a peak at what came through, her son startles her from downstairs asking if she has seen his phone. She nervously responds, “why would I see your phone?” and the narrator chimes in to describe their product as something “you don’t have to feel guilty about…”
But here’s a newsflash for you parents: There’s no reason to feel bad or guilty about being the parent. If your kid is living under your roof — their bedroom, computer, phone, tablet, whatever — does not belong to them, especially if you bought it. It is yours to monitor whenever you see fit. Just as there shouldn’t be any secrets between your child and another adult, there shouldn’t be secrets between you and your child. Period.
Porn comes in all shapes and styles. Pornography is not just what you find online or hidden behind the brown paper bag on the grocery store shelf. Kids are also making pornography in the form of sexting. Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit images of oneself or a peer via text message. Yes, this happens. If your underage teen is caught in possession of a sexually explicit image of him or herself and/or a peer, that image is considered child pornography and if caught, they will be charged and registered as a sex offender for life.
— 48% of teens have received a sexually suggestive message from someone.
— 45% of teens do not know that getting caught sending nude or nearly nude photos involves legal consequences.
— 51% of girls say pressure from a guy is a reason girls send sexy messages or images.
— 69% of teens who sext have sent/posted sexual content to a boyfriend/girlfriend.
— 86% of teens who sext are not caught by authority figures.
Parents… Be Smart
If there is an internet connection it — there is porn on it. Knowledge is power. Your kids know more about the technology in your home than you do and that needs to change. YouTube is full of tutorials so there is no excuse for ignorance. The following are some unsuspecting places where pornography (professional and/or amateur) as well as potential dangers may be hiding on the devices in your home. This is not an extensive list so we welcome you to post a comment with others that you know about as well. Be smart and be aware of the potential threat these apps and websites carry.
— Calculator% and other photo vault apps. Kids and teens are hiding pictures behind photo vault apps disguised as utility apps such as Calculator%, Calculator+ and Ultimate Calculator. With these apps, they can hide images they don’t want their parents to find. If you’re wondering if your kid has these apps, check their app store activity and read the app descriptions.
— Snapchat. This is app intended to send pics and short videos to friends. But allows kids and teens to feel more comfortable “sexting” because the image they send disappears in 10 seconds or less. But the person on the other side can easily take a screen capture to be saved and shared forever. Another reminder that nothing you post online is ever really temporary. And if an account isn’t private to friends only… anyone, and I mean anyone… can have access to your child’s content.
— Vine. This is a video-sharing app that is restricted to videos that are just 6 seconds in length. This app is full of adorable videos like this one, but it is also full of not so adorable videos like grown men masturbating (though they say porn isn’t allowed). Proceed with caution.
— KiK Messenger. This open chat app (much like iChat or Google Chat) allows kids and teens to send messages, pictures and videos to friends. But it also enables them to send and receives messages they shouldn’t. There is also the risk of being contacted by predators posing as peers and other teens.
— Instagram. We love Instagram, but did you know there is a lot of inappropriate content on there? A quick search of a suggestive hashtag can give you an eye full. Instagram also allows you to clear search history. Also, a lot of teens are creating two accounts: one that YOU see and one only their friends see.
— Facebook & Twitter. Just a brief word of warning: I have run into more porn on Facebook and Twitter than on any other website. And 90% of the time Facebook doesn’t remove content that I report as pornography and Twitter doesn’t even have a pornography reporting option.
Don’t let this happen to YOUR child:
In March 2015, an Albuquerque man was charged with felony kidnapping after a missing 13-year-old Missouri girl was found with him in New Mexico. “[The man] and the teen communicated for at least four months over several forms of social media, including Kik, Pinterest and Tumblr. Hills said the teen’s family was not aware [he] was speaking to their child over social media.” Read the whole story here. The truth is, most cases like these don’t end as well as this one did.
Tools & Advice
— Safeguarding your home from porn begins with you. If you as the parent have a struggle with pornography you had better believe that the influence of it trickles down to your kids. Spiritual strongholds are a mighty force that greatly affect your family. Whether your struggle is internet porn, erotica (Fifty Shades of Grey – I am looking at you), or some other form, there is help out there for you. If you’re a woman, DGM is here to serve as a place for help, hope and healing through our community and discipleship tools. If you’re a man, check out XXXChurch.com for resources to help you.
— Did you know that you must be at least 13 years old to sign up for a Facebook account? Your 8, 9, 10, 11 or even 12 year old doesn’t need an account. This doesn’t make you a bad parent. Lying about your kid’s age so they can have a Facebook account does (ouch?). But the truth, most kids and teens don’t want to be on Facebook because it is overrun by soccer moms. They are migrating to Snapchat, and other platforms where their activity can be kept more secretive.
— If your kid is old enough to have a social media account, you should have access to it at any time (be friends with them on Facebook even if they fight you about it—but they can hide you from posts they don’t want you to see, which is why having their password is best).
— Keep your kids accountable when they are online (phone, computer, gaming console, etc.) with tools like Covenant Eyes (one month free with this link). This is not about filtering out what you don’t want them to see. It’s about keeping them accountable for what they do see.
— Know what apps your kids have loaded onto their devices (require a password only you know to download or have access to their app store account). Know who they are chatting with when online by checking recent message logs and friend requests. Keep computers and other devices out of bedrooms for use in public areas of the home only.
— All apps are supposed to have a rating on them (like movies do). Such as 4+ (ages 4 and up), 13+ (ages 13 and up), etc. You can safeguard your kids by only allowing them to download apps of a certain rating. But keep in mind that not all apps are rated accurately and many apps that may have a kid-approved rating may still have inappropriate ads that pop up. For example, the rated 4+ game Say the Same Thing app (which I downloaded myself after a friend recommended it) had lots of inappropriate ads (ie. naked women. For reals.).
— If you allow your kids to download apps on their own, it is still advised that you check their app store activity on a regular basis. Warn your kids and keep warning them about the potential of online predators. This is still a very real danger in today’s society — made even more prevalent with the increase of messaging apps.
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I speak to parents, churches, youth groups, etc. on safeguarding children and teens at home and on their devices.
Learn more here. I can also be an coach to parents about communicating topics like porn and sex with their children.