Printable Version Printable Version

INTEGRITY: Parenting in the age of Internet porn

DAN SPADARO By DAN SPADARO
12/16/2016 | Comments

Mark Twain reportedly said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, then it is best to do it first thing in the morning, and if it is your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Parents and caregivers have a lot of jobs and many that are quite unpleasant. It is too easy to be caught off-guard discovering a child has viewed pornography, so it is important to prepare kids for the dangers of the Internet “early and often.” 

Which would you prefer: your child learning from you, their peers, or leaving it up to the Internet to be their sex-ed teacher? Giving age-appropriate explanations, sharing accurate information and talking about the dangers of pornography are not likely to cause them to seek it out but will actually help them know what to do if they are exposed. Most kids are exposed by peers or search it out to understand what other kids are talking about. Parents have the opportunity to teach kids to reject these false messages. We can encourage especially young children to tell an adult if they encounter pornography.  The goal is to protect, but also to support family cohesion and lay the groundwork for future healthy relationships.

Realize also that, if a teen has been looking at pornography for a period of time, just bringing up the conversation will not be enough. They will need support to break the pattern. 

Here are some basic points to consider as you contemplate a discussion with your children: 

1) First, face your own discomfort with addressing the topic of pornography and realize there will never be a perfect time.  After an initial discussion, there can also be impromptu moments to support the message. Let your children know why you think it is harmful, but also to recognize that sexual curiosity is natural and best protected within the context of a healthy marriage. Talking about the Internet and pornography is not a one-time conversation; we need to revisit it as they grow.  I am not encouraging fearful protection, but common sense discussion and clear guidelines. It is important for dads to take an active role in the discussion, as they tend to set the tone for the family. (Also see: http://protectyoungminds.org/)

2) Help them identify what pornography is. Depending on the age of the child they definitely don’t need too much all at once.  Here are a couple of examples of ways to define pornography for different age groups.

a) “Pornography is pictures of people without any clothes on. Pornography may make you feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, or sick to your stomach. Pornography may also feel exciting — which can be confusing to experience two feelings at the same time!”  (Kristen Jenson, www.pornproofkids.org)

 b)“Pornography is material specifically designed to arouse sexual feelings in people by depicting nudity, sexual behavior, or any type of sexual information . . .” (Dr. Jill Manning “What’s the Big Deal about Pornography”)

3) Go to confession as a family. This context provides a great opportunity to have some supportive communication before or after confession.  You are also you reinforcing that shame is not necessary and we can lead by example to receive God’s mercy and grace.

4) Use filters and parental controls.  We are not trying to outwit our kids, but to provide a layer of protection from impulsive decisions and demonstrate our intent as a family.  Here are some good options: Covenant Eyes, Circle, OpenDNS.com, etc.  The best is to filter the Internet at the modem or server level, so all devices in the home are covered, coming and going. Parental controls and App restrictions are also important for mobile devices on outside networks. Don’t rely on a filter, as nothing is foolproof. Communication and basic accountability are primary.  A good family rule is no device use in bedrooms or private locations.  I would also recommend that teens use basic “talk and text” phones, only moving to a smart phones as they get older or have a specific reason. Keep it simple! 

(Also see www.lifehacker.com.au/2016/11/10-internet-safety-rules-to-teach-children-before-they-go-online/)

Parenting author James Stenson puts our goal well: “Sound judgment is the ability to recognize the good, true, and the beautiful when we see these things — and to distinguish them from the evil, the false, and the sordid. It is the power to make distinctions.”

(For more on marriage, parenting, confessors, and healing, also see: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/index.cfm


About Disqus Comments

Our Disqus commenting system requires Internet Explorer 8 or newer. Also works with Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera.

An account with Disqus is not required if you post as a guest, but a name and Email address must be entered in the appropriate boxes. These DO NOT have to be your actual name and email address.

  1. Click the "Start the Discusson" field
  2. Click the "Name" field and enter it.
  3. Check the "I'd rather post as a guest" box.
  4. Click the Email field and enter it.

Comments may not show immediately. Moderator reserves the right to remove offensive or irrelevant posts.


comments powered by Disqus