Seriously, let’s talk. That wasn’t just meant to be a catchy title. It is time that we, as parents, start talking to our teenagers about their struggles with pornography. This problem is not going away; if anything, it will become more and more prevalent as the avenues for teenagers to view porn continue to expand. Teens are able to view porn through so many mediums that it is almost impossible to monitor everything. If a teenager wants to look at porn, they will likely find a way. The days where parents could lock down their teenager and completely block access to porn are slowly going away. Computer blocks? Many teens know how to bypass. Taking the computer away? What about all the phones and other devices with access to internet? You know…the ones that their friends have at school. What about all the kids out there who are willing to send your teenager pornographic texts? What about separate hard drives that you know nothing about? Parents are less able to police their teen’s access to porn than ever before. So what can parents do to help their teens who struggle with porn?
TALK ABOUT IT.
It is time that we lay everything on the table. It is time that we stop treating pornography addiction amongst teens as a secret sin that only a minority struggle with. The fact is that almost every teen will be exposed to pornography at some point. As parents, educators, counselors and pastors let’s stop tip-toeing around this issue as if we are still living in the 80′s when teens had to sneak to the corner store to try to catch a glimpse of the PLAYBOY magazines that were hidden behind the counter. This issue is no longer an isolated one. We must bring it out of the closet so that it can be dealt with in healthier ways. We must also stop dealing with pornography addiction in the same way we deal with a teenager who breaks curfew or who is caught in a lie. Pornography addiction is real and teenagers are a prime target to get hooked. They are curious about sex, underdeveloped emotionally, crave acceptance and attention and face unbelievable amounts of daily pressure they are ill-equipped to deal with. They almost all deal with shame on some level. A high percentage of them are extremely vulnerable to pornography addiction and are forced to deal with it in secret, which simply adds fuel to the fire. Handling pornography addiction by grounding your teen or taking away their cell phone for a week does nothing to address the real problem; that your teen is fighting a losing battle against a powerful enemy. Shaming them for it only feeds the animal. It is time we start coming alongside our teens in the fight for their hearts against the seductive and powerful forces of porn. It is time to stop punishing them and to start empowering them. I’m not talking about the teen that loves indulging in porn, sees nothing wrong with it and has no desire to stop. I am talking about the myriad of young men who escape into pornography, feel unbearable amounts of shame for it, are too frightened to tell anyone, and become caught up in a progressive web of addiction. These boys don’t need a good spanking…….they need parents who fearlessly go into the darkness with them. They need adults who face this battle realistically, knowing that their boys are going to fail as much as they succeed in the fight. These young men need counselors and mentors who will come alongside of them and help them find healthier ways to deal with the pressures and uncertainties of young adulthood. They need pastors and youth pastors who model intimacy with God so that these teens see that there is another way to handle life other than fantasy and escapism. They need adults who show them that the road of pornography is a path that promises so much but produces nothing for their lives except shame, poor relationships, and slavery to its demands. These teenagers need adults who are willing to talk with them about their desire to view porn.
So…let’s talk. Here are some tips for parents as they face this all-important issue:
• Be Proactive: Don’t wait for your teenager to come to you about pornography. It’s not enough to tell them you are there if they need to talk. Assume that they have had some kind of exposure to pornography and approach them. Be bold in confronting them about porn. The abundance of porn is no secret. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope your teen is the exception. Be strong, sit him down, and talk to him maturely and with compassion.
• Be Prepared: Better acquaint yourself with the technology that gives your kids access to porn. Understand how they can get it, where they can store it, and the ways you can help them to control it. Also, do some research on the effects pornography addiction has on those who are caught up in it. There are many negative ramifications. It’s not just that pornography is lustful and, therefore, a sin. The dangers of porn are much more specific than that. Pornography addiction dehumanizes women and desensitizes men’s view of them; pornography is also a way to avoid genuine intimacy; reliance upon it can create huge problems when a man wants to be emotionally intimate with his girlfriend or spouse; pornography sets a man up for sexual problems later as normal marital sex, over the long term, cannot compete with the intensity and deviancy of porn. It sets up unrealistic expectations that only lead to dissatisfaction and the desire to act out again. This list is by no means exhaustive. The long-term effects of pornography addiction are a perfect example of the Enemy’s strategy of luring us in with promises of pleasure and then destroying us over a period of time. If you are going to march into battle with your teenager, make sure you are prepared.
• Be Patient: This is where many parents, especially Christian parents, falter. Many Christian parents still view pornography addiction as a behavior that must be continually punished rather than a serious issue that must be healed. Because of this perception, parents often dish out consequences and punishment when their teens fall “once again.” Dealing with pornography is uncomfortable and parents want the problem to go away quickly. They want their teenager to obey the rules and just “stop looking at it.” I wish it were always that easy. Pornography addiction is just that…an addiction. If we could simply snap our fingers and stop doing what we’re addicted to then there would be no need for any kind of rehabilitation programs or, for that matter, diets for those who can’t stop overeating. By the time that many teens realize that pornography is adversely affecting their lives they are already addicted. Parents must understand that this addiction will not go away immediately and that the teen is going to take steps both forward and back as they try to overcome the problem. Certainly parents need to work with a counselor in setting up household rules and boundaries that help to limit the behavior. However, the actual behavior is only a symptom of an underlying wound in the heart that must be healed. This is why parents need to approach the problem of pornography as it really is; a journey in which they come alongside their teen for better and for worse. If parents become impatient and start to resort, once again, to punishment as a way to handle the behavior the teenager simply begins the process of shameful hiding; the same process that led them down the road to addiction in the first place.
• Be Perseverant: Don’t give up on your teenager. Let them know that you will stick by their side through thick and through thin as they struggle against a powerful enemy. When you catch your teen viewing pornography AGAIN, show him compassion and strength rather than frustration and condemnation. Pornography addiction is real and it is vying for the hearts and souls of our young men. Be a warrior for your kids. When they are weak, lift them up with courage, resolve, and the encouragement to go on. Let them know that their problem with porn does not define their value; that they are your son and your love for them doesn’t fluxuate based on their when they are winning or when they are losing this battle. Continually help them to find the resources they need for the journey. When you find pornography in the home get rid of it and re-establish your defenses by adapting passwords, evaluating accountability software and parental controls. Consequences are also okay but the overriding theme must be understanding and love. Finally, be persistent in your prayers. This is a spiritual battle we are in. Intercede often for your sons and for your families. Lead your son to an intimate, ongoing relationship with God. The closer he walks with the Lord, the less he will want to turn to pornography when life gets difficult. Bottom line…….don’t give up and understand that your teen is not evil but simply in a fight for his life. Stay in the fight with him.
Parents, it is time to bring this issue out into the open. There is a dark power in secrecy, one that feeds the need to turn to pornography in order to lift one’s mood and escape the stresses of life. It’s time to take that weapon away from the Enemy. Let’s lift the curtain and trust that scripture is correct when it says that the truth sets us free. Let’s stop punishing and start communicating. We have fallen behind the Enemy in this war for the souls of our teens. He has infiltrated their lives and ensnared them with powerful shackles. He’s also done it by using sex and porn; subjects that many Christians see as taboo, awkward and try to avoid. In essence, Satan has assaulted our teens and used us to make the situation worse.