By Erik Dunkin
2000 years ago, a Jewish Rabbi preached on the side of the Mount of Olives, overlooking a land ravaged by a people who persistently refused to submit to the good design of the God who created their bodies and put air in their lungs. That Rabbi said this: “I tell you the truth, anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”.
What Jesus declared by divine wisdom then is being proved by science now. The advent of widely available high speed internet has taken visual adultery to new levels, and the consequences are devastating.
When it comes to pornography, the writing is on the wall. Our culture is simply too blind to see it — willing to identify significant negative outcomes such as divorce, marital strife, objectification of women, increased sexual assault, violent sexual appetites, unrealistic expectations in the bedroom, and loss of male libido; but unwilling to declare that pornography itself is immoral.
But for us as followers of Christ, we can’t afford to be so naïve.
Parents, you need to assume your children are viewing pornography. Don’t assume this in a judgmental, terrified, or hateful kind of way—that would be counterproductive; assume they are in a compassionate, understanding way. After all, they’re just curious kids. They have no way of knowing the potential dangers and ramifications that could come from getting addicted to porn.
The statistics on children’s exposure to porn are disturbing, to say the least (most researchers say the average age of first exposure is 11). But when you look at the freedom children are given with devices that put them literally two taps of their fingers away from endless quantities of elicit material, the stats are not so surprising.
In response to this epidemic, I want to offer two crystal clear action steps for parents, and one hopeful reflection.
First, two action steps for parents:
1. Have a frank, sit-down conversation with each of your children about pornography. Ask them, point-blank, if they are looking at porn regularly, or if they have ever looked at it. Be gentle, compassionate, and kind. In this conversation, remember that you are a sinner who has lusted in your heart numerous times. Yet God has forgiven you. If he has grace for you, you can have grace for your child. Your goal here is not to “bust” your kid, but to offer them a path to healing.
2. Develop a clear strategy for safeguarding the technology in your home and of your children. Chart a course toward mature, technological independence by the time they’re around 17.
If you don’t know how to safeguard your kid’s technology, take it away until you can figure it out. Bonus: your kids will rediscover their imagination.
Most smartphones and tablets have parental control features, where you can block certain functions such as surfing the internet or downloading apps.It is possible for your child to have a smartphone that is only functionally enabled to make phone calls, send texts, or use GoogleMaps.You can simply block or turn off all other apps, with a passcode needed to unlock them or turn them on.
Many internet monitoring technologies now exist as well. Some are for each specific device (such as Covenant Eyes software), and some are made to monitor all activity that comes through your router. Here is a great chart that compares various software.
If you need help, ask for it. Talk with friends. Email me. Ask a pastor at church. Seek out a Christian counselor. Resources are out there.
Of course, you don’t want to be overly legalistic about these things because some day your child will be on his or her own, at which point they will need the maturity to make wise internet decisions apart from your boundaries. But in their pre-teen and early teenage years, we do them harm by letting them roam the web with no oversight at all.
I want to close with a hopeful reflection amidst the dismal statistics and wearying tasks.
We must remember that sexual sin is not new. Since the day that Adam and Eve ate from the tree, dysfunction has been present in the realm of human nakedness. Just because there is a new form of sexual sin with new problems caused by it does not mean God is caught off guard.
Far from it.
If pornography introduces new problems to the human race, then we will soon discover new mercies from our God. If porn addiction comes with surprising power, the superior power of Jesus will be revealed to forgive and restore.
God is not daunted by sin. We shouldn’t be, either.
But just because we aren’t fearful doesn’t mean we don’t take action.