My little ones are six, four and two, so some of you may ask, “Why is it necessary to protect such young children from pornography? Are they really going to come into contact with it? Shouldn’t they be playing on swings and watching Curious George? Shouldn’t you wait until they are teenagers to discuss the ugly topic of porn?”
Look, I understand those questions. They are important questions to ask. They are also questions that Jersey Boy and I have deeply and thoughtfully considered, and here is our conclusion:
Yes – in the year 2016 it is necessary to actively work to protect even our preschoolers from pornography. Here is why:
1. Pornography is everywhere.
Formerly relegated to seedy porn shops, the underside of teenage boys’ mattresses and secret hiding spots in marriage bedrooms, porn now exists everywhere, all the time.
Do you have a smart phone in your hand? Well so does the person next to you. And anywhere a portable device with internet access exists, so too may porn.
As a parent of young children, you must not be naive to the real possibility that your little ones could be exposed to porn while playing a video game on a friend’s iPad or watching YouTube videos on a parent’s cell phone. All it takes is one wrong click…one suggestion by a friend who wants to show your child something “really weird” or “cool”…and just like that your baby could be exposed to graphic images that they’ll never un-see. And the internet porn of today is far more disturbing than what was widely available back in the 80’s and 90’s. This is not your father’s Playboy.
Research indicates that most children first view pornography before the age of twelve, with some sources stating that the average age of first exposure to graphic porn is eight. Yes, eight-years-old. You can do the research yourself, and if you’re a parent you probably should. But get ready to be disgusted, because the facts and figures are bleak.
2. Porn is dangerous.
A mountain of mainstream, secular research tells us what anyone with a true devotion to the Christian faith already knows – porn is dangerous.
I can anticipate the eye rolls. Yes, there is also a mountain of hypocrisy in this area among the Church and Christian leaders. Christians are not “above” the lure of pornography, and many Christians have experienced the humiliation that comes when their career, marriage and reputation are destroyed by the wicked pull of pornography. Countless Christian leaders have learned the hard way that pornography is not an innocent, victimless and private diversion.
If you think that your pornography use is a private struggle, you are wrong. Porn is affecting your romantic relationships or marriage, whether or not you admit it. It is also affecting you personally in profound ways.
Porn is bad for your mind. Studies show that viewing pornography causes dopamine spikes in the brain, and over time the brains of regular porn users respond like that of drug addicts. Repeated porn exposure also dulls the brain’s reward network and response to pleasure. This results in the need for harder core and more deviant images to illicit the same mental and physical arousal.
And even worse, porn is bad for your soul. And I am not just talking about men’s souls. I am talking to women…to housewives…to my peers. Any Christian who repeatedly struggles with and then returns to pornography has every reason to fear for the condition of her soul. Does an unwillingness to resist the pull of pornography reflect a regenerate heart?
As Tim Challies puts it in this excellent article, “If you have no sorrow for sin, if you have no real desire for victory, if time and again you recklessly choose your sin over your Savior, you need to ask yourself this: Do I love pornography enough to go to hell for it?”
As a parent, I want to do all that I can to protect my children from the mind and soul damaging affects of porn. And that starts by never viewing pornography myself.
3. Young children are capable of understanding that viewing certain images will hurt their heart.
You may be thinking, “Okay, porn is bad for my kid and they are likely to see it when they’re young, but how am I supposed to “protect” them from the inevitable? Is it appropriate to explain pornography to a young child? How could I possibly find the words to do that?”
No, I do not think that it is appropriate to graphically explain pornography to a young child. However, in addition to obvious things like not permitting them to use the internet alone and installing good filters, there are ways to teach little ones to resist the urge to look at images that may “hurt their heart.” These are the words that Jersey Boy and I use with our kids.
We teach our children that God gave them private spots that are not for other people to look at or touch. They also understand that they should not look at or touch friends’ private spots. They know the proper names for their private areas, and understand that they can always ask mommy and daddy questions about their bodies.
We discuss internet safety with our kids, and explain that they are not permitted to use the internet alone because there are pictures and videos on the internet that could hurt their hearts. We explain that Jesus wants us to protect our hearts and minds, and be careful about the things we look at. We explain that some of these online pictures show other people’s private spots, and that viewing those pictures is bad for our hearts.
These are basic conversations. My children have no true grasp of what pornography actually is and what it does to people. But Jersey Boy and I are starting the conversation now, while they are little and are apt to listen intently.
4. We have an opportunity to lay the foundation now.
When it comes to the topics of sex and pornography, Jersey Boy and I want to be the authority in our children’s lives. We desire to have the opportunity to point them to God’s design for sex and his warnings throughout Scripture about guarding our hearts and minds. We want our littles to know that they can talk to mommy and daddy about anything, and we will tell them the truth. So we don’t shy away from difficult conversations, we embrace them. They are opportunities to point our kids to Christ!
5. Above all, look to God.
As much as I want them, I don’t have all of the answers, and I don’t know what the future holds for my children. I don’t know what they may unwittingly be exposed to in the future, or what sin issues they will struggle with as teens and young adults. But while they are little, I’ll do the best I can to protect my children from pornography, and I’ll teach them about its dangers in age-appropriate ways. And of course, I’ll look to God.
Father God, thank you for being above all things. I know that I can look to you for my hope and refuge when the facts of this world seem bleak. Lord, I pray that your will be done in my children’s hearts. Please protect them from the dangers of pornography. Please shield their young eyes from the sin and bondage that it brings. Thank you for loving them even more than I do. To you be the glory forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.