tween-alone-cellphone

I’m shocked.

And few things shock me when it comes to the topic of sexuality.

My publicist just sent me a journalism query. She sends them to me anytime a writer somewhere out there on the Internet highway cries out for help when they’re tackling the topic of sex. This one chilled me to the bone.

The writer is creating a secular piece on the risk of porn to our children and how we can reduce it. I’m tracking with her at this point. Maybe you are, too. The fact is, the average age of the first inception of pornography these days is 11. Yep. You read that right. Eleven. As in fifth grade. Last year of elementary school. (And that’s average. Yep, nine year olds are looking at porn.) On this fact alone, I’m glad someone out there in cyberspace is addressing the issue.

But then, the query read: “I need experts and been-there-done-that parents who can speak to the long-term effects we should — and (please? I beg you) shouldn’t– be worried about.” That’s where she lost me. Really? She wants us to reason that there might be something about our children using porn that we “shouldn’t” worry about? I won’t try to even address the developmental concerns about a child—or teen—watching a raunchy counterfeit of something God intended for them to experience in an intimate, committed marriage between two ADULTS! I’ll just share with you what I sent in response to the query.

I often work with parents whose children are using porn. Some approve. Most are freaked out. The reality is that our children are porn vulnerable. While our generation had to dig deeply to find porn, today’s kids have to fight hard to avoid it (and hopefully their parents are in that fight with them.) Another reality? The result of this porn vulnerable generation, will be one that has less desire for real intimacy. (Read: marriage.)

Both SELF magazine, targeted at women, and New Yorker, with an article about men, recently reported that more porn meant less real sex for adults.  The tsunami of porn is decimating the libido of modern, “free-thinking” adult users. One tell tale sign: frequent users seem to need to see more and more titillating photos to climax, popularizing a new form of porn that offers as many different images as possible in the shortest amount of time. Collages, if you will. More concerning, users find that using porn makes them less interested in their spouses and—in the case of these secular studies—girlfriends or boyfriends. When users pushed pause on the porn, they suddenly had an appetite for the real thing. Here’s the bottom line: the landscape most devastated by this tsunami is that of intimacy. Porn is nutra-sex. It causes a cancer of intimacy that one day we will regret.

It takes no religious or moral grounding to build an argument against mis-used sex in a world that values human interaction no matter your worldview. But for the Christian, the assault on marital intimacy should place every cell in our being on alert. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. More specifically, it is a picture of the intimate love relationship we can have with our Savior. It’s a parable meant to reveal the mystery of the greatest spiritual truth that exists. There is a Savior. He loves you dearly. And wants to be in relationship with you.

Is there anything we shouldn’t be worried about?

Somebody needs to sound the alarm sirens.

5 Ways to Protect Children from Pornography

  1. Place computers in public rooms.
  2. Install Internet filters
  3. Join any social networks your child belongs to and know their passwords.
  4. Ask your children directly if they have ever sent or received “sext” messages.
  5. Collect cell phones at night to recharge them…and let your kids recharge without them!

You may also like: Teens and Tech Guide

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30 Comments

  1. RE: Is there anything we shouldn’t be worried about?

    No! No! No!

    Here’s a quote from a parent I read on another website: “My son who is 11 years old informed me that there were two kids in his school that have naked pictures of girls on their cell phones AT 11 YEARS OLD!”

    We are in an all out moral and spiritual civil war for the souls of our children. Porn is the enemy’s “smart bomb.” It is intended to precisely hit the most vulnerable, beginning with children. Fail to understand that and your child will most likely be attacked by porn and, at 11, quite possibly be susceptible to a lifetime battle…or worse.

  2. Janice Bischoff says:

    My oldest son was 6 when he was introduced to porn and kids talking about sex. I had already started talking with him about sex from a Biblical perspective but porn is a strong addiction. I had him see our youth pastor but all he did was talk with him for a half hour or so and give him a purity ring. That wasn’t enough. I continued using Christian materials to keep teaching him about sex from a Biblical perspective, that still wasn’t enough. He continued his interest in sex through the years, was reintroduced to porn from a neighbor boy when he was about 11 or 12, moved on to internet porn even though I was taking all the “right” precautions. I even homeschooled him so he wasn’t around a bunch of other kids all day. He kept denying it when I’d question him about it. It led him to having sexual relations with girlfriends at age 16 on up. Once married, it effected his marriage negatively. It hurt his relationship with his wife greatly. When she threatened to take their infant daughter and leave was when he decided he needed to do something about it. He asked me for help. I found all the material I could from trusted Christian speakers and teachers and he read them all. We set up a system where he could call me anytime he felt the urge to view porn. It’s been over a year now and he’s doing pretty well. But porn is a strong addiction and is something you need to keep your children from, especially boys since they are more visually oriented, for a long as you can. Obviously, they will grow to where you can’t monitor their every move. But sex education from a Biblical perspective is something that needs to be started YOUNG, like ages 3 or 4. Once they start school they will be exposed to all kinds of things you can’t control. AND kids are smart, they seem to know when it’s something they should hide from their parents so just because your kids haven’t said anything about it to you, don’t assume they are innocent. A friend of mine even had a similar problem with her son who was attending a Christian school, so don’t think you are safe because your kids go to a private school either.

    1. Dannah Gresh says:

      Janice, you’re right: kids who attend private school’s are also targets for the porn industry. They can fall to sexual sin. I do want to point out one important thing, though. Research from The Medical Institute For Sexual Health indicates two strong correlations about kids and sexual sin. #1.) Students who are in private schools that officially support a view of abstinence until marriage, are more likely to abstain and live pure lives. #2.) Students who feel “connected” to their schools (sports, drama, yearbook, etc), are more likely to make healthy choices about their lives and say no to sexual misuse. While these two factors are in a list of many that reduce the risk, you are right that they aren’t fail-proof assurances that our kids won’t fall.

  3. I teach 11 and 12 year old children and I can assure you, that as scary as it is, almost all of them have seen porn. It is something that I speak of openly with students if they want to discuss it because, MOST parents refuse to discuss these matters with their children. They feel, that if they close the door on the issue, and close their eyes, and pretend that it is not happening, that it isn’t. The reality is, most kids have a friend that has a naked picture and has excitedly shown this picture to others. They always look because they are curious. Students have very openly asked questions about porn and other sexual issues that are arising at this age.

    It bothers me to no end, that, being their teacher, I am the one that has to address these issues for them for one of two reasons. First, the parents do not want to talk about it, or second, the kids do not feel comfortable talking to their parents about it. Parents should be the first person a student goes to talk to about these issues. I more than happily talk to students about these issues because they need to know what can happen if they get involved with these behaviors. The children are so vulnerable at this age and it is a very real problem.

    Thanks so much for posting this article. I am going to print it to keep in my collection of writings that I give to students when they come to talk to me about various issues.

  4. Hi Dannah,

    Thanks so much for this post and bringing awareness to the pornography epidemic! At Enough Is Enough we believe that over the past fifteen years, a number of dynamic, powerful, and destructive elements have come together, creating a “perfect storm” scenario for our children to fall victim to exploitation in the digital age and you’re exactly right, one element of this “perfect storm” is the tsunami or pornography.

    There is some good news though! Children can be protected from pornography as long as their parents and other adults in their lives are educated, equipped, and empowered with the tools and resources they need to keep kids safe online. By using the Internet Safety 101 Program, parents, grandparents, educators, and caring adults will learn about the dangers of the online world and then be equipped with Internet Safety 101 Rules ‘N Tools they need to start safeguarding their children online.

    We have many wonderful resources on our website: http://www.internetsafety101.org. You can watch video vignettes from the Internet Safety 101 DVD as well as read about each of the dangers that we cover.

    I encourage any and all parents to use Internet Safety 101 as a resource. Our children are our most precious resource and we cannot afford to lose them to the evils of pornography.

    Please don’t hesitate to contact us at Enough Is Enough for more information and visit us on Facebook and Twitter!

    Lauren Gaulin
    Communications and Development Coordinator
    Enough Is Enough
    703-476-7890
    lgaulin@enough.org
    https://twitter.com/#!/EIETweets
    http://www.facebook.com/EnoughIsEnough101

  5. Wow! This is so timely. I just posted an article on this same topic of keeping kids safe online on my own blog and when I went to post a link to it on Twitter, I saw Tricia Goyer’s link to this article. It’s a sad world we live in, but we must stand up and protect our kids! Thanks for writing this.

  6. Dannah Gresh says:

    So Glad for everyone’s “atta girls” today. There’s a cry for us to stand together on this, for sure. I want to point out that the blog has a really great Pinterest-friendly poster in it. If you want to help reduce the risk to children, do everything you can to raise awareness. Most parents are clueless that it’s happening to kids so young. So…pin away!

  7. Wow! This is timely! However, the one way no one ever mentions that porn can come in is through handheld gaming systems, like the PSP and Gameboys that have internet access. We have our computers with filters and talk and watch the computers, but had never even thought about that. My 16 year old son came to me one night and told me he has been addicted to porn since 7th grade! He is now a sophomore. To say we were shocked is an understatement. We don’t even allow picture mail on our kids phones because we don’t trust what people might send to them. We will never pay for them to have internet access on the phone either for these very reasons. But here we are, it came into our home anyway. Parents please be aware and check these handheld devises. I don’t know how to use the PSP at all, but it took me less than five minutes to see what my son had downloaded onto that machine.

    1. PSPs, Nintendo DSi game systems, and iPod Touches can all be used to access the internet! I’m in the process of updating our Guide for Parents about Teens and Technology and will be adding a list of all the various devices that can access the internet so if you come across any more, please let me know so I can make sure to include it in our list.

      Blessings,
      Katie

      1. Yes, and as far as we could find, there is no way to block this from outside our home! My husband contacted Sony and has been on many websites to try to figure out how, to no avail! There is something he found that supposedly is now installed, but there would still be access outside and at other locations. My husband is very computer savvy so this was so disturbing to him because even he had not thought about that. Thanks for letting me share and I hope this will be a way to get that information out to other parents like us.

        PS….the machine is no longer a part of his life and our conversations have been positive.

        Candi

      2. We let our 15yr old son purchase a Nook Color last December. We knew that it could access the internet, but we had it password protected and only I knew the password, so we assumed it was safe. I also could regularly check the history. What I DIDN’T know was that other internet browsers could be downloaded from the app store and could be used w/o my knowledge because it didn’t require a password – it was a separate app. It wasn’t until I purchased my own Nook and got really familiar with it that I realized all of its capabilities. When I began to examine my son’s nook, I found so many things that I had no idea before to even look for! And what was even more infuriating was that a simple search on the Nook store for books or apps – a simple and INNOCENT search – turned up some absolutely DISGUSTING results. I was absolutely sickened, and especially knowing that it was happening right under our noses.

        If anyone knows of a way to safeguard these devices, please let me know! So far, I have not figured it out. So for now, the 15 year old does not have access to his Nook. 🙁

        1. Bev, I was speaking with our youth pastor today, and there just doesn’t seem to be a way to block from these devices that can be downloaded away from your personal routers in your home. I don’t know about these readers, but contact the manufacturer to see if there is any blocking they can provide. My husband called Sony directly to find out how to keep the PSP from downloading, but apparently that is just not possible.

          I am so sorry that this tool you thought was going to help him has turned into an unintentional nightmare. I hope your son realizes and is willing to talk with you about this so it has not had to become a battle of its own.

          I am so glad that you found this out quickly. I know it doesn’t feel like that to you, but hopefully this was your son’s first exposure and because you found it in only a few months, the habit will not be so difficult to break. Keep praying. God can, and will clear his mind from what has been put in there by Satan, himself.

          May God bless you as you love your son and guide him to seek God’s best for him.

          Candi

        2. Bev, I prayed today that God would put a hedge of protection around your son.

        3. I know that for a mobile Apple product, such as iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you can use Safe Eyes, which is available from the app store for about $14.99. (For more information go to http://www.internetsafety.com) Once the app is installed, you use the Safe Eyes browser, and it blocks whatever content you choose. You can also set up a restrictions password for the device, and block Safari, so that the only browser available is the SafeEyes browser. Also, from the restrictions menu you can block the installing of apps, deleting of apps, YouTube, and in app purchases. I have not seen anything similar for the Nook or Kindle, but an iPad can be used easily as an e-reader.

  8. Differing Opinion says:

    If sexuality develops in young men and women around 11, why do we need to fight a natural reaction to our bodies? Catholic school sixth graders commonly joke about sex and sexuality. This is not a recent development. Middle schoolers have been discovering what sexuality is at early ages since the dawn of time. Only recently, when people don’t get married until their 30’s, has sexuality had to be repressed for so long. If we are biologically inclined to become aroused, then why is it so “wrong”? That’s a rhetorical question. Please don’t preach to me, I’ve heard it all.

    Good day ladies.

    1. I think the issue is that these are children we are talking about. Pornography is not natural…and it is extremely addicting especially for boys/men. Joking about sex and sexuality, which probably stems from a natural curiosity (not that I’m promoting that either), is a far cry from actually watching pornography. My 4-year old is curious about how to drive cars, but that doesn’t mean that we should put him behind the wheel. It is our job as parents to protect our children from the dangers of this world, whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual, and encourage them in every way possible to live in way that honors God.

      In my humble opinion, there is absolutely NOTHING positive that results from watching pornography, no matter your age, and it is EXTREMELY dangerous for young children. It’s a slippery slope and leads to a whole slew of problems down the road.

    2. Are you a mom or achristian?

    3. Dannah Gresh says:

      I will have to respectfully disagree with your Differing Opinion on the very argument that you build it upon. You state that children are developing a “natural reaction” to sexuality. That is PRECISLY why porn should not be viewed. You see, it skews the kind of reaction that they have. Tweens and teens are just beginning to awaken spiritual. As they do, the brain is being trained to respond sexually. What it is exposed to, will be what is able to stimulate it for the rest of it’s life. If real relationships with real people stimulate a child, they will be drawn to relationship. If porn does, they will be drawn to crass displays of faux sex . A December 2006 Journal of Communication (Vol. 56, No. 4, pages 639-660) study (among others) looked at this. The study enabled researchers to find a relationship between porn use and the feeling that it wasn’t necessary to have affection for people to have sex with them. Boys were much more likely to hold these views than girls. In a related study in the March issue of Sex Roles (Vol. 56, No. 5/6, pages 381-395), the Dutch team found a link between the type and explicitness of sexual media the teens saw and their tendency to view women as sexual “play things.” You see, we were created to develop naturally. We were created to slowly awaken sexually to crave and desire a mature, intimate relationship. Not tawdry counterfeits that tend to portray controlling, aggressive, transgressive raunch.

  9. Dear Dannah,

    Thank you so much for posting this. I think the other side of the coin is also children happening upon porn in their own houses because family members, be it a parent or another sibling has it around. I was under ten when I first stumbled upon porn and it messed me up…for a long time.

    I’m now the mother of four kids, one of which is a boy and I’m trying to navigate the waters of talking to my children about sexuality, while also just trying to navigate life. Thankfully, none of them have hand-helds yet, but I know that day is coming.

    Thanks again for posting this.

  10. Do you have the links or titles to the articles you mentioned in Self and The New Yorker?

    Thank you and also thank you for this article.

    1. Hi Becky, We do not have the article online for Self Magazine but here is the source information – Valerie Frankel, “Click Here For A Good Time.” SELF, November, 2009, page 130.

      The New Yorker magazine article is online. I’m not going to link you to it because although it defends Dannah’s position here really well, it is rather crass. The title of the article is “He’s Just Not That Into Anyone” and it can be found by searching for that title on The New Yorker website.

      Blessings, Katie

  11. Thanks for this. Back in the dark ages when I was in 6th grade, I had a neighbor kid show me those kinds of pictures, too. It’s a scary thing. I remember feeling as if I couldn’t wait to get away from that situation, from the whole thing. I am glad people are talking about this issue and talking to their kids about it. I’m waiting for the new Passport to Purity to come out in May then planning to talk to my 10 y/o about the many issues she will face. Hopefully, with an open communication I can help her navigate the rocky waters ahead of her.

  12. Excellent article on a hard topic. As a grandmother I am concerned even with the sexual overtones of so many of the TV programs. I know my grandchildren watch programs like Dancing With the Stars, etc. which also use a lot of sexual overtones in their dances. I really like #5 on the chart to protect children from porn. Collecting everything for charging overnight can take away the temptation during the down time before you go to sleep (which I believe also affect your dreams). I have always found that I get more rest by reading books with funny things happening in everyday life.

  13. This is a subject close to my heart. Both of my sons have been exposed to porn and one has an addiction. We have always kept our computer in our living room so we can see what is being viewed, but that wasn’t good enough. They both discovered porn on the internet through an advertisement on a gaming website. I thought the website would be a safe place for them to play because there was no chatting and it was geared toward 9-13 year olds. I was wrong. There is more and more advertising on preteen websites for these porn websites. My boys have read “Every Young Man’s Battle” and my husband and I discuss healthy sex and relationships with them on a consistent basis. They really enjoyed the book and gained a lot from it. Although, my one son still struggles. I think it may be a constant battle for him into his adult years. Is there an upside? Only that it made us more purposeful in connecting our children with a healthy view of sex and relationships and in educating them, we have educated ourselves all the more.

  14. My husband was exposed to porn as a 5th grader, compliments of his trusted Uncle, who took he and another nephew into the garage to treat them to some porn magazines he had stashed. Needless to say, it started an addiction that grew until his secret came to light in the third year of our marriage when I became aware of what he was looking at on the Internet. He apologized and swore he would never do it again, but he did. Again, I was hurt and told him simply I would not compete with paper dolls – pictures of women that had no care for our relationship. He and I went to counseling which seemed to help with him moving towards changes not only his heart in this matter, but actions as well. We will have been married 18 years this year and even though he makes a point to dodge his eyes and keep clear on the Internet, I still have distrust that creeps up every now and then until he reassures me of his love and faithfulness in this area. (Mind you, it hurts him that I distrust, but realizes it is still a felt consequence for what we went thru because of his addiction.) Battlefield of the Mind bible study for men was helpful for not only my husband, but I’ve seen change in the other men that attended the study with him. It really has to be a choice of the heart to control where the mind goes (which in turn controls what the eyes look at and consume in lust.) We started teaching our four boys as young as 1 years old to “bounce” their eyes when it came to Halloween and things that would create fear in them if they looked upon them. Now, it seems to translate to our pre-teen boys who are learning about how they should and shouldn’t look at a woman and how “bouncing” their eyes when we are in the mall (i.e. Victoria Secret displays) or eating at a restaurant. The pain we went thru in our marriage, has motiviated us to help our sons protect their own marriages, knowing that they can experience sex to it’s fullest, without competing images of other women in the room. Our hope is that they will experience TRUE intimacy with their future spouse and not accept what our society offers as a definite counterfeit.

  15. Girls as well as boys are affected by pornography. I am 36 and was exposed very early in my elementary school years at home because of the nudity in the movies my dad would watch. After that it went to “romance novels”, watching a scrambled Playboy channel, magazines, and the internet. When I got saved at 25, I wanted it all to go, but this had been going on for a very long time and it was hard to stop. Even after I did stop, the pictures took much longer to vacate my mind. I had to work very hard with much prayer to capture those images captive. I’m a visual learner and I remember things better if I have a picture to go along with it. Unfortunately, I can, if I allow it, conjure up images from magazines from over 10 years ago. That’s how powerful images are. You are giving time, attention, and your thoughts to viewing or imagining people in a sexual way, and God says to only do this with someone you are married to. Thankfully, I didn’t get married until several years after this battle. I still have to be purposeful about this kind of stuff. We don’t have cable and I’m glad because so many shows on regular t.v. are overly sexualized it’s uncomfortable to watch. If I could turn back time and protect myself from the effects of porn, soft-porn, nudity in movies, books and magazines, I would do it in a heart beat. It’s not innocent in any way, shape or form. It takes years to counteract the effects and affects your mind, your self-perception and your relationships.

  16. This article is heartbreaking for moms to read. I can feel the sadness in these responses from moms who have been dealing with their own situations. I have a 22 yr. old son and we have been through it all. We thought we had all the security in place. Here are a few truths that may help~

    1. Our kids are way smarter than we are when it comes to technology. They have all the shortcuts and
    know all of the ways around any security program out there. And if they don’t know themselves, they
    ask. Anyone at school has the answer. Or – a simple google search gets you answers in seconds.
    For example, you may or may not know that the browser “Google Chrome” offers an incognito
    browsing mode. Webpages that you open and files downloaded while you are incognito aren’t
    recorded in your browsing and download histories. All new cookies are deleted after you close all
    incognito windows. Read more here: http://bit.ly/IAIIPy .
    2. Public, Private, Christian, Homeshcool – it does not matter. If statistics show that religion plays a part
    in reducing the numbers of kids viewing porn it’s because they are not being honest. There is
    pressure to continue a facade. Evidence of this is sitting in our pews each week. The percentage of
    men and women struggling with porn in the church is high.
    3. You can bank on the fact that all boys (and probably all girls) will view some form of porn at a
    shockingly early age.

    This post has really got me thinking about the topic again. I was a homeschool mom intent on protecting my son from all the evil “outside”. With regret, I did little to address the evil “inside”. Upon taking all the precautions, I felt safe. I believed I had done everything to protect us and was satisfied that we were out of danger. What I had not counted on was the power of temptation and our propensity to sin. Taking into consideration the 3 truths above, what can be done?

    a. Accept your child for who he/she is. A great sinner loved by a great savior.
    b. Prepare for dealing with this by dealing with their heart. Grace in every situation transforms a heart.
    Rules in every situation creates a desire to break them.
    c. In word and deed, demonstrate for your child that you are a sinner just like they are. You struggle
    with sin and temptation too. You need a savior too. If there was no sin problem, Jesus would not
    have had to suffer and die. He lived the perfect life we could never live and so we fall on Him in
    times of weakness – assured of his love and forgiveness and freed from guilt and condemnation.
    d. Boundaries and technology guidelines are proper and good but they will never safeguard
    completely. Count on it. Be armed with the message of grace and the gospel in the person of
    Jesus Christ who came not for the righteous, but for sinners; not for the religious, but for the
    irreligious; not for perfect kids who keep all the rules, but for imperfect kids who break the rules.
    They are like us – desperately in need of forgiveness for all of our lawbreaking.
    e. I know this is hard to grasp. I wish I had fed my child the gospel more and the rules less. There is a
    world out there they will confront when they go to college and/or move out on their own. They need to
    know Jesus loves them no matter what and that their parents love them regardless of what they have
    done, are doing or will do.

    1. Lori, Thank you SO much for taking the time to share this comment with us. You are absolutely right! Rules without relationship equals rebellion. This is really true of all of us!

    2. Janice Bischoff says:

      Lori,
      You are quite right. I feel like too many Christian parents think if they enforce the correct rules & take all the correct safeguards, their households are safe. That just isn’t so. Satan is ready to devour men, women, boys & girls in any way possible. Making sure your children know there is forgiveness is VERY important. Secondly, making sure the lines of communication are open between you & your children is very important. Who do you want your child to turn to if they have a problem? I would hope they would know they could trust me to be helpful & forgiving with no “I told you so.” I’m very thankful that my children know they can talk to me about anything & very glad that when my oldest son was ready to give up porn, he came to me . for help.