Recently, I have noticed a growing number of articles circulating Facebook regarding pornography. Basically they all say the same thing, and outline in great detail the effects of porn on young minds- both in general hardwiring and in terms of forming opinions about relationships, sexual or not.
The consensus is in: porn is really bad for everybody, and more specifically, it is ruining a young generation.
Consistently, however, I have not seen many articles that are properly guiding parents how to deal with these realities that are facing their young teens. Of course, we need to know what the damage is in order to act. But if parents are not given some ideas about how to steward the young minds around them, what is the point of them knowing? Even as I read the article by Martin Daubney I was filled with sense of dread for my own son who may be exposed in the future. Now, Daubney mentions a few vague things, but I want to go into more detail about some practical things you can do to protect your children from seeing pornographic imagery, videos, etc etc in your home.
Now that the public is starting to know that pornography is destroying our culture, it is vitally important that we begin part # 2: HOW to combat this, as oppose to WE NEED to combat this.
Any good parent instantly becomes worried about what to do- perhaps something like this goes through your mind: “Oh craptarts, porn is so easy to access! There is no possible I can minimize or even eliminate my son/daughter’s exposure to these images and videos. Ahhhhh!!! What am I going to do? AHHH…there is nothing I can do.” And then.. if you find the courage, you may walk off and have a somewhat disjointed awkward conversation with your son or daughter about this article you read online and mumble something about “don’t look at those things you aren’t supposed to see, mmmk?”
Uhm okay, I’m going to tell you two things right now:
1) That response is not adequate.
2) There is a more adequate response, and I will tell you.
Before you read my suggestions below, ask yourself this question: Who is in charge in my home?
If your instinctual answer is “my children are”, then you have a bigger problem to address. You need to take charge of your children’s wellbeing, NOW. Why? Because they were entrusted into your care and it is YOUR responsibility to teach your children what is right and wrong. Sometimes that means mushy love, sometimes that means tough love. The point is: YOU decide. (and one more time in French.. c’est moi qui decide.)
If your instinctual answer is “My husband and I are in charge”, then these suggestions are for you and you will likely feel very comfortable with them.
Daunbey correctly starts us off by stating, “Ultimately, the responsibility lies with us, the parents.”
There is no truer saying. Many parents may not want to take on the responsibility of teaching their children about sex. Well.. tough. No one is asking you if you WANT to do it, because that is not an option (unless you eventually really desire to see your son/daughter twerking on Youtube some day). So no, abdicating your parental responsibilities to teach your children about the beauty, importance, and worthiness of their own and other people’s sexuality is not an option.
I know it can be overwhelming and if we ourselves have not been taught properly, than it can often seem embarrassing or uncomfortable to talk about sex with your kids. So..
1. Educate yourself, read, and find a way to be redeemed in your own sexuality (sex is good, human sexuality is good) so that you can talk to your children about it in a positive way. You cannot give what you yourself do not have. If you don’t believe that sex is good, natural, beautiful then you will not be able to teach your children the good things about it. They will see right through you because they are sneaky like that. Do you love yourself? You cannot teach them to love and respect themselves, if you do not love and respect yourself. You need to act because your children need guidance from you, not from school, peers, mentors or media: YOU. You need to read, reflect, seek guidance and be honest with them about the mistakes you made and how it affected your life.
2. Do not allow your teens to have computers in their bedrooms. This is a recipe for disaster as when night comes, young minds lose their inhibitions and start to get curious about things.
3. Put your family computer in a main area, or, if you have to have the computer in a room, set the rule that the door must always remain open. If a teenager feels watched, they are a lot slower to act.
4. Have an automatic cutoff for Internet use. If they require the internet later at night for school work, you may have to stay up with them. I have learned through my own errors, that being able to access the Internet late at night when everyone is in bed, did me no good. I have a mom friend who gets all the emails her 14 yr -old daughter receives. At first, I thought that was kind of controlling. Now, I think it’s wise because I remember the kind of chain emails I would sometimes get.. and all it takes is one moment of curiosity and one click.
5. If your kids have cell phones, you should set rules and boundaries with them regarding screening of texts etc. or give them the type of plan that does not allow them to text constantly. Perhaps set the rule that they cannot have their phones in their rooms at night.
6. Talk to your children. Have family dinner where you find out what they have been doing or the things they find cool right now. These conversations will tell you a lot about where their headspace is. And observe them.
7. Inspire them through action. Fathers, set an example of being a gentleman to your wife who outwardly shows respect to her, to your daughters and strangers. Tell your daughter she is beautiful. Mothers, dress modestly, compliment your daughters on how healthy and beautiful they look. Don’t tell them that compliments shouldn’t go to their head and that their outfits are weird. If you are going to critique your son or daughter’s outfit, really think before you speak because pre-teens easily feel cut down and worthless. What is it about their outfit that you feel is wrong? Is it because their pants are way too low or way too tight? Explain to them WHY how you dress matters. Explain that it reveals something- sends a message. But be gentle and kind, not cutting and critical.
8. Depending on your kid’s age, internet and TV perhaps should not even be used until a parent is home. Both of these devices have passwords that can be put on them and are changeable.
9. Be the house where your children spend time with their friends ALOT, and you will learn ALOT about the kind of people your children like, and how they fit in to their peer group. Do they go along with what their friends say about men or women? Do they agree, do they disagree?
10. Above all else, communicate, communicate, communicate. Through thought, word and deed be the kind of person that you want your child to spend time around. Inspire them by teaching them courage, admitting when you’re wrong and being willing to say “sorry.” By being humble to your family and to your spouse, you are teaching your children respect. This base level of respect will transfer into basic respect for others and they will be more receptive to hearing the importance of respecting others, in regards to sexuality or otherwise.
Now, you might have read all this and said to yourself “That’s great, but I can’t control what my child sees outside my home.” Yes, very true. However, you can control your response to the things they see, which will form their response. If you are at the mall, and your son or daughter sees a photo of a lingerie model in front of a La Senza store, they may be confused especially if they have not seen all these things splayed out before. CHOOSE to talk to them about what they have seen….“Guys, today at the mall there was a photo of a beautiful woman not wearing much clothing, did you see it? Yes? Okay, well, we just wanted to talk to you about why some people dress and pose like that and how doing so, does not reveal dignity in human beings and this is why..”
Your actions and these conversations will impact HOW your children respond to confusing signs in the future about sex, love and respect. And if you are able to begin to talk to them about these things when they are younger (as young as 12, I would say), they are more likely to act differently when they are 15 because they have already received positive and impactful messages from you for at least 3 years prior. It will be easier for them to survive their teens, if you start teaching them at home early on about how to navigate what they see. Just like babies need help navigating sleep, food, walking and talking, teenagers need help navigating sex and relationships. The earlier you start, just like with babies, the easier it will be in the future.
But yes, these conversations are something you must choose. Most parental actions must be chosen because let’s be honest, our feelings mostly drifted off to Lala Land to party it up with Sleep and Rest, their best friends. But just as we teach our children to sleep, eat, think, work, pray, we must consider it as much of a necessary life skill to teach them how to navigate human sexuality in a positive way through strong leadership and guidance. And that starts with thinking positively ourselves about ourselves, and others especially our spouses and children.
It’s not going to happen on it’s own. If we want our children to change the future and change the way in which porn is affecting our society and our children’s peers, we must lead the way. WE must act.