I know this is an area as a parent you want to stick your head in the sand and hope it goes away, but it is real and my experience with your children through teens brings a confirmation to what this author writes. As he says, we don’t want to be alarmist but this is real.
Chances are your teen is looking at porn. But it’s worse than that.
I live in a quiet subdivision in rural Ontario. I mean very quiet—all summer long, I rarely saw any kids outside biking or playing street hockey or running flimsy lemonade stands or just roughhousing around. Then, the day school started, I was shocked when I left my house in the morning and I saw kids everywhere, backpacks in tow, heading to bus stops and walking to the nearby school. This many kids live in my neighborhood? I thought to myself. Where were they all summer?
There are a number of possible answers, of course. Some were probably on vacation. Some were probably shipped off to camp by their parents. But many of them were likely inside the house, glued to screens. One recent Canadian overview found that, “10- to 16-year-olds in Canada get an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes of screen time per day. The largest source of screen time is television (2 hours and 39 min) followed by computers (2 hours and 7 min) and video games (1 hour and 51 min).”
I’ve met more teens than I can count whose first exposure to porn—and not just “normal” porn but dark, violent porn that in 2014 is now mainstream—was at the ages of ten or eleven.
The problems apparent in these numbers go far beyond stunted creativity, childhood obesity, and, I would argue, the fact that these children are being deprived of a childhood by zoning out in front of screens. The problem is that many, many of these children will end up finding and looking at pornography. That pornography will shape the way they view sex as they grow older. Those views will shape how they treat themselves and others. Keep in mind that the average boy, for example, is first exposed to pornography at the age of eleven.
I speak on sex and pornography in high schools quite often, and every time I do I’m faced with a dilemma: The adults in the room are likely to be shocked, horrified, and upset when I confront the students with the reality of what online porn is and why it is so dangerous. However, the teenagers for the most part are not even remotely shocked. Most of them have seen the things I’m talking about. Increasingly, and chillingly, they have even been coerced or pressured into trying the dark perversions they see unfolding on their iPad, computer, and smartphone screens. It’s gotten to the point where I’m relieved when teenagers are shocked by one of my presentations—it means that they’ve heard the information in time to avoid the clutching webs of the Internet porn industry.
I’m quite often accused of being an alarmist by adults and church leaders who can’t quite believe just how pervasive porn use and porn exposure is among the very young. I’m often told that this is the reason that having a presentation on pornography would be “too controversial.” Quite frankly, I wish they were right. But consider just a few of these statistics:
35% of teen boys say they have viewed pornographic videos “more times than they can count.”
15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography.
32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online.
39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.
83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.
I’ve met more teens than I can count whose first exposure to porn—and not just “normal” porn but dark, violent porn that in 2014 is now mainstream—was at the ages of ten or eleven. I’ve met parents who tell me how relieved they are that their children never had a porn problem, when I’ve spoken to their children and I know that their children did, in fact, struggle with porn. After one presentation, I even had an anonymous letter sent to me by a wife and mother who revealed that throughout my presentation on pornography, she felt relieved that her husband would never look at such things. She found out a short time later that he had been looking at pornography for a long time.
It is not alarmist to say that this problem is everywhere. It’s a grim fact.
Last week I spoke at a high school conference for Christian schools. One of the things I like to do to show the teachers and other adults just how essential it is to provide teens with the truth about pornography is to hold an open forum—let the students write down any and all questions they have about the topic and submit them to be answered. Every time, teachers are shocked by what the students are asking as they realize just how far this menace has spread and how badly it has infected our schools.
At the last conference, for example, I had a fourteen-year-old girl ask me what girls should do when their boyfriends pressure them into anal sex (hugely popular in mainstream porn right now.) I had teen boys asking me how to deal with their masturbation problems. I was asked why porn sites were so addicting. I was asked by one girl why so many boys were demanding oral sex. And I was even asked questions about bestiality in porn, questions I even had a hard time believing teens of that age could be asking.
With access to the Internet everywhere, it is not simply enough to filter the Internet in our homes and install accountability software on our electronic devices, although all of these steps are absolutely essential. In today’s day and age, where kids and teens are going to find porn if they want to or if they’re curious, they have to be spoken to honestly about what pornography is and why it will destroy their minds, their relationships, and their souls. They need to know why so much of what they see in porn is dark and evil, and why these things have no place in the context of a loving relationship.
I read a column from Anthony Esolen called “What they will never know” a few years back, and he beautifully highlights what the teens of today are being robbed of: “Our teenagers who know so much about the mechanics of copulation miss the sweetness of simple humanity. People used to sing merrily about holding a girl’s hand while walking home from the dance—holding a hand. With that touch, they knew the thrill, perhaps for the first time, of being deemed worthy of love. What is it like, to be a boy or a girl who could be made dizzyingly happy by so simple a touch? We will never know.”
The porn plague has spread far and dizzyingly fast. But if we talk to teens openly, and show them not only why the darkness of pornography is so dangerous but why the alternative of healthy human sexuality is so beautiful, then this generation will still have a chance. It is up to us to provide that chance.
The following is a short article revealing the disturbing trend in the viewing of pornography. My immediate concern is working at a Christian school with several hundred young people. Surveys of students (both boys and girls) indicate that some view it regularly, even here at school. We will address it to the students and offer help for those who ask, but smart phones don’t seem to be a smart thing at times (though the phone is not the problem but the heart is the issue) … George
Article by John Stonestreet
Nearly 15 years ago, a survey found that Christians looked at pornography at nearly the same rates as non-believers. Have things improved?
In the spring of 2000, Zogby International asked more than a thousand U.S. adults whether they had ever visited a sexually-oriented web site. Only one in five had done so. Among born-again Christians, 18 percent had gone to such sites, just three percentage points less than the general public.
Well, fast forward to today. A group called Proven Men Ministries commissioned the Barna Group to examine current pornography use. You might want to sit down for this? Barna found that 64 percent of American men and 20 percent of women view pornography at least monthly. And for Christian men, that number is 55 percent.
Fourteen years ago, only one out of every three men had ever gone to a pornography site, but now nearly one-third of men under 30 do so on a daily basis. And if you think it can’t get worse, the survey found that 18 percent of men believe they may be addicted to pornography. That’s more than 20 million men in deep trouble.
Friends, take a moment to let this sink in. More than half of Christian men in America routinely expose themselves to sexually explicit lies that shape the way they see sex, love, marriage, and women. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this is a crisis for the Church and certainly for our culture. If these numbers are accurate in any sense, and I believe they are, we’ve reached a time of reckoning.
One of the first things to realize is that rampant pornography use can’t be isolated from its larger cultural context. So many of our social ills stem from the fact that society is losing or abandoning the ability to see people as beings made in the image of God.
With crime, victims are treated as obstacles to overcome or things to exploit. Abortion sees people as disposable because he or she is inconvenient. Pornography treats people as objects in service of self-gratification. We’ve become this “use or be used” society.
And so, if we are to reclaim the sacred dignity of every human person amidst this brutish culture, we must turn inward. We’re all tempted to point angry fingers at those sinners “out there” that we think are degrading our culture. But even as Miley Cyrus flaunts herself on stage in front of millions, tens of millions of Christians are secretly watching pornography while their churches stay silent as tombs about the issue.
It may be that we in the church should revisit the story of the self-righteous Pharisee in Luke 18. If these survey results are true, we can no longer stand in the front of the church patting ourselves on the back for not being like those sexual sinners out there. Instead, together we can lower our face before God and say, “Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Although this survey grieves me, I remain hopeful that through true evangelism and service, and by praying and seeking spiritual renewal in our churches, we have an incredible opportunity to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ to the hidden, the lost, and the ashamed. And right now, there are plenty of folks? millions even? waiting along the highways and byways for an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb. And invite them we must.
The Bible warns us many times that the sexually immoral will not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. People’s eternal lives are at stake, including many who we call brother and sister each week in church.
I have been on my new job site now for just over one month after being away from the high school setting for 13 years. Several people have asked me about the changes and there have been many since leaving. The biggest change is the advancement and use of technology. I am part of the generation of teachers who thought the invention of the whiteboard where we could use multiple color markers was a big breakthrough in teaching. Now computers and interactive video screens are tools of the classroom and it is all mind-boggling.
These are wonderful ways technology is being used. However, I am also witnessing the downside of technology with deep concerns. After the many years of ministering to families, I dealt with dozens of situations regarding deep struggles with pornography by men, women, and teens. I also dealt with many adults who struggled with sexual immorality of all types. The one common denominator to all of them – every one of them – was they all struggled with pornography as a young person.
This leads to my concern of what I see with the young people at school and outside of school. I see kids all day long have free and uninhibited access to the internet with their own personal devices. The school has set-up adequate safeguards but the students can circumvent the systems with their own devices. They bump into each other in the hallways like we are the school for the blind, use them while going to the bathroom, and after school it seems I see more tops of heads than eyes.
From my experience, parents are giving their child a weapon when they give their child unrestricted access to the internet. Pornography is the dehumanization of another person for your pleasure and gives no consideration to their heart, soul, or mind nor the damage that is being done to them. It denies that the person being viewed is made in the image of God and so has certain dignity. Watch enough pornography and you will see and treat others the same way.
If you are a concerned parent in this area, please take time to read Tim Challies post, The Porn Free Family, http://www.challies.com/christian-living/the-porn-free-family In this, Tim gives excellent counsel on how to continue to use technology with prudence and care for the spiritual welfare of your family. It includes goals, acknowledgements about the realities of technology in our world, and an action plan.
To ignore this topic is to invite spiritual terrorism. Set up you own homeland security for the well-being of yourselves and your children.
There is something I was not prepared for as a family pastor and something that I would not have known how to respond to as a parent. As a pastor, I was not prepared for women being enslaved to pornography and I would not have been prepared to deal with a daughter if I had found out she was repeatedly visiting pornography sites. Unfortunately, women and pornography is a real issue that I have had to deal with as a pastor and fortunately I did not experience the latter as a father.
Women and pornography is not a new event but as children are increasing in the viewing of pornography, so has exposure of women to it. It used to be that many women who were seeking some level of fantasy emotional gratification would attempt to live vicariously through romance novels. Though some have not abandoned the romance novels, more and more women are now accessing pornography websites. Some statistics regarding this are:
- About 9 ½ million women access adult websites each month which represents about 1 out every 3 visits (men represent 2/3).
- About 1 out of every 6 women struggles with pornography.
- Twice as many women as men visit chat rooms.
- About 13% of women admit to accessing pornography at work (20% of men admit to it).
The statistic that is particularly disturbing is that women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behavior in real life such as having casual sex or committing adultery. (This statistic of “acting out” probably does not include men masturbating as acting out)
In doing research in this area, I want to bring to your attention what appears to be an issue of the heart that opens women to be vulnerable to the temptation of pornography. It appears that much of it is tied to emotional loneliness where the “fire” of marriage is dimming for a variety of reasons. Women tend to be “seduced” first by “emotional pornography” before “physical pornography.” Many of the fantasy men are great performers of conversation and emotional understanding who attentively touch the heart of the woman. This can create a level of marital discontentment that is hard to heal and would give an explanation to why more women are drawn to chat rooms and sexual relationships than men are.
The reason for posting the last few articles on pornography is to raise an alarm. It is not to call technology or the pornography industry the enemy but our greatest enemy is our own hearts. To be informed and alarmed may be a start but it will not change you. What will change you is to redirect your affections and desires to Jesus Christ who is the only One who really satisfies. The next few postings will lead in this direction.
“The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ And to him who lacks sense she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.’ But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.” Proverbs 9:13-18
It has been over 50 years ago for me but I vividly remember my first exposure to a picture of a naked woman. It was in our fourth grade classroom in New York and one of the boys discovering bare-chested tribal women in National Geographic. We always noted where that particular issue was stored in the classroom and referred to it often. I can still recall the image when I put my mind to it. Particularly as a child, pornographic images have an impact upon your mind which can lead to the heart.
We often think of pornography in regards to men, but recent statistics indicate that access through technology has opened the door wide to children. Here are some statistics* regarding children and the internet:
- The average age of first internet exposure to pornography is 11 years old.
- 80% of 15-17 year olds (men and women) have had multiple hard-core exposures.
- 90% of 8-16 year olds have viewed pornography online.
- Concerning those between 7-17; 29% indicated they have freely given out their home address online and 14% their email address.
- According to the statistic resources, there are 26 children’s character names that are linked to thousands of pornographic sites. (i.e.; Pokeman, Action Man)
Now to you parents. Regarding the statistic that 90% of all 8-16 year olds have viewed pornography online; guess where and when most of these kid indicated they did it? It was at home while doing homework! You see this is not an “out of our home” scenario but most is done right under your nose. So what can be done by you as a parent?
First of all you need to protect your children. Here are some suggestions:
- Keep all internet devices in a central, open place in the home. Set up a homework station for when they need to use the computer. If you have several children and computers, then set up a multiple station.
- Keep iPads, iPhones or any other internet access devices in a central place. If you have multiple phones – place all the phones in a central location and give them distinctive tones so you know who is receiving a call. Do not permit the children to have the phone in their room except for phone calls.
- If you think your child needs a phone, do not give them one with internet capability.
- Place accountability programs on devices with internet capabilities. See my previous article about one such program.
Secondly, the problem with pornography on the internet is not technology. It is the human heart and that is what must be addressed with your child. With technology now such a part of our lives, you as a parent must teach your child how to use the internet for good purposes and to be suspicious of our sinful hearts and temptations to desires. See again the notes from my previous article from Bob Bevington’s talk and I will continue posting some articles on helping you and your child be victorious in this area.
(*You can check out my statistics resource and many more here.)