Parenting Help

Helping Your Son Escape Porn

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4 Ways Parents Can Be Proactive about Porn Prevention
(that work better than mere screen limits and porn filters)
Jonathan McKee

If your son doesn’t live in a cave (a cave without a Wi-Fi signal, I might add), he’s going to encounter porn. It’s not if… it’s when.

The average age a kid first encounters porn is at age 13, and that’s just the average. Some kids see porn as early as 5-years-old.

I first saw it when I was 8.

That’s the intriguing thing about porn. Sexual promiscuity and pornography are nothing new. When I was a kid we knew which friends’ dads had a Playboy magazine hidden in dresser drawers, we knew which Quicki-marts had Penthouse Magazine within grasp, but with every one of those temptations I had to actually leave my house to access it. You see. . .when I was a kid porn was definitely available, but never so accessible!

And that’s the problem with porn today: increased accessibility and decreased accountability. With increased accessibility (porn is just a click away from every device we own) and decreased accountability (these devices follow us everywhere, even the privacy of our bedrooms) porn has become a huge battle for young people. In fact, 41% of 13-24-year-old practicing Christian males seek out porn at least once or twice a month (and 72% of males who don’t identify as Christian).

The pressing question is—how can moms and dads actually help a generation of young people plagued by porn?

This is where our typical first response is to limit screen time and implement every internet filter available. Not a bad idea, but by far not the best practice.

The Best Practice
Read that previous sentence again carefully. Not the “best” practice. I’m not knocking screen time and porn filters. I’m actually a huge advocate of helpful boundaries like delaying phone ownership, limiting screen time, and using parental controls to block harmful content (which are probably the most pressing issues parents ask me about). But these “boundaries” are only effective when parents supplement these limits with meaningful conversations and “bonding” time.

Yes, I’m telling you that porn filters are impotent without conversations about sex.

I know, I know… I can hear it now. “But I don’t want to bring up sex and get them thinking about it!”

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to bring it up. The world brings it up all the time. The only thing you have to do is stop dodging the conversation.

Don’t take my word for it. Consider the opening words from media experts Common Sense Media in their recent article, 5 Ways to Block Porn from Your Kids Devices:

You can set all the blockers, filters, and parental controls in the universe, and not only will your kids still see porn, you still have to talk to them about what porn is, why it exists, and why it’s not for them. In fact, using tech tools to limit adult content works best when combined with conversations that convey your values about love, sexuality, and relationships.

In other words, even if you have every filter imaginable in your home, what’s to stop your kid’s friend from walking up to him at school and saying, “Check this out.”

Filters can be helpful, but by far the best protection against porn is a parent who proactively provides them with a greater understanding of the big picture. When we teach our kids truth, they’ll be better equipped to recognize lies.

In a world where 89% of teenagers have smartphones in their pocket, 97% are on social media, and young people have easy access to a steady-stream of lies, our kids need parents who are willing to teach them truth. So here are 4 ways moms and dads can open up the doors of dialogue about sex and intimacy and help their kids recognize cheap imitations:

4 Ways to Transform “The Talk” into Comfortable Continual Conversations:

1. Become a “safe” source on the subject
And by this I mean… don’t freak out! Just ask yourself, would your kids feel safe to approach you if it’s a subject that tends to make you “go off” on a rant? Probably not. Sadly, some parents unintendingly create a climate of shame about sex or when their kids make mistakes in this area (and “shaming” has 4 unintended results). The more I read about Jesus, the more I am absolutely captivated with the way he responded to sinners in grace and truth: grace because he didn’t condemn them for their shortcomings, and truth because he was never afraid to dialogue with them about God’s love for them and how he could deliver them from their past mistakes. Sinners actually sought out Jesus because of his posture of love. Do your kids seek you out?

2. Keep your eyes open for tastes of truth
If you ever encounter a moment in entertainment media or an article revealing truth, highlight it or read a quick excerpt over dinner and ask your kids what they think? For example, Time Magazine’s cover story titled Porn: Why young men who grew up with Internet porn are becoming advocates for turning it off, an eye-opening article unveiling many of the unforeseen consequences of porn. Young people are used to hearing voices in entertainment media say porn is no big deal. Don’t be afraid to highlight sources showing the truth on the matter, reputable studies—like this one from Psychology Today about four ways porn causes problems. Or maybe even this YouTube video from former NFL star and actor Terry Crews opening up about his porn addiction and encouraging other strugglers to get help. Subscribe to free online resources—like The Source for Parents “Parenting Help” article you’re reading right now—that put resources like this in your hands.

3. Use resources that provide discussion questions
When you carve out some time with your son to talk with him specifically about God’s amazing design for sex and how porn falls short of that design, don’t be afraid to use a ready-made resource that talks to your kid specifically about this subject, like my brand new book, The Guy’s Guide to Four Battles Every Young Man Must Face, tackling the four biggest distractions young men will face: sexual temptation, screens, substances and struggles with self-esteem. Books like this have discussion questions so you can dialogue with your son about each chapter over breakfast or French fries. In fact…

4. Create a special weekly connection time where these conversations can take place
Start by entering their world and finding a setting they enjoy where conversation takes place. If they love video games, then make Thursday night guys-game-night where you play with your son and then grab some fun food afterwards. Put this weekly time in your calendar and make it a priority. The more you enter their world, the more they’ll engage in conversation.

All four of these ideas can help you create a climate of continual conversation about God’s design for sex. Our kids are going to encounter sexually-charged messages and imagery far more than they should. Make sure you do everything possible so your kids know the whole truth as they are exposed to these lies.

HELPFUL RESOURCES HELPING TEENS FACE TEMPTATIONS ON THEIR SCREENS:
YouTube video of Jonathan speaking at a recent Summit Ministries simulcast, Helping Teens Become Wise with Their Screens

The Guy’s Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face, by Jonathan McKee

The Teen’s Guide to Social Media and Mobile Devices, by Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee’sParent Tipspodcast Episode 7: How to Help Teenagers Fight Pornography

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Jonathan McKee

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Guy's Guide to FOUR BATTLES Every Young Man Must Face; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; If I Had a Parenting Do Over; and the Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.

3 Comments

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