5 Things Youth Wish Their Parents Knew When Addressing Porn

A few posts ago, I mentioned a nonprofit I recently came across called Fight the New Drug. I am incredibly impressed by their approach to addressing pornography, especially with young people.

5 things pornIn February, Clay Olsen did a seminar that was filmed and posted on youtube (see above). If you are a parent, I highly recommend you watch the presentation. It presents a lot of great information about pornography. It also shares perspectives from young people who emailed in to Fight the New Drug about what they wish their parents knew when addressing this topic.

I talk to many parents and many young people about this topic and the five perspectives shared in this video are incredibly relevant and true. I thought I’d recap here:

1) Porn can lead to an actual addiction

This is probably one of the most important things I wish more people recognized. You can find multiple videos, articles and infographics on the Fight the New Drug website which clearly and simply demonstrate how pornography is addictive. One of my favorites is this video about how pornography affects the brain.

In his presentation, Clay points out that many addictive things have been normalized and were later found out as harmful. For example, cocaine was often used to heal different ailments. Later, we realized how harmful and addictive it is. Same with tobacco for young people. Porn is something that hasn’t been treated like it is a drug; it’s simply a “bad thing” and so it hasn’t been appropriately handled until more recently as something addictive.

One of Clay’s points in his presentation is that “just stop” is not the answer to stopping young people’s addiction to porn. Just like cocaine, heroine or alcohol, a pornography addiction needs more than just pure force of will to break. You can read a bit more about how to help break pornography addictions here. You can also go to resources like XXX Church, which is a whole organization focused on helping people break pornography addictions. Fight the New Drug is also in the process of developing a free, youth-centered program to help young people break free as well. You can read more about that here.

2) Porn today is different from when you were growing up

With the boom of the internet, pornography is literally everywhere. Personally, I think most parents get this, but often don’t recognize the severity of it. Here are a couple important points:

a) Porn is incredibly accessible: You may have needed to sneak a Playboy magazine or go to a movie store to get access to pornography. There were more barriers. Now, it’s literally accessible everywhere a young person goes.

b) Porn is affordable: There are a lot of free porn ads online specifically designed to lure people into becoming addicted to porn. I talked about this quite a bit in this blog post.

Clay says, “It’s no longer a question of if; it’s a question of when your child will be exposed to porn.”

3) Youth are being targeted by the porn industry

Going back to affordable and accessible, the porn industry is smart. They know that porn is addictive, so they specifically target young people because they can get a life-long client. It’s similar to how drug cartels get children addicted to drugs by adding cocaine to the sand in their playgrounds (see here).

Your child will be targeted through various avenues. Some of the most common are:

  • Innocent word searches – My first exposure to porn happened when I searched “Dreams” because I wanted to create a band website for my middle school band.
  • Ads – Literally everywhere. Facebook, iPhone games and apps, TV, and so forth.
  • Unsuspecting content – There are countless stories of kids who were playing a game or watching a video, even a cartoon, that eventually turned explicit.

Bottom line, don’t assume your children are seeking it out! They are most often being targeted. Yes, some young people do seek it out because they are curious, but most people I have talked to were not actively searching for anything sexual when they were exposed to porn. This is why it is SO important to talk with your children about this and help them realize that they may be targeted.

I loved Clay’s suggestion:

“Use teenage rebellion to rebel against the industry that is trying to control them.” (paraphrased)

4) You need to talk about it with them

The young people who wrote in to Fight the New Drug said they wished their parents had talked to them about porn and sex before they became exposed. They wished sex was a safe topic to talk about with their parents.

Because you love your children more than anyone in the world (and personally, I would lead with that!), you need to talk to them about sex and porn (and sexual violence). I know that you want them to grow up as healthy, vibrant young men and women. So get over the awkward and talk to them.

I talk to so many parents who say their kids just don’t want to talk about it. Well, yeah, especially if you’ve never talked about it before and all of a sudden you bring it up. Here are a couple thoughts I have:

1) You need to build a trusting relationship with your child outside of just this topic and any other major hard topics. This means you ask them questions and LISTEN to your children; not jump in with your view or opinion. Their is so much power in asking questions. So much power. Learning to ask questions in a way that is nonjudgmental, that demonstrates you truly care about your child’s opinion and thoughts speaks volumes to them. It demonstrates that you value them. And only when they feel loved and valued will they listen to what you have to say when it comes to a concern.

2) Solicit the help of younger (than you) mentors. All parents recognize that kids need other people in their life to also speak truth and encouragement. Sex, porn and relationships are great topics to encourage your children to talk to safe wise mentors about as well. When I look back at my 7th grade year going to my youth group, we had a youth pastor and his wife who were in their late 20s. They were incredibly open about the topic of sex. We could ask them anything. It was later amazing to see how that couple (I am pretty sure) impacted our sexuality for years to come. Our class was less engaged in sexual activity during high school than the class ahead and the class behind us. And I think that had some to do with the fact that we were able to be open and honest about sex with our mentors.

3) Have numerous conversations. One “birds and bees” conversation is not enough. It’s not. You need to have many conversations around sex, love, porn, etc. The more “normal” it is to talk about within the safety of your family, the better equipped you will be at helping your child if he or she does admit they struggle with a porn addiction.

4) Be gracious and calm. The worst thing you can do is freak out at your child when he or she exposes something to you. They will flee the situation as much as possible. I love my mom to death, but there were certain topics I avoided discussing with her because I knew she would become very emotional, and I always felt helpless in those moments. It was easier to avoid them all together. Later, near the end of my adolescence, something I did was exposed to my parents that I was sure would freak them out. But instead, my dad gathered me in his arms and just held me and said he loves me no matter what. That spoke volumes to me and healed a lot of the tension between me and my parents. Love will always speak to your child’s heart greater than anger or disappointment. 

5) Be an example. Your child will always look to you for the standard by which to measure their activity or thoughts or beliefs. You are a leader. The responsibility of a leader is to make “little yous.” Be a great leader and celebrate healthy sexuality, healthy relationships and stand up against sexual brokenness.

Many other thoughts, but I’ll quickly share the points from Clay:

  • Be educated – know the truth about porn, including the scientific elements
  • Teach them facts and family values – make sure you teach them the facts, not just the values. Without the facts, they will be incredibly confused by the industry that teaches the exact opposite of your values. Facts are less disputable. Values are obviously still important though, so they should go together.
  • Take time to talk, one-on-one in an environment where they are comfortable.

5) You’re part of the solution

The content behind this one is really covered in number 4. But to reemphasize, you can help your young person grow up to have a healthy perspective on sexuality and love. You can help your child overcome an addiction to pornography or sex. You are not powerless. You can make a difference. In fact, you probably can make the greatest difference in your child’s life when it comes to this topic.

I encourage you to read and watch more from Fight the New Drug. Their resources are incredible. Again, XXX Church is also a great resource as well.

Now, your turn. If you are a parent or youth mentor of some kind, what have you found helpful when talking to youth about sex or porn? If you’re a young person, what was helpful for you to hear? Or what was not helpful or what do you wish you would have heard or known?

Advertisements