So, I'm pretty sure that we have officially entered the busy season. And here's the thing: I know that many of you have been working hard...trying … Read the Post »
I suppose most kids have it… That place where they slip away…away from adult eyes and ears, and friends move into their space… A place where they’ll experience a little more freedom, and often a vulnerability. A little freedom and independence are important parts of growing up…But it is in this place that a few whispered words, or the flash of a photo on a screen might steal away a bit of a kid’s innocence. It might even change everything.
This place is different for every kid, I suppose. For some it might be the walk to the bus…Others it is recess. Maybe at a sleepover, or in the locker room.
For our ten year-old Luke who is homeschooled, and rarely away from the watchful eyes of his big brothers, that place is usually on the water. As he jumps on his surfboard and paddles away from the beach, he is often alongside other kids. Before he catches his first wave, Luke can easily learn a few new words and phrases.
Of course telling the kids that he isn’t interested only makes Luke more of a target.
I’m glad Luke still tells me these things, sometimes just wanting to know what this or that word even means. I hope he always does.
And I’m not shocked by any of this. Obviously it is nothing new. When I was young I remember boys bringing “girlie magazines” out to show off to their friends–something that they had snagged from under big brother’s mattress or from a stash in dad’s bathroom.
The biggest difference between then and now is that technology has made everything so much more accessible. We are all so connected to the internet, kids included, and pornography is literally “just a click away” as Josh McDowell’s campaign calls it.
So without putting our kids in a bubble, what can we do to protect their innocent young hearts? Sure, they’ll be exposed to things sooner or later, but if I have anything to say about it–I’ll take the much, much later.
Friends have told me that kids in our public schools pass porn around on their cell phones in the classroom. Statistics tell us that most boys are introduced to porn by age eleven. This makes me sick to my stomach.
But even if you don’t think your kid has dabbled in pornography, I am concerned that the road to get them there is a very slippery one indeed.
A recent hot topic during a surf session was a certain rented movie that a group of boys had watched, and how many vulgar scenes were in it. “So-and-so watched it at least thirty times,” they bragged to Luke. Over lunch that day, Luke told me what movie it was, so I looked it up on my phone and read the movie review…Then I almost choked on my sushi. It was a movie filled with filth and raunchy humor. The review labeled it a “Hard R” movie.
Hard R? You’ve got to be kidding. I am pretty certain that the PG-13 movies in theaters today are what “R” used to be. “R” is what “X” used to be. So “Hard R?” Dang.
Friends, you probably know this, but I’ve got to get this off my chest for anyone that may not know: One graphic sexual scene in a movie like this can trigger a place in a child’s brain that can lead to a lifetime of pornography addiction. Porn addictions destroy marriages and lives.
And it all really does begin with a simple look at a photo or video. Boys are especially vulnerable as their first experiences with sexual matter is known to give them a mental imprint for what they then seek in future sexual relationships. That one look can hook them like a drug, and change the course of their futures.
Boys who are exposed to porn grow up with a twisted view of women, and most often bring the filthy baggage into their marriages. And at the most extreme case we can look at pretty much every sexual criminal–who will say began their journey with pornography in their childhood or teenage years.
Protecting our kids, and teaching them how to protect themselves in the area of pornography should be one of our greatest responsibilities as parents.
Here are a just a few statistics that we should all be aware of: (though I studied many sites, most of these stats are coming from the Covenant Eyes site, which keeps very good up-to-date stats.)
**9 out of 10 boys are exposed to pornography during their teenage years.
**6 out of 10 girls are exposed to pornography during their teenage years.
**71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.
**15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography.
**39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.
**83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.
**69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online.
With technology only getting more and more accessible, this topic can get downright overwhelming. Media and pop-culture seems to want us to believe that pornography is normal, and even a laughing matter. But I know too much to laugh at this subject. And I do believe that there are things we can do to help prevent our kids from being brought down by pornography.
Some things we CAN DO as parents to help protect our kids!
1. Talk to your kids about issues, before they become an issue.
As soon as they are old enough to understand their “private parts,” you can have appropriate conversations with kids about protecting their own body, and also protecting their eyes. There are plenty of books which can help you with this, but making this open conversation at a young age is so important. In our family we start young with simple conversations about marriage, sex, and God’s design for it all.
2. Get filters!
Even though we haven’t had any issues with pop-up ads or kids stumbling on porn yet, we are in the process of getting a filter. Net Nanny and Covenant Eyes are two that have been recommended to us. It simply isn’t worth the risk, so I want all of our devices to be filtered. (please share in comments if you have a filter company that has worked well for you family!)
3. Make rules, and follow-through.
Our rule is that kids need to ask permission before watching a movie or playing a video game whether they are home or at a friend’s house. Kids need a lot of guidance, and help making wise choices–well into their teenage years. As I mentioned before, the ratings of movies has changed so much, it is worth taking the time to read reviews and find out about a movie before you let your kids watch it. (Plugged in is a great place to look for movie reviews.) Determine what your family rules are, and make sure there are consequences in place if your child breaks a rule. This is not an area to slack off in your parenting.
4. Have an open policy with checking cell phones and other devices.
I shared this in my Teenage Boy post, and except for one or two commenters (one who admitted to being a teenager, haha, :)) most people agreed this was a good idea. As long as a kid is legally in your care, this is a reasonable rule. Cell phones (and all internet-capable devices) are privileges, and the accountability of knowing that their parents might be checking on things will actually make a teenager feel more secure. In fact, telling their friends “My parents check my phone and computer,” might just help your kids avoid uncomfortable situations that they would rather not face!
5. Know where your kids are and what they’re doing.
You are never too busy to know what is going on with your own children. Get to know their friends. Meet their friend’s parents. Ask questions, and if you don’t feel good about anything, go with your gut. Make your own home a fun place for kids to gather, and set any boundaries you need to in order to protect your kids from being in environments where they are at risk of being exposed to bad influences.
6. Keep computers and other devices visible.
When our boys are on a computer, they need to be in a visible place. If they are in their bedroom, we face their desk so that we can see them from the door and we ask them to keep their door open. This is basic accountability. I have asked my boys to never “clear history” on a computer without asking me, and they know that I do a quick check occasionally to see what everyone has been browsing. This isn’t being uptight or a control freak–it is being a responsible parent.
6. Talk talk talk talk…
Have I mentioned communication? Oh good! Really: The more you bring up the uncomfortable stuff, the more comfortable your kids will be about talking to you! If they know that you actually have a clue what is going on, they’ll be much more likely to keep you in the loop on things. Direct your kids to helpful books and internet sites that will encourage purity and positive relationships. Help them find good friends, and healthy, fun things to do. Much of what I talk about in my post about Middle School and Teenage boys will be helpful in this area.
Feel free to share in comments if you have any other helpful resources or thoughts on this topic!
And as always–Pinning and sharing is the best way to make sure you friends will get a chance to read this too!