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They Have Access, But No Perspective: A post about your child and pornography.

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To continue the conversation started around pornography and sexuality we began with recent post,  “The Talk” Isn’t Enough, I wanted to share with you a few more thoughts.

Here are some reasons we need this conversation:

  • I’ve heard from middle school students who consistently encounter pornography at school through friends and on their own.  We need this conversation because students are truly being educated by the internet and not their parents or trusted sources.
  • I’ve counseled students who consume pornography almost daily, daily, or multiple times daily.  We need this conversation because they have access, but they have no perspective for what they are doing.
  • Recently, in our community we have had issues that I’m willing to wager, trace back to pornography on some level.  We need this conversation because pornography has real life consequences and we aren’t talking enough about those.
  • Recently, my wife and I had to talk about whether or not our elementary age child was exposed to pornography on the bus.  We need this conversation because the average age of first viewing pornography is 11 years old.

This is a real problem with real consequences.  We could spend significant time talking about this issue from a brain development perspective, a healthy sex life (both form and function) perspective, a justice perspective or the societal reasons we should be engaged in this conversation, or from an interpersonal relationship perspective.

This topic was recently the cover of Time magazine.  I still remember the first time I read this Huffington Post article, “What I Wish I Knew Before Watching Porn”  and started exploring the far reaching effects of pornography.  I’m thankful for the work of Fight the New Drug, particularly on the way porn affects society.  Even if you are a parent of young children or an empty nester, there are compelling reasons for us to all be involved in this conversation, though that’s not what today is about.

WHAT THIS IS ABOUT

I can promise you the students engaging with porn on a daily basis have no perspective of how they might be changing their brains or how they might be destroying their ability to sexually perform or how they might be contributing to the enslavement of young girls.  There are other things they don’t know as well.

“They don’t know the language of face to face contact…constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with the pace of relationships – relationships which build slowly.”

–Psychologist Philip Zimbardo, in article Sex Before Kissing

They have the access to porn, but they have no perspective for what they are dealing with.

However, this isn’t about those things today, (though I encourage you to look into them and educate yourself and educate your son or daughter).

This is about something different.

This is about what we were created for.

It’s about who you are.  It’s about who you are becoming.

This is about hope not fear.

Hope that no matter what darkness we encounter, the light of Jesus exposes and heals and renews and rebuilds.

In scripture, we understand that God created us for connection, intimacy, and relationship.  We see that God created sex and he called it good.  We see that God placed it in a context – “for this reason a man shall leave his family and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh”.

We understand that we are not just the sum of desires as culture sometimes tells us.  But we also see that we are human beings with sexual bodies even though the church and the family would, at times, like to ignore that fact.

PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES

Pornography mimics love, connection, intimacy, and relationship – things we were created for.  Porn has the ability to make us feel cared for and loved.  Porn can you give you a sense of control, when life feels uncertain.

They were created for what they might temporarily experience through consuming porn.  Porn is compelling and it is a huge money making industry because of this.

It’s not hard to imagine a students feeling alone, bored, disconnected in a world of social media showing us how we are missing out or not as loved/connected as our peers.

Essentially, they are longing for what they were created for and running to the false alternative.  It actually destroys and does harm, but for the moment they feel better.  It’s hard to say it this way, but if we are honest, porn is being willing to use someone else because we are feeling sad, disconnected, alone…

GIVE PERSPECTIVE

Again, they have access but very limited perspective.  Your role as a parent is to help give perspective.  Educate yourself and educate them on all the harmful effects of pornography, but I’ll warn you – fear doesn’t work.

You must give them something more compelling.

I recently read the story of a pastor who was secretly struggling with pornography for many years.  Here’s his response to how he overcame this secret life:

“The way to fight lust is to feed faith with the knowledge of an irresistibly glorious God.”

Give your students perspective.  Let them know how harmful it is.  Help them locate their feelings and understanding of their self in how we were created by God in the beginning.  But what might even be more compelling, is to help them see an “irresistibly glorious God”.

Just as much as we need to answer the question, “How do I protect my child?”, we should seek to answer the question, “How do I feed their faith and point them towards an irresistibly glorious God?”

If I might be so bold to guess, God would invite you to spend your energies in hopes and dreams as opposed to shrinking in fear.  My hope for today, is this conversation opens up the possibilities as opposed to creating fear.

Do not be afraid.

It’s scary stuff, but I have full confidence in an irresistibly glorious God.

Since we’ve been discussing this topic with the students in our group, many students have on their own challenged each other to go 40 days being porn free.  They are keeping themselves accountable, challenging each other, and seeking to live in the light.

Porn mimics love, but it doesn’t stand a chance against the real thing.

Friends, do not be afraid.  We have reason to hope.

 

 

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“The Talk” Isn’t Enough

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During a recent presentation to parents on the problems surrounding pornography (which I’ll be sharing more of in the weeks to come) a fellow presenter made this statement:

“Gone are the days of the one and done Talk.”

I want to tell you this is absolutely true.

The infamous “talk” about the birds and bees doesn’t work.

It can’t be one and done.  It must be something different.

  • Studies will tell you the number one voice that is educating our kids about sexuality is the internet.
  • The average age a child see pornography for the first time is 11 years old.
  • Social media has created unique situations for students to navigate that they aren’t equipped to handle.

By the time you get the courage to share “the talk”, your son or daughter might already have been educated.  The words you share are not being heard fresh, but being filtered through what they think they already know.

On the ground level working with adolescents, I can tell you that I’ve seen plenty to believe the above.  As a parent, I want to invite you to view this conversation differently.

Gone are the days of “the talk”.  Instead, “the talk” is an ongoing conversation.
A conversation starting as early as 2 years old!

HOW TO HAVE AN ONGOING CONVERSATION

You may have heard the analogy that kids brains are like sponges.  I haven’t researched this scientifically, but I think this is helpful.

Imagine that you wait to have “the talk” when they are 15.  As you begin to share, they are filtering everything you say through what they have already heard, seen, or experienced.  The internet, their friends, stories of sexting or taking pictures for your boyfriend/girlfriend have already been taking up space in their brain.  Your words are clashing against those and your son or daughter is trying to reconcile it all.

Now imagine you start when they are 2 and you share them the appropriate names of body parts.
As they move into elementary age, you start to share about appropriate boundaries and privacy.  You talk to them about what makes them who they are and it’s not just looks or what people see on the outside.
Late elementary and into middle school, you begin to start talking about sexual systems, how their body is changing, and relationships with the opposite sex.
As they are leaving middle school and entering high school, you have laid the ground work and you at this point – you engage.  You hear about something, you talk to them about it.  They ask you a question, you do your best to answer.  You continue all the conversations you’ve already had and you take it a step further.

Does this make you nervous, don’t be.  Remember their brains are like sponges, so…

Now when they hear the conversations or see things on the internet, they are filtering that against what you have already told them.  They are making decisions weighing the content of what you have already taught them and not just what they are seeing or hearing from friends and culture.  If their brain is a sponge, it’s already pretty full and doesn’t have much room for the other stuff.

SO…

  • When your middle school daughter is being asked over text to send a boy a picture of herself in her underwear, she understands boundaries and relationships and can make a better decision.
    (I’ve recently read articles where girls are sharing these photos not because of any sexual desire, but simply other social pressures.  Parents of sons and daughters let’s talk about this directly!)
  • When your son sees pornography, he is not internalizing – “this must be what sex is like”, but has heard from you what sex is and what a loving relationship is like.

Gone are the days of the one and done talk.  It’s time to get in the game.  Don’t be afraid.  You will want to hesitate, postpone, or save it for another day.

Don’t.

Go ahead and talk about it.

Your kids need you to.

 

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