FamilyLife Blog

Porn and Sextortion: What You (And Your Kids) Need to Know

by | Oct 19, 2021 | Building Connection, Healthy Parents, Media & Screen Time, Parenting

In an age when the majority of kids under 11 have smart phones, we must not be naive when it comes to pornography. In fact, it is no coincidence that the average age of first exposure to pornography is also age 11. And, get this: 22 per cent of online porn consumption by those under 18 are children under the age of 10! 

  • By the age of 18, 93 per cent of all boys and 62 per cent of all girls have seen porn
  • Nearly half view it regularly
  • Only 12 per cent of parents know

Now, imagine with me: a pretty girl begins following a teen boy on Instagram. She then slides into his DM (direct messaging) with a link to video chat. Not only does this pique his interest, he’s ripe for what comes next. 

Upon clicking the link, the girl shows up on video, nude. In an instant, his brain is captive to his desires, and he willingly responds to her instructions while watching her perform. And then — BAM! She flips the camera to reveal she’s caught him on video with his hands in his pants (pun intended). As if the shock and humiliation over what just transpired isn’t enough, she threatens to send the video to all his contacts if he doesn’t pay up.

According to one news report, scammers like this are raking in $100,000 monthly. Considering their panic at the thought of being found out, it is easy to understand that when boys and men get busted, they pay up — sometimes in excess of $2,000. But whether they pay or not, they are left full of fear and shame.

For the teens who this happens to — and research shows 1 in 5 have received sexual solicitations online — most feel like they can’t possibly tell their parents, or even their friends. Imagine how alone they must feel.

In the darkness of guilt and shame, any of us are easy prey for Satan. It is one of his best tactics: separating us from others and then capitalizing on our regret, cognitive distortions, and low self-worth as the means for sending us into depression and searching for relief. Often, this is how the downward spiral into mental health struggles begin. 

Parents, we must help our kids know we are safe, or we leave them vulnerable to attack.

One way to become safe is through normalizing taboo topics, such as pornography and sexting, by starting the conversation early and having it often. In an age-appropriate manner, we must talk about the dangers, the ploys, and what to do when they encounter porn. I say when and not if, because even with every safeguard in place, we cannot perfectly protect. But we can help them know what to do. 

Furthermore, restrictive measures like Internet filters are great for limiting access, but they are not foolproof and do nothing to address the heart. Scripture tells us “the heart is deceitful beyond understanding” (Jeremiah 17:9). This means our kids’ sin nature will betray even their best intentions to avoid temptation. Just as it is for us. 

Knowing this should help us relate to our kids in their sin, which is another way we become safe. Too often we respond to our kids’ sin by heaping more shame upon them instead of identifying with them and showing compassion. When this is true, why would our kids want to come to us? It makes sense for them to continue to do what’s natural to us all: stay hidden. 

When we talk freely and honestly about temptation and sin (including ours), our kids will be more likely to confide in us. If the adolescent or young adult who is caught off-guard by sextortion knows his parents’ absolute acceptance and grace-based approach to the reality of sin, he will be more inclined in his sin and shame to come to them. And in doing so, he might be spared from on-going self-condemnation and pervading shame. 

Therefore, as uncomfortable as it may feel to start conversations about pornography and sex, or as much as you worry that in doing so your kids will lose their innocence too young, the only one you are protecting is yourself — from temporary awkwardness.

But by entering into dialogue, you are giving a gift to your child that may spare him or her from wrestling alone with shame. And you may also spare yourself from later wrestling with regret after discovering what your child tried to hide that kept you from being able to help when he or she needed it most. 

Used with permission. Originally published on kristenhatton.com.