Parents! Some Things You Need to Know About Technology and Pornography

//Parents! Some Things You Need to Know About Technology and Pornography

Parents! Some Things You Need to Know About Technology and Pornography

We understand pornography is not something that parents want to think about when it comes to their kids and what they may be doing online. But the truth is, we need to do much more than think about it. We need to take action against it in our homes as well as dialogue with our teens as statistically, if they’re over 12, they’ve already seen it.

Starting the conversation with our kids is one of the greatest places to begin.

Michelle Brock is co-founder of Hope for the Sold, a charity that fights exploitation through writing, speaking and film.

Their new documentary, Over18, educates us on the life of porn stars, the damage porn can cause, the growing epidemic of heavy porn exposure and the use and addiction that is happening amongst our children and youth.

After attending a screening of the documentary, we had more questions for the creators and we are so thankful that Michelle was willing to answer them for us, offering help and hope to parents on what we can do to minimize the risk to our children.

 

How bad is the problem of pornography among children and youth?

Here are some staggering stats:

[1.]

On average,

  • 9 out of 10 boys are exposed to pornography before the age of 18.
  • The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old, on average.
  • 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.
  • 28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to porn online.
  • 20% of 16-year-olds and 30% of 17-year-olds have received a sext.  

 

Why did you make this documentary, Over18?

A young man took me out for lunch and said “I’m a youth leader at my church. I’m working with thirty young men, and they all have porn addictions. We need your help.” So I started asking people: When was the first time you saw porn? How old were you? How did it make you feel? The majority of folks I’ve asked saw porn before 18. And in almost every case, they didn’t go looking for porn – porn found them.

 

What would you say, Michelle, to parents who are quick to think, “Not my kid. This isn’t happening in our home.”

Statistically speaking, 90% of boys and 60% of girls see porn before age 18. When we were making our film, we met a 13 year old boy whose porn addiction began when he was 9 years old. He lives in a small country town in rural Manitoba and is homeschooled by his parents. This is the “safest” environment imaginable, and yet he saw a pop-up on a video game site and followed the rabbit trails. If your kids have access to digital devices – or if they have friends who do – they are at risk.

 

In the film this 13-year-old boy calls himself a recovering addict. What’s your message to viewers through his story?

Jo’s message to viewers is that you don’t have to keep your porn addiction a secret. You can bring dark things into the light and deal with them. Our message to parents is that many of their kids are struggling, and there are things they can do to protect them from exposure and addiction to online graphic sexual content.

 

The documentary addresses the use of pornography by women too – that it’s not just a man’s issue. Do parents need to be concerned for their daughters just as much as their sons when it comes to porn addiction?

Absolutely. It’s important to note that the porn of today is not a stack of magazines under an uncle’s bed. Mainstream porn today is in video form online, and depicts scenes of violence and degradation. Choking, spitting, and multiple penetrations are considered average. The sexual templates of girls are being formed around violent and degrading content, teaching them to become aroused by violence. It also normalizes the demands that boys and men make of them. Porn is grooming girls for porn-star sex.

 

I love that you speak to grandparents. I don’t think it’s a common thought – that kids might be viewing porn in their grandparents home, but it makes sense as it might be a place where they aren’t monitored as closely or wi-fi doesn’t have security measures in place to block adult content. What word of advice would you give to grandparents when they have their grandkids in their home?

I saw porn for the first time at my grandparent’s house when I was 11. I was flipping through channels on their TV and came across one that was a bit fuzzy – they didn’t officially get that channel – but I could see enough that I knew I shouldn’t be watching it. They had no idea a channel like that reached their home TV and would be horrified if they knew what I’d seen.

Grandparents, become a student of the tech your grandkids are using, especially in your home. Reach out to someone who understands tech and ask them to give you a lesson. Have a conversation with your grandkids’ parents about what your collective strategy is for protection.

 

Because we’re living in a time where porn is so easily accessed, the conversation seems to be changing. It’s as though viewing pornography is now a ‘normal’ that we’re going to have to deal with our children about. What was once a shame-based conversation (if you see porn – you’re bad) now seems to be, “You’re going to see porn, so how are we going to deal with it?” Do you see that shift in conversation happening in families?

Yes, the shift is starting to happen, but it’s still too slow. There’s often an assumption that if your child is “a good kid,” they’re not looking at porn. Being “good” is not the metric to go by when it comes to falling prey to porn – curiosity is. When I was a kid and heard a dirty word on the playground at school, I had to borrow my dad’s dictionary to find out what it meant. Today, every child with even the most minimal online access can google a word they’re curious about and end up with a screen full of porn.

I often tell parents to take some time to grieve. Mourn the fact that your child will likely see porn or has already seen it. Mourn the reality that you have to parent in such a broken world. Process this with God, with your spouse, with your close friends – and then get to work.

Ask your kids non-threatening questions like, “Have you ever seen anything on the internet that made you feel uncomfortable?” Or tell them about the first time you saw porn. Instead of confronting them face-to-face, you can have these initial conversations side-to-side, while you’re driving, hiking, or shopping for example.

Make sure that your kids know they can come to you if they see something online.

 

What can parents do to help safeguard their homes, their wi-fi  and their kids devices?

On the tech side, some ideas to consider are options like Covenant Eyes, Open DNS, and Kids Wifi. Establishing boundaries is also key – maybe it means putting the computer in the living room or not allowing your kids to have their cell phone or other devices in their room during the night. Check your kids’ browsing histories and know their passwords.

Putting structural systems into place is key, but doing that alone is not enough. You must talk to your kids about the “why.” On the other hand, simply having the conversation and then letting your kids have free reign with their devices is not enough either. Having the porn talk and then giving your kid a cell phone would be like telling them that smoking causes cancer and then sticking a pack of cigarettes in their pocket.


We must fortify our kids externally, through tech and structural boundaries, and internally, through conversation and relationship.


 

When you look at the stats it seems very bleak and hopeless. Is there a message of hope in all of this?

Yes! We’re coming out of a “dark decade” where parents had no idea what was happening. This was coupled with a lack of research and adequate tools. Now we’re entering into an era of understanding when it comes to this issue, meaning that we can better equip our kids. There is a lot of hope in this.

Also, we’ve learned that the brain has neuroplasticity, meaning that it’s capable of learning new things and forging new pathways. This means there is hope for porn addicts. The Bible talks about not conforming any longer to the pattern of this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. (Romans 12:2) Scientific research is demonstrating this to be true – when we change the way we think and put systems into place to prevent us from going down that old, familiar road, there is hope for change.

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Hope for the Sold is working with legislation to pass a law that states that adult websites should be mandated to install meaningful age verification systems so that no one under the age of 18 can access this highly addictive material.

This new law would help protect our kids online and provide an easy and effective way for parents and caregivers to prevent their children from being exposed to pornography.

Find updated information on motion M-47 in Canada here.

Michelle and her team at Hope for the Sold have a number of resources on their website for teens and parents.

If you would like more information on how to host a screening of their documentary, Over18, in your community or at your church click here.

[1.]  Source for statistics: Covenanteyes.com/pornstats/

Pornography help from FamilyLife:

Pornography Resources for Parents

Guess What? Women Struggle with Porn, too.

Letter to My Porn-Addicted Self

Written by Michelle Brock

Michelle Brock

Michelle Brock is the co-founder of Hope for the Sold, an organization that fights exploitation through writing, speaking, and film. She is the co-director of Red Light Green Light, a documentary about sex trafficking, and Over 18, a documentary about pornography. When she’s not on the road with a project, she lives with her husband in Ontario. You can follow Hope for the Sold on Facebook.