What to Do if You Discover that Your Children Are Viewing Pornography
Pornography use is extremely dangerous for children and teens, as it forms damaging expectations about sexuality, beauty, and women. Yet, it is very difficult for parents to protect their children from the dangers of pornography, and it can be devastating for parents to learn that their children are using pornography. In other articles, we present a thorough treatment of the dangers of pornography and the biblical response to the issue. Here, we provide some brief and effective steps to take if you discover that your children are using pornography. Because this is not the forum for lengthy counseling advice, we strongly encourage you to talk with a pastor or a Christian counselor about your child’s pornography use, as they can provide further help. We also recommend that you read some of the pieces on our website about pornography from a biblical perspective, to help you as you teach your children about God’s design for sexuality and the dangers of pornography.
Before moving into some practical tips for dealing with children who view pornography, it is necessary to be clear about what it means for your child to be viewing pornography. There is clearly a difference between unintended pornography exposure and frequent pornography use. Before making judgments and instituting punishments, it is important to initiate conversations with your children to determine their levels of exposure. This open communication will hopefully provide opportunities to talk with your children about sex, love, lust, and beauty, no matter their level of exposure.
1. Seek Wise Counsel & Help Your Child Develop Positive Mentor Relationships
If you find that your child has developed a pattern of viewing pornography, you should take action to provide wise counsel for both you and your child as you deal with this issue. Parents need counseling to help them deal with pornography use in an effective, biblical manner, and children need it to help fight the temptations to use pornography and to help teach them positive sexual values.
Contacting your pastor is an easy first step toward receiving professional help for your family. If you are more comfortable discussing your child’s pornography use with a Christian therapist, you may simply ask your pastor for a recommended local Christian therapist, without even mentioning the issue. (See Dr. Rebekah Land’s discussion on seeking Christian counseling for more information.) Whether you talk with a pastor or a therapist, it is very important that you seek wise counsel from a professional if you find that your children have been viewing pornography.
In addition to a formal counseling relationship, it may be useful for you to help your child develop accountability relationships with a mentor, such as a youth group leader, a family friend, or a relative. Your child may need another role model with whom he can discuss sexual temptations and spiritual and emotional issues. This should be a trusted person who will pray for your child, ask difficult questions, encourage him, and celebrate with him as he achieves victories.
2. Install Safeguards
Whether or not your children are using pornography, it is imperative that you implement safeguards to prevent pornographic content from invading your home. First and foremost, you should install comprehensive Internet filtering and parental control software on your home computer to prevent your children from accessing pornography, on purpose or on accident, while using the home computer. (Dr. Land recommends Bsecure software.) You should also install protections to block television programming that contains sexual images and language and screen movies, television shows, and other media for sexual “triggers.” Finally, you should place televisions and computers in open areas within your house, so that your children are not alone while they use the computer or watch television. These safeguards will not cure all the problems, but they will help limit exposure to sexual material and temptations to use pornography.
3. Teach Your Children about the Biblical Perspective on Sexuality
Whether you talk to them or not, your children are going to receive messages about sex. They will be bombarded with sexual images, sexual expectations, and sexual morality from the media, their friends, and the broader culture. Many of these sexual messages will encourage or prompt them to view pornography. Thus, it is vital for you to go on the offensive to teach them about the biblical perspective on sex, love, and beauty. In doing so, be sure to teach them both the positive and negative aspects of human sexuality. Teach them that God designed humans to be sexual beings, but God, knowing what is best for His creation, has particular guidelines for how we are to express ourselves sexually. Our Issues and Answers article on pornography provides a thorough discussion of biblical sexuality, detailing God’s design for us as sexual beings and how pornography distorts this design.
In order to effectively teach your children about the biblical perspective on sexuality and to help them resist the temptations of pornography, it is extremely important that you have open and honest conversations with your children about sex. In doing so, be sure to listen to their fears and struggles and react to their failures in a way that will promote repentance and positive development in the future. Don’t shy away from opportunities to teach them about biblical sexuality. Instead, be sure to maintain open lines of communication.
4. Help Your Children Develop Spiritually
While Internet filters, counseling, and communication will help your children navigate the temptations of pornography, you must remember that this is also a spiritual battle. Therefore, it is necessary to promote spiritual development and spiritual disciplines within your children. If your child does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, pray that the Holy Spirit would move in his life and that he would accept Jesus. If your child has committed his life to Christ, help him to grow spiritually through prayer, Bible meditation, and Scripture memory, as these disciplines can provide spiritual strength and encouragement and help your child resist temptation and submit to God’s design for his sexuality. In addition, if your child suffers from guilt or shame from using pornography in the past, a growing understanding of the Gospel can be freeing. As always, modeling these practices in your life and in your home will encourage the spiritual growth of your child and help combat the dangers of pornography.