A while ago, a Christian couple we know caught their 14 year old son viewing porn on the family computer. Their response: to spank him, adding humiliation to shame. 

Recently, a father who discovered his son viewing porn wrote a letter that has been widely circulated on the internet. This dad took the “tolerant approach” going so far as to offer his son some “safe” porn sites.  

The responses above are extreme; both are damaging. The first will drive a boy into isolation and toward a secret addiction, while the other opens the door wide to sexual sin. 

How should parents respond when they catch their children viewing porn? 

First, we need to face reality. Today’s surveys show that:

  • The average age of first exposure to porn is ten. Some statistics say younger. 
  • 90% of eight to 16 year olds have viewed porn online.
  • 80% of 15 to 17 year olds have view hard core porn.
  • Four out of five 16 year olds regularly access porn online. 

Part of the problem is that many in the church are still living in the ostrich position.  Leadership doesn’t address sexual sin from the pulpit, and it’s not discussed in youth groups. We avoid it in the home; “there won’t be a problem in my house.”  

Then Junior, who’s more tech savvy than Mom and Dad, learns about porn from his peers, many who have smart phones with unrestricted internet access. Or maybe he stumbles onto the cache of his father’s porn on the family PC. With statistics showing that 50-60% of Christian men viewing porn, it’s not uncommon.

Then one day the child makes a mistake and his parents find out. If Mom and Dad are grounded in reality the chances are higher that they respond with wisdom and care. If not, a train wreck of confusion, miscommunication, and isolation is minutes away.  

Following is an approach to take when addressing porn with your family. We’ll begin with steps for preparation.  

Be proactive.

A lot of what the church does today is reactive; we wait until the building is half burned to the ground instead working to protect against a fire. Your child should hear about sex from you first, not his peers. In our pornified culture this may mean as young as age 8, depending on the maturity of the child. This doesn’t mean you need to dump the whole sex- talk truck-load on an eight year old, but at least consider the Hansel and Gretel approach of steadily feeding them a few crumbs over time. You should also discuss the dangers of porn with your children and what to do if they’re exposed to it.  

Set God’s standard for sex. 

God made sex for marriage only between one man and one woman. It’s nothing to be ashamed of; the Lord addresses it candidly throughout the Bible. Anything outside of marital sex is sin, can destroy your child’s life when he grows up, and will hurt those he loves. Discuss this plainly with him. 

Plan ahead

Long before your children are of the age where porn will be an issue, safeguards should be set in the home. This could be as radical as doing away with the TV, or not having cable. Every computer should have a porn blocking solution installed. 

When appropriate, share your story.

As your child matures, consider discussing your past struggles with lust or porn.  This will open new doors in your relationship, show your kids you’re human, and cut the lust-monster down to size when they see that God has made you an overcomer. An appropriate age for such a disclosure might be the teen years, should you decide to go through with it.