Unplugging Pornography: Helping Your Teen Escape the Trap
- Thursday, March 05, 2009
Thanks for coming to Ichthus Festival again. Man, I love hearing you speak. I want to thank you for letting me come clean with you about my past. I still feel guilty a lot about all the stuff I’ve done. Like I said then, I’m the last person anyone would have guessed would be so deep into that junk [porn].
And you’re right. I can still remember so many of those pictures, even though it’s been months since I looked at porn. I’m gonna keep doing everything you told me to do. Thanks for letting me talk about it all and for just listening. ~ Name withheld
I get notes like this all the time. What’s encouraging is that the teens who write them are taking some strides in the right direction. What’s sad is that many teens are caught in the deadly snare of pornography and haven’t taken the first step toward freedom.
Pornography is everywhere. Statistics leave our heads spinning about how many pornographic sites are on the Web today, how many new porn sites go live every day, and how huge, powerful, and pervasive the pornographic video industry is. The revenue of the pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix, and EarthLink.1 And porn is only a click away. If you want it, you can find it quicker than quick. Even when you are not looking for it, porn can still find you. And once you’ve downloaded it into your mind’s hard drive, the harmful images can keep replaying over and over again.
Based on the widespread availability of pornography today, one might conclude that we as a society are increasingly accepting its presence as normal. And as a matter of fact, for some people, porn seems to be no big deal. For instance, The Barna Group reported that 29 percent of all born-again adults in the United States believe it is morally acceptable to view movies depicting explicit sexual behavior.2
I’d say these people are not facing the fact that porn is dangerous to the core. It sucks every bit of truth, contentment, honesty, character, loyalty, and reality out of the mind and soul of the one plugging into it.
Porn leaves people feeling hopeless, guilty, and ashamed. I know what I’m talking about. I communicate on a regular basis with teens who struggle with addiction to porn. And these are not oddball, sadistic, perverted teens but everyday, honor-roll, churchgoing, love-their-parents, striving-to-live-for-Jesus teens.
Who is hurt by pornography? While we often think of the porn industry as targeting only males, a recent study showed that the industry is targeting females as well. About one in three visitors to adult Web sites is female.3 That means your daughter is at risk just as your son is.
No teen today is immune to the possibility of falling into the trap of porn. It can happen quickly. It can happen unintentionally. It can happen to your teen. One study showed that a whopping 90 percent of all eight- to sixteen-year-olds had viewed pornography online—most inadvertently while doing homework.4
I often meet adults who can’t fathom how someone could get caught up in such filth as pornography. Even when some parents realize their son or daughter is addicted to porn, the Enemy has often won the fight by convincing them that they are helpless and ill equipped to help their teen. But the struggle with pornography isn’t different from the struggle with any other sin: Satan presents us with a dangerous, cleverly packaged lie that looks inviting. We are tempted. And temptation gives birth to sin.
Sin affects us all (see Romans 3:23). What sins are evident in your life? If your teen struggles with porn, let him know that he is not alone and that you understand the struggle, because you struggle with your own sins. Maybe you have even struggled with the specific sin of porn viewing, and therefore you can share in a very personal way what that struggle has been like and how you have achieved victory.
Certainly we cannot be passive about the problem of pornography. Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” So, parent, it’s time to act. It’s time to arm yourself with the necessary tools to wage this war alongside your teen.
Are you ready for this battle? It starts with learning more about what you’re up against.
How Porn Finds Your Teen
This is a problem: if your teen is online, porn will find him or her. For instance, a sophomore in college whom I met on the road last year told me that he had gotten hooked on Internet porn while in high school.
During his senior year, he was required to write a term paper on human anatomy for an advanced-placement biology class. One afternoon he was routinely surfing the Web, reading about the study of the human body. Innocently clicking on a link in search of images of the female anatomy, he suddenly saw a porn site appear. He quickly left the site.
But the more he sat in front of his computer, the more he thought about those images. Several minutes later, he found himself going back to check them out again…and again. Thus began a dark journey that lasted most of his senior year of high school.
One click. That’s all it takes.
I’ve had countless teens tell me that they have received inappropriate spam mail—unsolicited, commercial e-mail that often leads to a Web site, usually pornographic. Sometimes the initial spam messages appear innocuous, such as an invitation to check out a magazine subscription or some cartoons or jokes. Sometimes the advertisements are a bit racier.
I got one of these just yesterday on my cell phone. It said, “Hey, sexy, I saw your profile online and want to send you a few pics of me. Click this link below and let’s get to know each other.”
Whoever sent this spam got my e-mail address from somewhere. It may have been from a program that crawls the Web, searching for e-mail addresses. Or my address may have been sold to a company. Or it may have been from a program that searches for names on the Internet and randomly creates plausible e-mail addresses from the original name, hoping that one in a thousand will hit the mark.
Pornography is aggressive. Pornography seeks and destroys. It’s imperative that you know about the fight you are in against pornography.
The Trouble with Porn
What’s so harmful about looking at pornography? Isn’t it just a phase that all teens go through, particularly boys?
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As your teen begins to look at porn consistently, his or her view of the opposite sex will change. Eventually your teen will stop seeing people as God sees them and begin seeing them merely as a means by which desires can be fulfilled. Pornography turns other people into objects of lust.
If your teen dates, typically it will only be a matter of time before he or she becomes more physical with the dating partner. The fantasy world being downloaded into his or her mind will fight to turn itself into reality by encouraging your teen to use people to fulfill personal lusts. And as your son or daughter tries to act out the sexual behaviors seen online, the perceived need for self-gratification will damage not only your teen’s relationships during the dating years but also his or her relationship with a future mate.
Furthermore, as your teen dives deeper into the world of porn, his or her character will begin to be eroded, even destroyed. This isn’t my idea. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction.”
Teens are being greatly fooled if they believe they can casually check out porn and still live the lives God would have them live. If your son or daughter sows to please lust, destruction is soon to follow.
Dishonesty within this area of life will spill over into other areas of your teen’s life. Basically, as your teen gives Satan one area of life, it will only be a matter of time before the Enemy pursues and demands other areas as well.
What You Can Do?
If your teen is into porn, you don’t have time to waste. With every look and every image, your teen is going deeper and deeper into darkness.
The Enemy wants you to feel guilty. He wants you to question how this could have happened to your teen. He will work overtime to convince you that you have failed miserably. He wants to knock you down in the first round so you will crawl back to your corner, give up, and be defeated before you even decide to fight.
But Satan is a liar. Regardless of what has transpired to get you to this point, this battle can be won. Your teen doesn’t have to continue down this degrading path. First John 4:4 says, “My dear children, you come from God and belong to God. You have already won a big victory over those false teachers, for the Spirit in you is far stronger than anything in the world” (MSG). The One in you is greater than the deceiver in this world, and God can bring your son or daughter out of this place of darkness.
I have yet to counsel a teen struggling with porn who desired to continue struggling. Nobody wants to be enslaved to sin and remain on the road to destruction. Yet many who desire to escape from the bondage in which they are living have little knowledge of how to overcome its grip.
If your teen is struggling with porn, he or she will need your help. Here are eight vital steps to help your teen find freedom from the darkness.
1. Get to the Facts
It is essential that you talk with your teen about porn. If you don’t, who will?
Many parents talk about porn and sexuality with their teen but do it only indirectly. I say, don’t dance around the issue. Get right to the point. Be specific. Share with your teen the effects porn will have on his or her life.
Even if you do not suspect your teen is involved in porn, don’t wait to have such a talk. Remember, if your teen spends time online, it is inevitable that at some point he or she will be exposed to the raw, filthy, multibillion-dollar-a-year business of porn. If you have caught your teen in the act, at first your teen may deny that the struggle exists or try to minimize its effects on his or her life. It is critical that you explain to your teen that Satan is out to get him or her hooked. What an awesome moment this can be to strengthen your relationship with your teen and help your teen see you as someone who longs to protect him or her from harm!
2. Love the Teen; Hate the Sin
As you implement each of the following steps in your fight to defeat this darkness in your teen’s life, you will need to constantly remind your son or daughter that your love has not and will not change. Your teen needs to know that, though you disagree with his or her actions, your ultimate desire is to help your child defeat this addiction and be restored to a pure life. Every day, communicate to your teen that the sin is the thing you hate, not your teen.
3. Realize That a Promise Isn’t Enough
When your teen has been caught in the act, his or her first response may be to quickly apologize, plead for your forgiveness, and promise to never do it again. And yet, though your teen’s desire to repent may be genuine, it may be only a matter of time before the addiction wins him or her over again.
For a teen struggling with porn, a promise to change isn’t enough. You need to help your teen make the promise a reality.
4. Encourage Confession and Submission
Your son or daughter’s involvement in the world of sex, lies, and porn may be a shock to you. But it is not to God. God is aware of every filthy image that has ever been downloaded into your teen’s mind. And the best part is that He still loves your teen.
Jeremiah 29:11 says the Lord has a plan for each of us, a plan to prosper us and to give us hope and a future. The future of this plan often begins with confession (see 1 John 1:9). Lead your teen through a time of confession with God. Encourage your teen to be honest with God as he or she confesses mistakes and receives God’s forgiveness.
Your teen not only needs your consistent involvement, support, and accountability, but he or she also must be willing to submit future choices, actions, and thoughts to God. This could mean that for a while your teen commits to completely avoiding any access to the computer,
Internet, TV, or movies, and any form of entertainment that may tempt him or her to check out porn again.
God desires to be in complete control of your teen’s life. This can happen only as your teen chooses to submit to God each day. Temptation will be a daily battle for your teen. And so daily submission to God is the key to winning the battle.
Of course, you also have to take some practical steps to protect your teen from porn.
5. Take Inventory and Destroy
Consider the types of media outlets your teen has access to in the home: movies, satellite and cable TV, videos, music, the Internet. Consider what your teen watches and listens to. What influences do these media messages have, or have the potential to have, on your teen?
If you suspect or know that your teen is struggling with porn, remove the source from the home immediately. If this is a computer, make sure its location is in a high-traffic area in the home and that your teen never has access to it unless in your presence. If the source is a TV, it must go. If the source is magazines, they must go. No questions, no rationalizing—whatever it is, it must go!
This sounds strong, but remember, this is war. You cannot expect to defeat the enemy if the enemy still has access to your home. Of course, this purging of your home will not eliminate access to all the porn in the world. But by removing the immediate sources, you will be sending a strong message to your teen that you are prepared to take extreme measures to break the bondage in which he or she is living.
6. Develop a Strategy for the Future
It is unrealistic to think that just because you remove sources of temptation from the home, your teen will never again be tempted to use porn. So it’s important for you to develop a strategy for your teen, while both inside and outside the home, to help him or her avoid repeating an addictive behavior.
Because each teen’s situation, lifestyle, and personality is unique, there is no one strategy that will work for everyone. I recommend that you take some time with your spouse (if married) and outline a game plan before discussing it with your teen. That game plan should include, but not be limited to, the following:
Establishing a routine. Your teen needs to see the importance of a disciplined, routine schedule. The key here is not to isolate your teen from his daily activities, hobbies, and interests completely. But setting boundaries on what he or she can do will help your teen develop a greater sense of security.
Work to help your teen’s schedule stay full enough so that his or her mind remains occupied. Chores, sports, a part-time job, volunteering, and more can be helpful outlets.
Approving friendships. One teen told me that his mom and dad found out he was checking out porn at home, so they removed the computer from his room. Then he started checking it out at his best friend’s house.
Remember, your teen’s friends play a huge role in his or her decision making. Choosing friends who are in line with God’s will for your teen’s life is a critical step to overcoming the temptations to check out porn. First Corinthians 15:33 says, “Bad company corrupts good character.”
It is essential that your teen choose friends that push him or her toward God rather than ones that pull him or her away. Let your teen know that you will have debriefings about who your teen’s friends are and where he or she spends time.
Killing the lies. Satan often wins the porn war when he wins the war in your teen’s mind. Communicate to your teen that Satan will work to sell him or her such lies as these:
- “What’s the big deal? It’s just a naked picture. Besides, looking at porn is lot better than sleeping with someone.”
- “I’m so good in every other area of life. This is just my one issue.”
- “No one is going to know. And what harm will really come from it?”
- “I deserve this. I’ve had a really tough week.”
Communicating with your teen. If your teen has been checking out porn for some time, then it is highly probable that he or she will experience setbacks in separating from this darkness. The evil forces will pull out all their weapons to try to drive harmful desires deeper into your teen’s mind. The best way to control these moments is to have consistent times of communication with your teen. Regularly ask questions such as these:
- “How are you feeling about your struggle?”
- “Have you had any setbacks?”
- “What’s going on in your head?”
Let your teen see that you are serious about fighting with him or her against the Enemy in this area, no matter how long it takes.
Establishing goals. Develop a set of goals your teen strives to achieve. As he or she proves trustworthy, the teen will then be granted more freedom. Use this as an encouragement to help your teen see progress.
7. Get Your Teen into the Word
A key to killing the addiction to porn in the heart and mind of your teen rests in the teen’s own commitment to consistently spend time in God’s Word.
Help your teen find Scripture verses to memorize, carry in his or her wallet, or hang on a mirror or locker that will help your teen in a crisis moment. Relying on Scripture when faced with a temptation is exactly what Jesus did when He was tempted (see Matthew 4).
Continually encourage your teen to spend time with God, praying and reading the Bible.
8. Pray Like Crazy
The greatest strategy that you can implement to protect your teen from Satan’s lies about pornography (and everything else the Enemy throws at him or her) is prayer.
Prayer is your source of strength when the fight takes you into the eleventh round. Prayer is your greatest weapon against Satan’s ploys to get your teen to take a bite of the forbidden fruit. Prayer is the greatest “kaboom” you have against the Enemy. I don’t call prayer the Ultimate Power Stance for nothing.
Published March 9, 2009
This article is an adapted excerpt from Jeffrey Dean's book, The Fight of Your Life (Multnomah, 2009) Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Jeffrey Dean is the founder of Jeffrey Dean Ministries through which he speaks to more than 150,000 teens each year. He is an authority on teens and teen culture. The author of Watch This, This Is Me, and the One-Liner Wisdom books, Jeffrey lives in Nashville with his wife and family.
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