My Kids Have Looked at Porn! What Do I Do Now?

My Kids Have Looked at Porn! What Do I Do Now?

How Kids Can Get Hooked into Porn, and What Steps Parents Need to Take.

Parents are protective creatures. Healthy parents will guard and protect their children from just about any danger and harm. Kids are strapped into seat belts and constantly told not to run into the street. When they are older, they’ll listen to countless mini lectures on how to drive safely, how to stay away from drugs and to be home by 10:00.

But some dangers keep lurking along the edges of life. You can’t protect your children from every potential danger that’s out there. Even for the best of parents, “protective fatigue” sets in, resulting in reduced vigilance in areas that aren’t as visible as other dangers. When parents let down their guard—and we all do somewhere—it allows our children to walk through some doors that can do great harm and damage.

Pornography is one of those doors.

When a child or teen walks through that door, pornography can capture their minds and hearts almost in an instant, setting the stage for years to come of inner turmoil, a polluted mind, secretiveness, deceit and deeply broken sexuality. Porn warps their view of sexuality and relationships which can, years down the road, explode into the life of a dating relationship, marriage, family or vocation with destructive force.

Here is a fact: Almost every adult who struggles with sexually addictive behavior was introduced to porn at a young age. The sexual addictions that are sparked by pornography usage go on for years, unnoticed, hidden in secret by the struggler, with parents totally unaware.

Today, the technology of the Internet, cable TV, movies, Social Media and downloadable video entertainment is woven into the fabric of everyday life. Society is being transformed at every level by it. And like every thing man puts his hand to, it has both a good and bad side.

It’s the bad side which parents today are failing to notice, failing to address in a way that will protect their children. To give children unrestricted access to the Internet is like unleashing them alone in a large urban city to find their way around. No loving parent would do such a thing! But with media today, some parents are not realistically aware of the dangers (“My kids won’t do that stuff!”), while others are overwhelmed by technology they can’t seem to fully understand. On top of that, parents rarely bring the subject of sex up for discussion in the life of the family (except to say: “Don’t! Wait till you’re married”). This combination can leave children and teens ill-equipped to handle their emerging sexuality while being bombarded by a technology that puts sex in front of their eyes every chance it gets.

If you have discovered your child or teen has been looking at porn, the shock of the experience can be overwhelming. Some parents respond with anger and a hastily assembled response plan—they punish their child by temporarily removing his computer or mobile devices, and then “locking down” access to porn by installing parental filters. Maybe some brief discussions ensue about sex and what is right and wrong. Once the protective measures are in place, and the crisis begins to fade into the past, the feeling that the family is safe again takes hold. The family can then move on. Everything feels OK at this point.

But it’s not.

What has happened when you discover that your child or teen has looked at porn is not a singular incident that needs to be quickly addressed and then you move on. As devastating as it is to discover your child has looked at porn, now is the time to see this situation as a “gospel opportunity.” That is, see it as an opportunity to engage the heart of your child and not as a disturbing event that you will make sure doesn’t happen again.

Ps. 119:67 says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.” Affliction whether it comes by unexpected suffering or consequences from our own or someone else’s sin, is an opportunity to renew our relationship with God and learn to practically apply the gospel to our everyday lives.

What is a Redemptive, Healthy Response?

Control your anger

It’s OK to be angry when you discover your child has been looking at porn. But keep this in mind about your anger—direct it to the sin and not to your child. Direct it to the brokenness of this world and to the evil one who uses such material to corrupt and destroy. You also need to keep in mind the world in which your child or teen lives. They are being assaulted by this stuff. When you do that, you will be in a better position to constructively help your child, because you will understand the difficulty of trying to live a life of sexual integrity in a world that has gone sexually insane. You probably know this from your own life. Allow compassion that flows from understanding their struggle in this area to transform your anger, directing it to the real culprits, and allow God to comfort your own grieving heart as you work with your child at understanding what kept driving their behavior to porn.

Go after their heart, not their behavior

Whether you have discovered your child’s porn usage or whether your child has admitted it under questioning, work to stay calm and engage your child’s heart. Ask him questions not just about his porn usage, but about what was driving him to do this—How did it start? How did you feel about doing this? How long have you been looking at porn? What do you think about what you have been seeing? What were the occasions in which you felt drawn to look at porn? Inquire whether they can understand some of the “messages” that porn communicates and “teaches” (power, control, “false intimacy,” escape from stress, degradation of women and men, etc).

Your child or teen may not be fully able to comprehend why porn was able to have such a hold over him or her, but by asking heart-directed questions, you will be helping them to do valuable life-work, work they need to keep doing their entire life—that is, how to examine the motivations of their own heart, motivations which drive their behavior and which their behavior exposes. This is one of those “gospel opportunities” in the midst of this pain. Don’t just attempt to shut down access to porn as if that was the end of the matter. Your children need to learn that all of us do what we do for a reason, not just because we have access to it or stumble across it. If your response to the crisis is to re-direct the behavior through parental control, you will not be helping your child at all.

To engage your child’s heart teaches them something fundamental about themselves—They have longings for someone or something that will give them meaning and purpose for their life. Our longings drive our behavior, but our longings have been fundamentally broken by the fall of Adam. Now these desires are disordered and twisted. The deepest longings of our heart—what we were created for—are for love and relationships, first with God and then for others, and it is this “mechanism” of the heart that porn utilizes for its destructive work.

Our children need to be taught that longings or desires, corrupted by the fall, lead us to find fulfillment apart from God and His design (that’s what sin fundamentally is). Those longings, whether actually felt or not, are painful, and our behavior moves in the direction of soothing that pain. That’s where the desire to keep looking at porn originates. It’s meeting a need for (fill in the blank: escape from pain, comfort, power, intimacy, control, pleasure, confidence, relationship, etc), and until they understand the “need” underneath the porn usage, they will fill their hearts with it (even if you try to block it). Paul wrote in Romans 1, disordered, sinful living is the result of fallen hearts that “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Sexual sin is about active idolatry, where we all “exchange the truth of God for a lie” and live for something—anything—that can fill our desperate hearts instead of turning to God. Do you see how this event is not just about behavior? It’s much deeper than that.

By engaging them with questions and biblical teaching you will be communicating your love for them, a love that is strong enough to address their hearts and shepherd them through the difficulties of life. The chances are good that your child is struggling with shame and guilt over their behavior, and a loving, grace-filled approach will give them a flesh-and-blood taste of the love and grace that Christ gives to sinners. As you do this, direct your child to turn to Christ and ask for His forgiveness and for His grace and strength to handle his or her sexuality in a God-honoring way.

Keep a Discussion Going about Sex

Your child’s porn usage may open a door that you may not have fully opened. That door is discussing sexuality, about God’s design for it and about their own emerging sexuality as adolescents. Here is another “gospel opportunity” that can emerge from the brokenness.

Here is where you must teach your child about God’s design for sex; that it is good and created for our good, and that its expression is best displayed within the safe and healthy boundaries set by God. Acknowledge the difficulty everyone has—but especially adolescents—to live God-honoring lives of sexual integrity in a world of 24/7 sensuality. However, when honestly acknowledging the difficulty, give them hope that by clinging to Christ and His word, this is not something that is impossible.

One way it won’t be impossible is this—you will keep this conversation going. They need your shepherding to grow up well, and that includes being shepherded through the turbulent years of their sexual development. There is no such thing as having a one-time talk about sex and then sending them on their way. Pornography will have engaged your child’s heart about sex in significantly harmful ways, and you must be up to the task of guiding them toward the healing that comes from learning, understanding and following God’s wonderful design for sex.

Do not underestimate their need for you to talk about sex in healthy ways! Unless you talk about sex in its good and healthy aspects, your child will be left with conflicting messages—that sex is something that is engaged in but never talked about; that sex is shameful; that information about sex is secret. If you don’t keep talking about sex at opportune moments, your child will be left, alone, with all the memories and images of the porn they have seen. One of the insidious dangers of porn is to leave the person with volumes of images that pull and tug on the mind and heart, leaving the person with a greater desire to view more porn, and further distorting the way they think and act about sex.

Examine your own heart

Of course, if you are going to own your parental role of shepherding your child’s sexuality, then you must first be living within God’s design for it. You will not be able to help your child if you are engaging in porn or other out-of-bounds sexuality. Here is another “gospel opportunity” where the grace of God can surprise—He will use suffering and struggle in your own children to show you what you need to learn about your own relationship with Him. Now the opportunity afforded by this crisis is not just about your child, it includes you.

If your own sexual behavior is sinful, now is the time to draw near to Christ for His forgiveness and grace. You cannot lead someone where you are not first willing to go yourself. Accept his forgiveness and grow in His grace, and as you grow in this area of struggle you will find yourself being an honest and authentic help to your child.

Should you admit and confess your own struggle to your child? It depends. If he or she is young, it’s probably not wise. But if your child is an older teen, it may be a great opportunity to appropriately share some of your own struggles and the way you are finding grace and obedience in Christ. Our children can grow tremendously in the faith when they see their parents, not as perfect, but as persons who struggle like them, all the while grasping hold of Christ in their own walk of growing faithfulness and obedience.

Blocking the Doors

You also need to take steps to restrict Internet and media choices. The thing to keep in mind is that you can’t just put controls and filters on the family computer anymore. Families access the Internet through desktop computers, laptops, netbooks, tablets, smart phones, iPod Touches, Internet-enabled DVD players, cell phones, game consoles and Internet-connected TV’s. A good protection plan must encompass all these devices.

Don’t Let Up nor Give Up

Remember, this is not just a behavior issue to be fixed with controls. Though it is appropriate to be saddened that your child has seen and engaged in porn usage, at least you know it and can take steps to shepherd them forward. Most kids never get discovered or caught. They are the ones who wrestle most terribly with deeply entrenched sexual addictions. It is always God’s mercy when our sin is exposed!

Will your kids be in the clear once you engage their hearts, talk about God’s design for sex and “block the doors?” Yes and no. You will help them by doing all these things, but keep in mind that they remain sinners, like you, always prone toward moving away from God and His design and toward false gods and idols. Anticipate struggle and even failure at times. See these stumbles as further “gospel opportunities” to shepherd your child toward a deeper faith in Christ, for them and for you.

For a fuller treatment of this subject check out ‘iSnooping on Your Kid’ at our store.

Harvest USA
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