Six Dangers to Teach Your Kids About Porn

Porn is everywhere on the internet. Everywhere. Type just about any word in a search engine and the chances are good you’ll strike something sexual. The links to pornographic posts, images, and videos are embedded in this medium.

The impact this has on your kids is devastating. Two forces are at work to make avoiding porn next to impossible.

First, its accessibility. Because of technology, we are awash in 24/7 anonymous and accessible pornography. We’ve gone from the public realm of convenience stores and adult bookstores, to the anonymity of computers, to the instant accessibility of mobile devices. We now carry around the entire contents of an adult bookstore in our pocket.

Second, we live in a culture of hyper-sexuality. It’s the air we breathe. We are increasingly deadening our sensitivity to the biblical boundaries that actually protect what is good about sex. Many people (including Christians!) say, “There’s just nothing we can do about it,” or even, “What’s the big deal?”

Here’s the big deal: Porn is a worldview, and like any worldview, it becomes a set of “lenses” through which we look at the world, interpret what we see, and then live it out. Porn teaches a destructive message about sex, human relationships, and what life is all about.

Christians have long been in the forefront of sounding the alarm about the effects of pornography on children, marriages, and relationships. But now even those outside the church are seeing what is happening and are reacting with concern.

Pornography is not a harmless, private activity. It is one of the major engines fueling the demand for sexual exploitation in all its forms. 

The June 2018 issue of Philadelphia Magazine featured an article on Al Vernacchio, a sex education teacher in the Philly suburbs, who teaches a popular high school class about “porn literacy.” Here’s how the article describes his class: “The emerging subject is exactly what it sounds like: It’s grounded in the understanding that kids (whether we like it or not) are watching porn, and that we need to provide them with the critical thinking necessary to understand its messages.” Vernacchio clearly recognizes the reality of porn in the lives of students.

While Vernacchio isn’t telling his students not to look at porn, he does talk with them about the harm it can do. “Is porn harming our culture? Yeah, I think it is…and we have to find ways to stop that harm.”

As parents are the chief disciplers of their children, we have to start—and continue to have—age-appropriate discussions about how viewing pornography will harm them deeply and profoundly. But first, we need to keep the conversation centered on this point: Christians do not have a negative view of sex. The Bible is extremely positive about sex and sexuality when expressed within God’s wise boundary lines. God created it for us, and God knows how it should best be used. Walls are for protection, and God wants us to enjoy his gift of sex and sexuality. When sex is used properly, individual lives and a whole society flourishes.

But something so profoundly good is incredibly powerful. The Bible acknowledges the fact that sex can be dangerous. Dangerous when it is misused; dangerous when it is out of control in one’s life. There are victims when sex is used wrongly.

Here are the six messages your kids need to hear about the dangers of porn.

ONE: It teaches a false view of sex and relationships.

Porn turns real people into fantasy objects to be used for my needs. It objectifies and demeans. Whole people are deconstructed into body parts, commodities to be used and discarded. On to the next encounter!

Porn teaches that the sexual act is what most matters, not building a loving relationship with the person.

Porn teaches radical self-centeredness—the images or video caters to you; feeding the lie that people exist to serve your wants and desires. You begin to live more and more in a fantasy world—but the tragedy is the more you spend time online, the lonelier you become in real life. Porn becomes a substitute for real relationships.

You cannot immerse yourself in this stuff and not have it affect you in some broken way.

Sex was designed for real relationships, but relationships take work, and the work of a good relationship takes years. Love is about giving, not getting. And sex is merely a part of it. While important in marriage, it is just one of many parts that work together to slowly shape a life and a relationship into something beautiful. Porn doesn’t teach that.

TWO: Porn slowly drains vitality out of reality—and can lead to addictive behavior.

Here’s something that is universal: My life, your life, is never entirely what we hoped it would be. We live in a fallen world that dashes our dreams and gives us “thorns and thistles,” bringing suffering and hardship into our lives.

Sex involves the release of powerful brain chemicals that trigger intense pleasure. In many ways, we are wired to seek pleasure, even when our minds say it might be harmful. That’s what happens when people become addicted to substances, even though they know they’re destroying them.

Engaging in porn, with its objective of sexual release and pleasure, triggers the same “reward/pleasure centers” of the brain. As porn use increases, the mind and heart keep looking for a greater “high.” Like drugs, there are “diminishing returns.” You need more and more to get from it what you did at the beginning. This leads to greater depravity.

Our children need to know that viewing porn can be just a step away from enslavement. At Harvest USA, we see men and women who have lost years of their life to compulsive porn use, while losing spouses, friends, careers, and sometimes even faith. What the world proclaims as sexual freedom, the Bible knows as slavery.

THREE: Porn disconnects sex from love and respect and encourages aggression and abuse.

A great deal of porn is filled with images of aggression and violence—especially toward women. I’m not saying that all porn does this. But it is terribly easy to find violent and demeaning images online.

Vernacchio’s class is learning this. “While there’s little definitive cause-and-effect research on adolescents and porn… studies have shown that kids are often first exposed to porn—some of it depicting violent or criminal behavior—in their early teens. And analysis has correlated pornography usage with sexual aggression…”

Vernacchio, when asked what he thinks kids learn from porn, goes on to say, “They learn that men are supposed to be sexually aggressive…They learn that women are objects. They learn that in the absence of consent, you don’t need a clear ‘yes.’ They learn that sex doesn’t require communication.”

Think about college campuses, where youth and sex and alcohol mix in dangerous combinations. Then think about the amount of pornography being consumed by young men in particular. Having grown up in an online world, they have been consumers of porn for more than a decade. You cannot immerse yourself in this stuff and not have it affect you in some broken way.

FOUR: Porn teaches a lifestyle of lies and deceit.

Children will get this point because they’ve been doing it almost since they entered the world: hiding sinful behavior. The person looking at porn will cover his tracks. It may not be “active” lying, but over time you’ll be living a double life. And  making sure you keep that part of your life hidden takes work! You can never really relax and be yourself, because the secrecy of your behavior—and the isolation secrecy breeds— makes that impossible. Keeping a part of yourself hidden is tiring, deeply unsettling, and intensifies shame.

Porn teaches that the sexual act is what most matters, not building a loving relationship with the person.

As a Christian, guilt and shame will dog your footsteps. And if you one day stop feeling guilty and shamed, then you are in a worse place—because you will have seared your conscience.

Ultimately, you’ll be playing games with God. You will feel profoundly unsettled in your walk with God. You’ll work hard to look good on the outside, all the while hiding what’s on the inside.

Many in the world will argue for moderation in using porn (even for teens) so that honesty is not compromised, but we need to see porn for what it is: poison. A destroyer of relationships, and the first relationship impacted is our relationship with God. The porn user who thinks it’s “no big deal” needs to face what Jesus said about lust (Matthew 5:27-28).

FIVE: Porn normalizes perversity and diminishes human dignity. 

There is a general pattern of behavior for the porn user.  The law of “diminishing returns” results in looking at edgier and more extreme images, thereby normalizing perversions. Perversity in pornography knows no bounds. Especially child pornography. Porn’s ugliest underbelly is its ability to push perversity to previously unimagined levels.

We have reached a point where we are no longer shocked by what we see. Paul’s encouragement to focus on “whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely…” (Philippians 4:8) is a crucial discipline to teach to our kids. Porn obliterates that, and it takes years to empty the mind of images after exposure.

SIX: Porn makes you participate in abuse and global injustice. 

Pornography is not a harmless, private activity. It is one of the major engines fueling the demand for sexual exploitation in all its forms.

Our children must know that many involved in the pornography industry come from abused and broken backgrounds. Not all of them. Sadly, pornography is seen by some women as an opportunity for a higher paying job.

But in the entire process, from filming to production to posting and distribution, people are used and exploited—including the consumer. In the complex web of sexual distortions that pornography weaves among its viewers, the dignity of men and women made in the image of God is increasingly defaced. Viewing it, engaging in it, contributes to the entire system of broken sexuality throughout the world.

There is one more thing, however, beyond these six points that should undergird everything we say to our kids.

In talking about sex and the dangers of pornography, morality is not the main objective. We have to connect what we say to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul puts it perfectly in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him, who, for their sake, died and was raised.”

The motive for sexual faithfulness is rooted not simply in achieving good morality but in a vital, trusting relationship with Jesus Christ. To magnify him is the ultimate goal of our talking to our kids about sex, and seeing them grow up to follow him from the heart in this powerful area of life.

This blog post also appears in our Fall 2018 harvestusa magazine, along with other articles for parents and families.
Nicholas Black
About The Author
Nicholas Black is the Program Resources Director for Harvest USA. Along with being part of the teaching staff, he oversees the writing and editing of all Harvest USA publications. Prior to joining Harvest USA, he was the Shepherding and Children’s Pastor at New Life Presbyterian Church, Glenside, PA for 14 years. He is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). He is married to Nancy, and is father to two adult children.

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