A couple months ago I hosted an episode of the At Home podcast where I talked about the dangers of pornography and why we need to work tirelessly to protect our children from it. I then wrote a blog post on the same subject. After the episode aired and the blog post was published, the responses came pouring in. To be honest, I was overwhelmed by them. I felt the weight of the stories people shared with me, and that weight was so heavy on my heart.
There were parents, compelled to check their children’s phones or devices, who then found porn. There were college girls who shared they were addicted to pornography, and many of their friends were too. There were marriages damaged or even broken by porn. And perhaps the hardest of all to hear, was the message from a wife who asked for prayer for her husband. He serves in law enforcement and investigates child pornography. Oh my heart ached for that man and what he must experience in order to protect children at risk.
So as I processed these stories, I kept researching. I’m reading books and articles, and trying to find out all I can about pornography, so that I can better convince parents that it is a tremendous threat to the life long health and well being of their children. I want parents to see how devious and clever the porn industry is, so that parents will recognize that putting a few restrictions on their kids phone isn’t enough. The porn industry wants your child to see pornography and then wants them to keep coming back to it again and again and again.
But more than anything, I want to help parents have conversations about pornography with their kids. I want to help them get over the awkward and uncomfortable and just make the conversations happen. And then keep happening. Because saying “porn is bad. Don’t look at it,” is not enough! We need to have a continuous conversation with our kids about sexuality in all its forms. Meaning, we need to warn them of the way pornography twists, perverts, and destroys sex. And then we need to share with them the beauty and wonder of sex, the way God created and designed it to be. I want so much for parents and kids to be able to have these conversations because I know that so much is at stake if they don’t.
I was made even more fully aware of that truth when I traveled to Texas a couple weeks ago to speak at a home school convention there. One of the talks I gave was on this subject of protecting our kids from pornography. Again I was struck by the depth of pain and suffering pornography has brought into people’s lives. Many stories shared had me in tears, and I’m still thinking of them now. I came away from the weekend feeling even more fired up to talk and share on this subject. Guys, I am ready to fight!
As I’ve thought at length over all the conversations I’ve had and messages I’ve received. I’ve asked myself, “what important things I need to take away from this? How can it be a help to others?’
I’ve come up with a few things I think are really important to talk about, and I’ve been working on writing about each one.
All of them are of equal importance, I think. But the one I want to talk about first feels especially relevant in light of a new channel just launched on the Snapchat app. This channel is wholly a porn channel, available to every single child who has the Snapchat app on their phone. Created by the magazine Cosmopolitan, and hosted by Snapchat, “Cosmo After Dark” was launched just last Friday, May 18th. Here’s how Cosmo describes it on their website: “We like to ask ourselves the important questions here at Cosmo, like: Can we turn your phone into the best sex toy ever? Enter Cosmo After Dark, our new Snapchat channel launching tonight. It's an X-rated weekly edition that goes live every Friday at 6 p.m. and is exclusively dedicated to all things hot and horny.”
Wow. So if your kid has snap chat on their phone or ipad, that is on there. And let me tell you, that description barely scratches the surface. Cosmo tries to make you think their new Snapchat channel is just about helping you have good sex. Its really a good thing. Nothing to worry about. But that’s what I mean when I say that the pornography industry is dangerous and deceptive. They want to to lull you into a false sense of safety here. Or to make you think you are overreacting. To make you believe you are an uptight prude because you don’t see this as just some harmless, helpful fun.
Wake up people! This is a gateway to hardcore pornography and you can’t block it from your kids’ phone as long as they have that app. I will spare you the hideous details of what Cosmo After Dark channel really has on it. But if you can safely read about it (don’t read if you have trigger issues) and need to know more, then I suggest you look at this article. And bravo to Chris McKenna for writing it.
But here’s the thing you need to know, Snapchat was already filled with porn. Do a simple google search for “snapchat and porn”. Don’t open any of the links! But you'll see just from the search results that pornography is rampant on Snapchat. So parents are, rightfully, up in arms about this new channel. But the truth is, they should have been up in arms a long time ago. They should never have let their kids on SnapChat in the first place. Its just that now Snapchat isn’t even trying to hide the porn thats all over their app.
Bottom line, you need to delete Snapchat from your kids phone. Yep. Get rid of that app because it is the perfect opportunity for the porn industry to prey on your children, suck them in, and begin destroying their lives.
You think I’m over the top? Did you know that when a young child sees pornography his brain has no way to process it? It therefore goes to the part of his brain where trauma is stored. Therapists explain that a young child seeing graphic pornography is akin to him being molested emotionally. The impact is that great on his young psyche.
So yes folks, I am going to be over the top. I am not going to tip toe around this any more and play nice. Its time for us parents to stand up and be willing to be different. I’m reading the book “The Tech-Wise Family’ right now. Its by Andy Crouch and I absolutely love what he says in the book about how we need to interact with technology in our families. Here’s what he says:
“There is a better way. It doesn’t require us to become Amish, entirely separating ourselves from the modern technological world, and it doesn’t require us to deny the real benefits that technology provides our families and our wider society. But let me be direct and honest: this better way is radical. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors aren’t making. It requires making choices that most of our neighbors in church aren’t making. Let me put it this way: you don’t have to become Amish, but you probably have to become closer to Amish than you think.” (The Tech-Wise Family pgs 28-29)
Become Amish! I can’t even tell you how much this made me laugh. But also want to stand up and pump my fist and yell, AMEN!!! I kind of did that, actually, except I was sitting in my car in a parking lot, so I didn’t stand up. But I sure did shout AMEN! Because that right there is truth.
We do have to be willing to be radical. If we truly want to protect our children from pornography, we have to be willing to be radically different from the rest of the world. Its the only way to give them a fighting chance now, and to help them protect themselves from porn once they leave our home.
You can start by deleting Snapchat.
But that is just one small way you can be a radical parent in the fight against pornography. Here are some other radical ideas. They might seem totally insane to you. I get that. But guess what? I am willing to be the crazy mom in this situation. I am willing to do what it takes to protect my kids from porn, and then to arm them for the fight so they can protect themselves down the road.
So take a look at the following list. I dare you to implement some, or all, of them in your family.
*Don't wait for your kid to become a teenager to discuss pornography. Start when they’re young. And give them tools to protect themselves. This is a great book to use.
*Create a radically different approach to technology use in your home when your kids are young, so that becomes their norm. It will make it so much easier when they get older. Make a plan now and enact it, so you don’t have to back track later.
*Build a community of parents around you who share the same ideas about porn protection so that your kids have friends who talk and play with each other, instead of hanging out on their phones together.
*Don’t let your kids use tablets or laptops with internet access unsupervised. We don’t own tablets in our home, but our kids do use our laptops. They only use them in the room with me, never alone. And they let me know ahead of time what they will be searching, and I decide if they need me to look with them.
*Make sure any smart phone, tablet, or tablet your child uses has restrictions on it. Take it one step further and install something like Net Nanny to really provide protection for your kids if they are online.
*Don’t get your kids a smart phone. Flip phones are a fantastic alternative if you need to be able to keep track of your kid or have them call you when they need a ride home. Flip phones do exist. You just have to look a bit harder for them.
*Or, if your kid wants something for music, audio books, or taking photos etc, give her an ipod. She will have no wifi outside your home, or no wifi at all unless you enable it. Put every stinking restriction on that iPod, or only turn on wifi while she downloads a book or a song. Then you turn that wifi off and she just has a device for listening to music or books and for taking pictures.
*Don’t let your kids have Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat (duh!) or any of the other social media accounts that have porn hidden in them, or provide opportunities for sending nudes or sexting, and are just a gateway to things your kids need nothing to do with.
*Don’t let your kids text members of the opposite sex on their own device. Wait WHAT?? Yep. I told you, we can’t be afraid to be radical. Here’s how we do it in our home. If you want to text to a boy or girl, use mom or dad’s phone. I know it sounds crazy. And at later date, my kids will all be able to text members of the opposite sex on their own devices. When they get one. But right now, they can just use mine. And guess what, if you enact this rule, your kids are way less likely to send or receive sexts. Just sayin.
*When friends or guests come visit your house, don't allow their phones or tablets in your children's bedrooms. You can invite them to leave their phones in a safe place in your living room or some other public part of your house. Then, if they want to use it or show your kids something on their device, they can do it out in the open, with you around. Not only does this offer a layer of protection from devices without restrictions or filters, but it also encourages real connecting between your kids and their friends. No one can get lost in their phone. They actually have to talk and play together!
*Don’t let your kids play video games. Oh man, I said it. We are a video game free family. And I have to tell you, its fantastic. If you can’t do a total break up with video games, at the very least, be extremely aware of what your kid is playing. If they’re playing a game with sexualized images of women, toss that game! Many video games objectify women and parents don’t even think about the messages their sons and daughters are absorbing from seeing those images over and over again.
*Don’t let your kid have headphones on constantly. How about making rules like,”we talk to each other in the car”, or “we talk to each other when we go grocery shopping”. I can’t tell you how sad I am when I see kids and parents living life side by side and never talking to one another.
*Communicate openly with other parents about your convictions in the area of pornography protection. That means asking what filters and restrictions are in place when your child goes to their home. And what access their children have to the internet. Because if their children have access, so do yours. You have to be willing to be uncomfortable in these conversations, because I guarantee, it will be uncomfortable sometimes.
*Don’t let your own struggles with pornography keep you from talking to your kids about it. Lets be real here, a lot of parents, dads and moms, watch pornography. Many don’t want to, but they struggle with the addictive qualities of pornography. But if that’s your story, it doesn’t have to be your kids’ story! Help them escape the trap you’re in and have a healthy relationship with sexuality.
Now I know that list feels heavy for some of you. This kind of radical approach to protecting your kids requires work form you. It means being available while they are online, it means not letting them zone out with video games or on their phones so you can zone out with yours. It means talking to each other. It means being brave enough to ask other parents, some who might not share your convictions, tough questions. It means standing out. Being radical is not the easy path. But I hope more and more of us parents are willing to make these sacrifices for out kids and their future health and happiness.
You might. also be asking, "how can I go backwards with my kids when so many of these things are already happening in our home?” I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers for you. I do know it will be hard. Thats why I urge parents to set radical boundaries up early. The sooner you create this norm in your family, the better. And the easier it will be to keep in place as they grow up.
But if you are already a ways down the road with your preteen or teen, I suggest you start by sitting down with them and tell them the facts about pornography. Let them listen to my podcast, or read the blog post with them. Read this book together. Give them the facts and then they might be better able to see why you so desperately need to protect them. Pornography is linked to the objectification of women, violent sex and rape, adultery, depression, suicide, sex trafficking and child pornography. That's the radical truth they need to know. As much as you don’t want to let them know those facts, they need to. Especially if they are going to have a fit when you hand them a flip phone.
Lastly, I know I threw a huge “don’t” list at you. I think everything on that list has value. And can go a long way in protecting our kids from the dangers of porn. But I also know that by simply saying “no” to our kids and never offering them something better, they might just drift back to all the things we said no to. Because that stuff is attractive. Its designed to pull them in.
In my next article, I will discuss the idea of giving our kids something better than pornography. Because if we really want them to say no to porn, we need to give them something to say yes to.
Now, are you ready to get radical with me? Please start by sharing this article with your spouse, family and friends. Talk about it together and discuss how you can work together to create a safe environment for your kids. After all, its going to take more than one parent working alone. We have to fight this battle as a unified army. But I am confidant that together, if we’re willing to be radical, we can make a difference. Let’s do this!