LAKELAND, Fla. (BP) — The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography for a male is 10 to 11 years old. Nine out of 10 children between the ages of 8 and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. In most cases the pornography website was accessed unintentionally, but it still has a detrimental effect.
As part of the Join 1 Million Men movement (www.join1millonmen.org) to counter the plague of pornography, we are challenging fathers and mothers to be proactive in addressing the issue with their sons.
Obviously a parent must do everything possible to try to prevent a child from seeing pornography. When you consider a child’s curiosity and the pervasive presence of pornography on the Internet, the temptation is great.
What can you do to prevent your son from being exposed to pornography? What can you do if it has already happened? Here are 10 steps a parent can take:
1. Install Internet filtering and accountability software on each computer in your home. Both are necessary. One type of software screens for inappropriate content and the other informs a parent of Internet activity. Parents, this is a have-to investment. Covenant Eyes is among the best along with Safe Eyes and X3Watch.
2. Talk with your son about the dangers of pornography and let him know you are installing the software and why. Communicate with him that pornography harms innocent people and is a sin to look at because it creates temptations to think and act in ways that are against God.
3. Ask your son if he has been exposed to pornography. Assure him you won’t be angry if he says yes. You need to discover how it happened.
4. If you have not had “the talk” with him about sex, it’s now time. I would encourage you to do this by age 8 or 9 depending on the personality of your child. You do not want your son learning the facts of life from Internet pornography. The subject of sex is every parent’s responsibility.
5. Explain to him the dangers of pornography and how it is very displeasing to God. As a follower of Jesus, remind him that God gave sex as a gift only to those who are married. Inform him that pornography goes against everything God wants. Let him know that intentionally viewing pornography is a sin.
6. Set specific Internet-use boundaries. If your son is younger, there should be specific times when he is allowed to use the Internet and times when he should not. Parents, you control those times. Obviously when your son is a teenager you have to set age-appropriate boundaries. Reinforce to your son that you will see the history of what he has viewed. Teach him to never -– ever — give out personal information on the Internet. Remind him that there are people who would do him harm. You cannot be too careful here. Have specific rules for social networks that you as parents agree upon and clearly define to your son.
7. If your son accidentally sees a pornographic image, he is to come and tell you immediately. Assure him he won’t get in trouble, except if he sees an image and doesn’t report it.
8. If there is any pornography in your home, destroy it immediately. In addition to the fact that no Christian should have pornography in his or her possession, your child will find it if you have it anywhere. Also, cancel premium cable television and set clear boundaries on what is acceptable and inappropriate to watch.
9. Create a “You-can-ask-me-anything” atmosphere. Let your child know you will always be willing to discuss sexual issues. Work at making him comfortable about discussing sex.
10. Talk with your son about how to respond if he is at a friend’s house and pornography is there. Coach him to walk out of the room and call you. It is vital that you help your son choose friends whose parents share your core values, but also be prepared if he does see pornography while visiting a friend.
Dad and Mom, you are the guardians, the gatekeepers, the boundary-setters, the rule-makers and the rule-enforcers. When it comes to protecting your son against Internet pornography, a proactive plan is essential. Begin today by encouraging your son to join the 1 Million Men movement. Better yet, Dad, make the commitment with him and, Mom, commit to praying for your husband and son and for at least 1 million men in churches to commit to pornography-free lives.
Jay Dennis is pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla, and founder of Join 1 Million Men (www.join1millionmen.org), a movement challenging 1 million Christian men to commit to living a pornography free-life and challenging 1 million Christian women to pray for 1 million Christian men to live pornography-free lives. For earlier Baptist Press reports, click here and here. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).