5 ways to raise porn-resistant kids

It’s lockdown. Our kids’ screen time is way up. Supervision of screens is way down as parents try to juggle work, making meals, cleaning our homes, managing online or home schooling all while trying to make sense of the world and find a new normal. Teens, craving social interaction, spend hours on House Party and similar apps, while younger kids scroll through YouTube looking for new videos to watch.

Subsequently, what is also on the rise is online porn viewing, not only by bored, quarantined adults, but also by curious teens and unsuspecting children. We don’t like to talk about porn, but it is a thriving, growing industry which is devastating families and threatening the emotional health and sexual future of our children. 

So what can we do to help our kids and teens understand porn for what it is, minimize potential exposure and help prevent addiction? Well, loads, but for starters here are five tips to help you as a parent or caregiver intentionally raise a porn-resistant child:

#1 Know what you’re dealing with

Although around 89% of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 have a neutral or positive attitude towards porn, there is in reality, NOTHING neutral or positive about porn. It is feeding our young people a myriad of lies about the nature of sex. It is the antithesis of what sex was designed to be: healthy, beautiful intimacy between two consenting adults within a committed marriage.

Some disturbing stats:

  • Most porn is viewed by 14- to 17-year-old boys.
  • One third of all porn viewed in South Africa is viewed by women.
  • About 80% of porn is violent in nature and portrays women enjoy this violence.
  • One third of all divorces in the USA are attributed to porn.
  • It is fed by human trafficking and leads to addiction, depression and relational brokenness.
  • Children are intentionally targeted to get consumers addicted as young as possible.
  • The average age a child in South Africa sees porn for the first time is 11.
  • Porn addiction can happen in children as young as six (I have seen several cases of this).

So you see, it is important that we actively fight for the safety and wellness of our children, and that we start from a young age.

#2 External filters

There are numerous externals we can put in place to minimize the chance of our children being exposed to porn, or at least delay this significantly. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Use all electric devices in communal areas and never behind closed doors or after bedtime. When not in use, keep and charge electronic devices in a central space. Keep track of who has what device and when.
  • Set age-appropriate restrictions on all devices and apps. This is easy to do in the Apple Screentime settings, and can also be done within apps like Tik Tok. This is easy to do. Just google it and follow the instructions!
  • Use content filters like Qustodio. In South Africa you can do this through www.appsafe.co.za
  • Turn off “Search suggestions” on your web browsers. This is important because the difference between searching for “How to make brownies” and “How to make love” is just one word and one click!

#3 Internal filters

The greatest weapon in the fight against porn addiction lies within our children, in their own awareness of the dangers and their understanding of what healthy sexuality is. With this understanding, internal warning bells sound when someone shares an inappropriate image on social media, or asks for an explicit photograph. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Start conversations early. If your children have access to the internet you need to be talking to them about healthy sex and preparing them for what they may come across online. You can check out my books here for help with that!
  • With young children define porn in simple terms. In her book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Kristen A. Jenson gives this helpful definition you can use: “Bad pictures show the parts of our bodies covered by a swimsuit. These parts should be kept private.”
  • With older tweens and teens you can delve into more complex issues like addiction, human trafficking and objectification.

#4 Have a game plan

It is not a case of “if” our kids see porn but “when”. What will your child or teen do when this happens what will they do and how will you react? It is important that we are prepared ahead of time and know what to do.

  • What should your child do? A simple game plan to teach them is: TURN, RUN, TELL. First, turn off the screen (don’t delete – they need to show you). Second, get up and move away. Last, immediately tell a trusted adult.
  • And when your child comes to you, how should you respond? As much as you might be freaking out internally, it is important that you DON’T react in fear or shame. Instead, respond calmly and lovingly. You will need to help your child process the trauma of what they have experienced. www.imemovement.co.za has some great resources to help you with this.

#5 Stay connected

  • With younger kids we need to know exactly what they are watching. With older children and teens ask questions, check search histories and be present on their social media platforms. This is not a case of “invading their privacy” but of being an involved parent who is aware of their child’s social interactions and takes an active role in training them in the way they should go.
  • TALK to your kids about what they enjoy doing and watching online, what they think is appropriate and what they don’t like. Talk out of interest not to interrogate.
  • Be accessible and ready to discuss any topics your child is curious about. This will minimize their internet searching as you become and open and trusted source of information. This will also create a safe environment where your children can be open about their struggles.

In closing, this is a scary topic for all of us, and the idea of our children seeing porn is something we would rather not think about. But unfortunately we don’t have that luxury. Fortunately, however, these five simple steps can greatly reduce the chance of our children being exposed and becoming addicted to pornography. And, during this unprecedented time, the most important thing we can do is intentionally build deep family connections, ensuring our children feel secure in their identities and unconditionally loved in their homes. 

Stay safe, stay connected and keep chatting!

PS If you need more help, information or advice please feel free to book one of my online sessions.