“Hey, what are y’all doing?”
I asked my classmates as they tried (unsuccessfully) to hide the magazines they were looking at. I was at the Peabody Mall in Memphis, TN. You remember malls, right? My 5th grade class was awarded a field trip, and on that trip I discovered a vice that has haunted me ever since.
My friends had discovered the p_rn section of magazines at Tower records. I don’t remember who thrust the magazine into my hands, but it didn’t matter. I was captivated. Page after page of naked women committing shameless sexual acts. I had never seen a naked woman before and was completely unfamiliar with the female anatomy. I had no idea what sex was, other than “it’s what grown folks do when they’re married.” My mind couldn’t comprehend what was going on on every page, but I liked it…and I wanted more of it. I could have stared at that magazine for days. Eventually one of the employees broke up the rabble of googly eyed preteens, and we were forced to escape.
But the damage had already been done. I was eleven years old, and addicted.
In the years that followed my friends and I dialed 1-800 numbers, stayed up late to watch HBO and “skinemax”, visited online chatrooms, and watched the “fuzzy” channels unavailable without payperview. We struck gold when a friend discovered a stash of VHS tapes in his father’s bedroom closet.
Those tapes were passed around my Christian middle school like a beach ball at a Nickelback concert. (10pts if you get the reference).
Then the internet appeared.
Millennials were the first to tap into the web’s unrestricted glory. Our parents could hardly turn on the computer, much less know how to use the internet. Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers learned to type on typewriters, millennials on keyboards. We quickly learned how to search, stream and download (Limewire, anyone?). We learned how to clear search histories, cache, and cookies, while our parents barely knew how to check their email. We could download any song or movie, no matter how explicit, in just a matter of minutes (dial-up people!)
Before long I was viewing p_rn without anyone knowing. P_rn went from being a sneaky group activity, to a private affair. I was completely hooked, and all my friends were as well.
Times have changed since I graduated High School. Kids no longer have to go to the family computer (or library) to access p_rn. Since the world was introduced to the iPhone in 2007, the internet has been at our fingertips. Internet users have slowly transitioned from laptops and desktops to smartphones and tablets. Indeed, websites seeking to survive were forced to become “mobile-friendly”. Did you know that 80% of internet p_rn is now watched on mobile devices? Here are some more statistics:
- The average age for first-time exposure to p_rn is 11.
- 25% of search engine requests are related to sex
- 35% of downloads from the internet are p_rnographic
- 40 million Americans say they regularly visit p_rn sites
- 70% of men aged 18 to 24 visit a p_rn site at least once per month
- The p_rn industry in the U.S. makes an estimated 16.9 billion annually.
- 40 million Americans view p_rn regularly.
In light of my story and these statistics, here’s some advice from a former Children’s pastor (and 1st gen internet user).
Don’t assume that your child isn’t viewing p_rn. This goes for parents of girls as well as boys. Girls make up 1/3 of internet users accessing p_rn. Did you know that children can view p_rnography through their video game systems, smart tv’s and e-book readers? You should know. Just about any device connected to the internet can access p_rn. And guess where kids will turn when they are curious about something they do not know?
Which leads to my second point.
Teach your children about sex, before the internet does. Do NOT put off the “talk”. To be frank, if you do not have this discussion with your kids, the internet will. And if not the internet, a friend who has access to the internet will. Prep now parents, even if you’re children are too young. It’s likely that your kids will need the “talk” earlier than you did.
Research has found:
Internet p_rnography has become sex education for many children. “Particularly among younger children, exposure to p_rnography may be disturbing or upsetting…p_rnography is a poor, and indeed dangerous, sex educator.”
60 percent of students surveyed said they watch p_rn in order to learn more about sex and learn about gaps in their sexual education, even though 3/4 admitted p_rn creates unrealistic expectations.
Teach your children God’s purposes for sex. For Christians, the “talk” requires more than just discussing the nuts and bolts. Talk to your children about God’s design, purpose and the importance of sex. The world treats sex as a meaningless-animalistic act between consenting adults. Christianity teaches that sex is a gift from God to be enjoyed by couples who have pledged themselves to one another.
Don’t give your child a smart phone. This really shouldn’t be controversial. I have no idea how any parent thinks it’s good idea to give a child a smartphone. There simply is no reason for it. When I served as a Children’s pastor, I was astonished at the ages of children receiving their first cellphones. Unfortunately, tablets and smartphones have replaced babysitters in the 21st century, and misguided (and lazy) parents are to blame. Not only did this impede their children’s attentiveness (which is another issue altogether), it opened the door wide open to p_rn use. Sure, little Johnny will complain that all his friends have smartphones, and that he’s being left out when you refuse to drop 1k on the latest iPhone. But later in life he will thank you for it. It’s our job to guard our children’s hearts and minds, and that becomes nearly impossible when we send our children to their rooms with internet devices
“If anyone causes one of these little ones–those who believe in me–to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. -Matthew 18:6
And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell. -Matthew 18:9
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman. -Job 31:1