Protecting Your Kids from Pornography

This fall as I walked around Walmart, I noticed some fun changes. In addition to all things pumpkin spice (which is probably the best part of fall if you ask me), I saw football cupcakes, game day snacks, and more. Football season is here, and people are stoked and ready to go!

Professional football has become a big part of American culture. And as of 2016, the NFL generated about $13 billion (1). That’s a lot of money.

But there’s another part of our culture that has become even bigger. And unfortunately, it doesn’t bring game day snacks or cheering fans.

As of 2015, the pornography industry worldwide made an estimated $97 billion dollars (2), over 7 times what the NFL makes in a year. Not only is it raking in a lot of money, but in the United States, about 107 million people view pornography at least monthly (3).

Unfortunately, this culture of pornography is seeping down to our kids. One study found that the average age of first exposure for boys is somewhere between ages 11 and 13 (4). It’s become not so much a question of if our kids will be exposed, but when.

With pornography becoming a bigger and bigger part of our society today, what damage is it causing? And how can we protect our kids from those damages?

Pornography’s Impact

According to Merriam-Webster, pornography is “the depiction of erotic behavior . . . intended to cause sexual excitement” (5). This depiction can be in pictures, film, or even writing.

Scientific studies and research shows that viewing pornography can really harm individuals, their relationships, and even society as a whole (6).

For example, when someone views pornography, over time it can actually cause physical changes in their brain (7), making it harder for them to form healthy relationships in the future. ACPeds Member Dr. L. David Perry explains, “Pornography use by adolescents and young adults often leads to a distorted view of sexuality and its role in fostering healthy personal relationships” (8).

(For more about the harms of pornography, check out this statement from the American College of Pediatricians written by Dr. L. David Perry.9)

So what can we do as parents to protect our kids from the adverse effects of pornography?

What Can You Do?

1. Set up filters, internet accountability, and limits

While filters won’t eliminate the risk of your child becoming addicted to pornography, you can at least create a safer home environment. The American College of Pediatricians recommends minimizing exposure through filters and internet accountability systems on computers and mobile devices (10). You can also counsel together as parents to figure out appropriate limits for internet and media use. Help your kids see that these limits are not because you don’t trust them, but are simply precautions to help keep them safe.

While filtering and accountability can help limit inadvertent exposure, they don’t fully take care of the problem. Kids can be exposed outside of the home, and as they get older they may figure out ways to get around whatever filtering you set up. So what else can you do?

2. Talk about it

Perhaps most important is talking with your kids about pornography. Make sure you teach your kids what it is, why it’s harmful, and what they can do when they encounter it. Help them come up with a game plan for when they come across pornography. Create an environment where they feel like they can come to you if they ever see or hear something that makes them uncomfortable. It’s important that your kids can come to you for help and support if they do fall into the trap of pornography. Check out the books Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Jr. for tips on talking to kids about avoiding pornagraphy. 

3. Teach them about sexuality

Parents need to communicate not only about pornography but also sexuality in general. Because “pornography teaches a false narrative regarding human sexuality” (11), parents must teach children the truth.

As you teach kids appropriately about sexuality, they can filter out whatever inappropriate messages they receive from the media. Whether they see pornography or just other inappropriate sexual content, they need you to help them understand what’s real and what’s not, as well as what’s healthy and what’s not.

Protecting Your Children

Although pornography has seeped into our culture, it doesn’t need to seep into our lives. (After all, wouldn’t you rather enjoy pumpkin spice treats and football fun?) Thankfully, we can take action to educate our children and protect them from the harms of pornography.

As we set up appropriate limits and filters, talk with them openly about pornography, and teach them about healthy sexuality, we can safeguard our children from pornography’s grasp.

For more information:

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References

1. Belzer, J. (2016, February 29). Thanks to Roger Goodell, NFL revenues projected to surpass $13 billion in 2016. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbelzer/2016/02/29/thanks-to-roger-goodell-nfl-revenues-projected-to-surpass-13-billion-in-2016/#47af00671cb7

2. Things are looking up in America’s porn industry. (2015, January 20). Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/things-are-looking-americas-porn-industry-n289431

3-4. Luscombe, B. (2016, March 31). Porn and the threat to virility. Retrieved from http://time.com/4277510/porn-and-the-threat-to-virility/?iid=toc_033116

5. Pornography. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pornography  

6. Get the facts. (n.d.). Retrieved from Fight the New Drug website: http://learn.ftnd.org/

7. Kuhn, S., & Gallinat, J. (2014). Brain structure and functional connectivity associated with pornography consumption: The brain on porn. JAMA Psychiatry, 71(7), 827-834. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24871202

8-11. American College of Pediatricians. (2016, June). The impact of pornography. Retrieved from https://www.acpeds.org/the-college-speaks/position-statements/the-impact-of-pornography-on-children

Picture retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/people-kid-baby-child-boy-toddler-2564425/.

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