Teens Exposed to Pornography

Teen boy looking at a computer monitor
For illustrative purposes only - Juan Silva/age fotostock

For decades, alcohol, drugs and sex have been considered the primary dangers of the teenage landscape, but pornography has become the No. 1 concern for many parents. Do you really want to know if your teen is into porn? Some parents are naïve regarding what their teens are exposed to, while others are privately battling for their own purity. Many parents would rather not address this issue for fear of what they might find, but equipping your teen to deal with the raw evil of pornography begins by admitting that the problem exists — in your community and possibly in your own home.

Begin the discussion

Begin talking with your teen by asking, “What do you know about pornography?” While not every teen struggles with the temptation to view pornography, nearly every teen has been exposed to it. It’s impossible to turn on cable TV, open the sports page or surf the Web without happening upon sexually laden images. Whether your teen is simply curious about porn or already addicted to it, he needs you to be courageous enough to enter the battle with him.

Pornography is often considered a private choice resulting in few immediate external consequences. Just because no one gets pregnant or contracts a sexually transmitted infection, don’t believe the lie that porn is harmless.

Children who are exposed to pornographic images (before age 12) often link their first experience of sexual arousal to pornography. The damaging effects cannot be overstated. Exposure does not have to rise to the level of addiction before harm is done. This early exposure to pornography begins an unhealthy foundation on which teens learn about their sexuality in the context of the dehumanization of men and women and the act of sex itself.

Research also indicates that pornography is highly addictive, possibly more addictive than crack cocaine. And pornography subscribes to the law of diminishing returns: What created arousal last month no longer excites and only prompts the desire for increasingly more erotic material.

Stay connected

Most teens are several steps ahead of their parents’ attempts to limit computer access, so it’s important to realize that the battle for your teen’s purity will not be won with safeguards alone. For some teens addicted to porn, restrictions, filters and accountability software can serve as a thrilling obstacle course with an incentive at the finish line. Even if the computer is fail-safe, pornographic images can be readily accessed on an iPod, cell phone or at a friend’s house. So in addition to safeguards and boundaries, the most effective tool in helping your teen battle this powerful temptation is your relationship with him. Your relationship needs to include discussions on God’s design and intent for sexuality. If your teen understands the beauty of God’s plan, then he can recognize the harmful counterfeits.

Pornography involves a private, embarrassing struggle, and the Enemy uses the isolative nature of porn to sever relationships, while enforcing messages of worthlessness and shame. Teens involved in porn often believe God could never love or use them. They feel dirty and compromised — but find they’re incapable of stopping. Your teen needs to know that he isn’t the only one struggling. As difficult as it may be, confronting him with love and honesty helps to tumble the walls of shame, isolation and helplessness. Your conversations about pornography should be enveloped in a healthy, ongoing dialogue about sexuality. Your teen needs to be reminded that his sexuality is not bad. It’s normal for him to have a God-given interest in sex, and it’s not a sin to be tempted. However, explain that a battle rages for his heart and his mind. Walking with your teen may include appropriately sharing some of your own struggles and failures. Affirm your unconditional love for your teen and share about God’s grace and forgiveness.

Realize that the battle with pornography has the potential to unleash some powerful truths in the life of your teen. Jesus said that He came not to validate the healthy, but to heal the sick. God’s Spirit envelops the weak and the poor. The church has a tendency to brush aside sin and focus on how talented, beautiful and capable children are. Your teen needs to understand that he is incapable of conquering sin without the powerful presence of God, and pornography might be the struggle that brings that truth home.

"Teens Exposed to Pornography" first appeared in Focus on Your Child Teen Phases, February 2009, as "Ask the Expert." If you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family's marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing to it for a gift of any amount.
© 2009 by Focus on the Family.

Next in this Series: Resisting the Power of Pornography

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