Pastor of Youth And Families, Grace Community Church, Nashville
Students today are facing a challenge that we cannot relate to, and the sooner we realize this, the better. For many believing teenagers, this challenge is a heavy burden that causes them to feel dread, guilt, and isolation.
Access to pornography has never been so widely available to any other generation in history. Even in the late 1990s my exposure to pornography was limited. Any student with a smart phone has access to millions upon millions of pornographic images at the touch of a screen.
I have worked with adolescents for over 10 years, and have talked with countless students and parents about this problem.
Here are four ways I have discovered that parents can help their children fight against pornography.
Communication. Parents need to quickly, clearly, and repeatedly talk with their students about sexual issues, including pornography. In order to help students weather the storm of sexual temptations, we as parents must talk to our sons and daughters about it. Students need to hear their parents warn them about the dangers of pornography. They need to hear the truth that pornography degrades people made in the image of God, and can wreak havoc on their future family. They need to hear that the struggle to abstain from pornography is common and that they have an advocate in their parents. And they need to hear that now.
So, sit down with your son or daughter and talk to them about these things. Ask them if they have been exposed to pornographic images. Keep that line of communication open. Make it very clear to them that they can always talk to you. And once you’ve had that conversation, wait a little while and have it again and again and again.
Compassion. Parents need to be compassionate when their students fall. If your son or daughter has viewed pornography, there are two reactions that you might have. You can cast a stone at them or you can offer them your hand. Casting a stone, freaking out, grounding them for life, shaming them, all of these things will tell them that they should never talk to you about this issue again, and they won’t. It also fails to show students Jesus and the grace that He offers us. But if you offer them your hand, they will come back for your help when they need it. If you offer them compassion, you are showing them how Jesus treats them. He offers grace.
Commitment. Parents need to take strategic steps to help their students follow Christ by seeking purity, and communicate the purpose of those steps. Jesus doesn’t just forgive, He helps. So whether we have a son or daughter that has viewed pornography, or we are just starting to talk with them about it, we have to be committed to their good. The best way we can do this is to set appropriate boundaries and communicate the purpose of those boundaries. Appropriate boundaries are ones that are right for that student at that point in their life. It is not appropriate for a 6th grade student to have unfettered Internet access (regardless of what everyone else’s parents are letting them do), but it may also be inappropriate for a high school senior to have zero independence. After all, when they leave the house, they must be trained to live and follow Christ independently. Once these boundaries are set, communicate them clearly. Let your son or daughter know that the purpose of these restrictions is to protect them and train them to make good decisions when they are an independent adult. This is no guarantee that the restrictions will be well received 100% of the time, but this is what we must do.
Christ. Rather than emphasizing a sin to avoid, parents should point their students to Jesus and His purpose for our life. Perhaps the most important things that we can teach our children is not simply to say “no” to pornography. After all, the Christian faith is not primarily about what we say “no” to, but what we say “yes” to. Saying “no” to lust and sexual immorality is actually saying “yes” to purity; it is saying “yes” to God’s design for our lives. When we say “yes” to God’s design for our lives, we will receive joy and fulfillment. Parents can help their students by pointing them to the One who can ultimately fulfill all of their needs and desires. After all, as Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
Helping young people avoid pornography is no easy task. The culture that we live in is bombarding our students with the exact opposite message. But if we will prayerfully and diligently seek to disciple our children to understand the importance of purity, and the dignity of the human life, they will be well-served.