I am the mother of three sons and one daughter. My kids are young still, but my firstborn is now within a couple years of the average first age of exposure to pornography. Which means that kids as young as him have seen it, have stumbled upon in accidentally, have been intentionally exposed by an older sibling or cousin or neighbor kid, and are already struggling with feelings of confusion, excitement, shame, fear, and curiosity.
In this digital age, it is all but inevitable that my children will encounter pornography at some point during their childhood. And that breaks my heart.
But I can’t stick my head in the sand and just try not to worry about it, hoping that if I don’t mention it and if we’re careful enough at home and vigilant enough with our network filtering software (which is important!) and discriminating enough about our media consumption (also essential!) and picky enough about how we do playdates (SO huge. You have no idea what your neighbor might be watching late at night, and what might pop up on their son’s tablet during an innocent Youtube search for rocket launches or scenes from Team Hotwheels), we’ll be fine.
That isn’t enough. In other words, I have to equip myself as a mother to help my children navigate the murky waters of the digital world, so awash in pornography and violent, addictive content, and I have to equip my children to face this brave new world.
I can’t leave it up to chance. This one is too big, and the stakes are too high.
While both men and women struggle with pornography in increasing numbers, boys are particularly vulnerable in the era of a smartphone-in-every-pocket. Men are wired for visual stimulation. It’s beautiful and essential and intrinsically masculine, and it is a component of their intentional design that I wouldn’t change even if I could. But there is a multi-billion dollar market built around exploiting that facet of their nature and ensnaring young minds and hearts in a dark web of profitable addiction that is predicated on increasing levels of violence, misogyny, and dehumanization.
And it’s profitable as all hell, make no mistake about that. For every media soundbite or expert opinion that “a little porn is harmless,” or “pornography is a natural competent of a healthy relationship,” a rich pornographer who makes his or her living off of pimping out young women and children is laughing all the way to the bank.
(Porn kills love. For a totally secular perspective and a fantastic resource, check out “Fight the New Drug” and the great work they’re doing, especially with adolescents and college aged kids.)
I wrote a series on “porn proofing our kids” a while back, and afterwards a rep from Covenant Eyes: CMG Connect reached out to me about a new resource designed to empower parents to proactively engage with their kids on the topic of porn, and to help them build a safe, open, communicative family; a “safe haven.”
CMG Connect Parents is full of good video content, articles, and other resources for parents who are in all stages with kids of all ages.
Whether your family is already wrestling with this issue, you’re unsure of where to start (or whether your kids have been exposed yet) of if you’re like us and have young children and are looking down the pike to the future and wondering where to begin, this is a good place to start.
They are also offering a free 30 day trial of their acclaimed “Covenant Eyes” filtering program, a multidimensional resource that filters harmful content, alerts parents to potential problems, and can provide individual accountability and monitoring for help in overcoming an existing addiction. We’ve been hemming and hawing over which filtering software or device to use and when we need to make the leap, but after my husband spent 3 days last spring attending a conference for work, he walked away from the sessions on trafficking and addiction absolutely convicted that the time is now.
Even if your kids are little and aren’t using the internet on their own yet, now is the time to install those guardrails and establish a culture of safe and responsible media use. Not only are you protecting against accidental exposure (and I’ve seen some freaky stuff pop up totally unrelated on Youtube), but you’re also protecting the babysitters or other caregivers who come into your home and may connect to your network, along with houseguests and visitors who may access your WiFi (and in turn, you are protecting your network (hellooooo, targeted ads) against harmful content other people may access via your network without your knowledge. So many people are fighting a great battle, and you truly never know.)
Really, I can’t think of a reason to have unfiltered internet, period.
So do me a favor and start the 30 day trial, will you? And start clicking through some of the video content on CMG Connect. My favorite video is the one featuring two moms, with one mom walking the other through happening upon a probable pornography problem with her 14 year old son. It’s full of common sense, compassion, and a destigmatization of the problem, and it contains some tangible resources and a sort of guide map of what that journey look like for one family.
And of course, above all, we take our cue from Padre Pio: we pray, we hope, and we don’t worry. We don’t wallow in the “what ifs” or the regrets, and don’t anticipate the future with terror. Being proactive, wise, and confidant is a far cry from cowering and fearful. With common sense, open communication, and a helpful toolbox, our kids don’t have to become statistics in an adolescence behavioral journal.
I hope you’ll check it out.
(Thanks to Covenant Eyes whom I partnered with on this post for the industry-leading work they’re doing to empower families to stay safe and healthy. All opinions expressed are my own.)