In our last post we discussed creating an atmosphere in your home where it’s okay to talk about anything. It’s your job as a parent to normalize conversations with your children about bodies, sex, and porn. You won’t do it perfectly, but you can do it and God will provide. (See Nurturing Young Hearts in a Broken World.)
This week we are going to get more practical, and right off the bat I want to challenge you to be a strong parent with deep convictions, deep love, and abounding grace and compassion. Protecting well will mean:
- Using tools such as filters and internet monitoring as part of an overall plan to create an atmosphere of honesty and trust
- Having good rules and boundaries
- Remaining informed about new apps and technology
- Teaching God’s design for sex and exposing counterfeits
Protection and Accountability that Leads to Conversation
Our pick: Covenant Eyes, with filtering and individual logins for all devices. ($14.99/month for a family). A weekly report of all sites attempted goes to a designated party. One user shared about his eighth-grade son whose friends were talking about their favorite porn sites and asked him about his. He said, “I don’t look at porn.” They said, “Everybody looks at porn!” He said, “No, I don’t. And here’s why: Did you know that you’re probably watching a slave in porn? And you have no way of knowing if that person is doing it willingly or is being forced. And did you know that you can get addicted to it?” They said, “No, we can stop any time.” He said “Well, what about Tiger Woods? He had a beautiful wife, and he was addicted to sex and had to get treatment.” The point is, this young man learned these things over time as he and his dad talked about online activity. With short, honest conversations, this dad is helping his son to live porn-free in a pornified culture. Covenant Eyes also has great posts on a variety of topics related to sexual purity and online safety.
Rules and Boundaries
As a parent with strong convictions and rules, you will likely be thought of as uncool, uninformed, mean, unrealistic, clueless, and basically many things you thought about your parents at one time or another. When your kids become adults, they will thank you for being strict and consistent in your parenting. It takes great strength to go against the tide. Kids need rules and boundaries. Prayerfully develop and live by your family’s rules. Reexamine them from time to time and listen to your kids’ opinions, but do not expect them to understand. You have information and experiences they do not have. These are for your consideration:
- Decide to be counter-cultural in areas where it matters most. You may need to pick your battles, so prayerfully let God lead you as you lead your family.
- Severely limit screen time (e.g. television, internet, gaming). It will suck them in and leave them empty. Intentionally create space for personal interaction to counteract the temptation for too much digital interaction. Kids need emotional bonding!
- Don’t use your phone or tablet as a babysitter. For centuries children have learned to entertain themselves without devices. Using a device might be an easy fix, but it’s not a healthy one.
- Delay the smartphone as it is a privilege, not a right. It is also a Pandora’s box of dangers. Consider the child’s maturity and how well you’re communicating on issues related to social media and porn.
- Consider screened devices to be used in common areas only and turned in at night.
- Maintain control of all passwords for filters, routers, and devices, including gaming.
- Disable location services on all social media apps. Predators use this.
- Stranger danger is real. Only allow interaction with people they have personally met, i.e. not friends of friends or adult friends.
- Require that your kids report any contact they receive online that’s not approved and known.
- You are on any social media they are on. You are their “friend” and you can see everything they and their friends post. If a secret account is discovered, that is a breach of trust with natural consequences.
- You have the right (and responsibility) to examine their phone randomly: texts, photos, apps, social media, privacy settings, etc..
- Consider no television, no cable, only movies you approve. Check out Plugged In. If you do have cable, watch shows together and dialogue about what you’re seeing. Be sure to block mature stations on cable or streaming accounts.
- Regarding gaming, check out this tip sheet. Predators often pose as a peer and lure children into revealing more information over time. Even adults can be deceived, more so kids. You should approve gaming just as you would movies or websites.
- Consider no sleepovers with friends. Kids are very vulnerable when they are away from you at night, and sexual abuse, once done, can never be undone. Sleepovers are also prime spaces for sharing porn.
- Hopefully your children know that you’re always their “out” if they’re uncomfortable or don’t want to do something socially. Have a code phrase or word they can share via text or a call.
- Screen babysitting opportunities for your teens. Talk with the mom to be sure her house is free from porn and explicit channels on TV. Require that she, rather than the dad, drive your child to and from her home.
Social Media and Apps
Social media can be good, but it has its dark side. Nancy Jo Sales wrote American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Teenagers. Publisher’s Review said this about it: “Social media has fostered a culture ‘very hostile’ to girls in which sexism, harassment, and cyberbullying have become the ‘new normal,’ along with the ‘constant chore’ of tailoring one’s image for public consumption and approval.” It’s important that your kids know how to manage the challenges of social media and that you’re willing to discuss what they’re facing.
New apps emerge daily, so instead of latching onto the latest one, find a few that truly help or are needed for your child. Less is more. Before installing a new app, research it thoroughly. Many apps appear to be one thing but are a cover for something else. For example, a hashtag with a word (e.g. #boobs) will sort based on that word and bring up every photo or post with that hashtag, turning a non-porn app (like Instagram) into a porn search tool.
Teaching and Modeling Biblical Sexuality
Our sexuality is God-given and a powerful and important part of our design. Instead of limiting talks about bodies, sex, and porn to a weekend away with mom or dad, I want to encourage both parents to enter into short, natural conversations with your children often and ask good questions to get them to open up. Become a trusted resource for them by telling them the truth, always, so they won’t turn to Google Images or their friends to learn about bodies, sex, and porn. Start early or start now! Here are some good resources to help you:
Talking to Your Kids About Sex by Mark and Deborah Laaser
God Made All of Me by Justin and Lindsay Holcomb
Luke Gilkerson’s books on teaching kids biblical sexuality
God’s Design for Sex Series (Books 1-4) by Stan and Brenna Jones
Also refer back to some of our previous blog posts. Remember, God is FOR you and your family. He will guide you, and one day your children will thank you!
Anne Kerr, Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia
TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to sharing tools for navigating a sexualized culture. Your financial partnership will mean true freedom for many. To give a tax-deductible donation, click here. Thank you.
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