In today’s pornified culture, children are not only getting exposed to a message of sexual impurity being acceptable, they are simply finding it on their electronic devices. Oftentimes accidentally. The bar of sexual purity is constantly being lowered.
So often, parents make the mistake of not wanting to discuss the topic with their kids too early for fear of spoiling their innocence. In fact, studies show that the average age of first exposure to porn is between 9 and 10 years old!
Here at Road to Purity, we not only offer programs to help those that already have struggled with porn and sexual impurity, we offer resources and perspectives for society, especially families to help them be aware of not only the dangers of porn but also help to educate them on how to mitigate problems when children are exposed. Yes, I said ARE exposed. The fact is, today it is not a question of IF but WHEN your child will be exposed to pornography.
The best way to protect a young person from the shock and trauma when they see porn for the first time is to explain to them what they saw. Not only should you explain to them what they saw, but you must share with them a strong self-knowledge of who they are as God created. Including their sexuality.
Let’s be clear, when we say that your child should know what porn is, we are not suggesting that you show them! Some of the resources I will share below will educate you on how to talk to them in an age-appropriate way. Things like saying to a 3 or 4-year-old, “the part that your swimsuit covers is private. And if you ever see pictures that show these parts without clothing, please tell mommy or daddy.”
At 5-6 yrs old or older, even name this event as pornography and saying that it is not what God wants us to show others. Naming these types of images as early as possible AND naming it bad, not only trains their brains to be aware when they do see it, but it trains their brain to make a decisive choice to look away or avoid it. This helps their mental development to be able to turn away from things they believe to be bad and this is a tool that helps give them strength to make the right decision in any situation that they run into that they know is inappropriate.
Developing habits and strategies that form appropriate and healthy neural pathways is part of what we teach in our programs to fight addiction and temptation. It is critical to teach young people these tools to help them avoid peer pressure and other possible situations they will find themselves in down the road.
Having a strong knowledge and understanding of the Theology of The Body concepts taught by Pope John Paul II is paramount in the growth of all people, regardless of age. As I mentioned above, even 3 years old isn’t too early. Here is a link to three books that are effectively Theology of the Body for Toddlers. For teens and adults, Christoper West and Jason Evert have some excellent, easy to understand teaching on the topic.
Here are two great resources:
As a whole, parents must have the mindset that a “porn talk” is not a “once and done” talk, it’s a way of life. Communicating about sexuality, about our bodies in a Godly perspective even from age 3 as I noted above. One suggested resource is using materials from the author Monica Ashour. She and her organization have excellent materials that teach Theology of the Body not only for Toddlers ages 3-5 years old but for all ages all the way through high school. Her materials specifically can be found at Tobet.org.
Parents must also set an example of what media content they consume. Everything from TV shows, cable shows, and movies they choose to watch. Something with strong sexual content or situations, or derogatory sexual content should be avoided even by adults. It will desensitize us and serve to make us blind to the situations and content in overall society.
We spoke a little about filters on electronic devices earlier in the article. While filters are helpful, they are far from the complete answer. Below are a few other ideas for behaviors that will reduce accidental exposure as well as create healthy habits using the devices so your children are less likely to be attached or addicted to them. (many of these are good habits for parents too!)
- In general, it is highly advised that children should not get an internet-accessible mobile device until about 14 or 15 yrs old.
- Put the device/phone “to bed’” meaning a common place in the kitchen or counter….. Not in the bedroom – no text from a friend is that urgent at 2 am!
- If possible keep all computers and tablets in publicly visible areas. Ideally do homework on the dining table, or in an area that is not behind a closed door. If in the bedroom, position the desk with the screen facing an open door.
- Be very careful of kids using social media. If you think they are safe from child predators, then watch this video put out by the social media experts bark.us.
- And remember, children under 18 have privileges, not rights.
All of this is why simply putting filters on their electronic devices is only 10% of the answer. Proper education and continuous conversation is critical in keeping sexuality a mystery.
Help loved ones get on the path of recovery – If you or anyone you know has any level of porn habit, issues with lust or deeper, please take advantage of our free in-depth Catholic sexual integrity program Restoring God’s Foundation by clicking here.