“He got started on pornography when he found his dad’s stash. He was 8 years old at the time.”
A religious leader related this story to me (without revealing any personal information) with tears in his eyes as he told me about the many young men in his congregation whom he is trying to help overcome pornography addictions. “Some of these young men want to stop so badly, but with their smartphones always nearby, they haven’t been able to stay away.”
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard of kids being inadvertently introduced to pornography by stumbling across something their parent(s) had previously viewed. As a father, one of my roles is a protector of my children, both from physical dangers as well as harmful ideas or beliefs that they may acquire from outside the home. I would be devastated to discover that I was actually the source of harm by introducing, into the safety of my own home, something that could lead my children to a lifetime of struggle. The truth is that, time and time again, the “pornography secret” somehow gets out as secrets always do eventually. What effect will a father’s “secret” indulgence have on his son’s marriage one day? On his son’s kids? Surely this dad loves his kids and wants to protect them! Surely he never meant to saddle his precious son with such a burden!
If you are a dad using pornography, stop now, or it will absolutely affect your kids. But remember that, just as your use of pornography will hurt your kids, your selfless sacrifice to overcome it will pay them (and you) great dividends. Here are some steps to help protect your family from addiction to pornography:
1- Have an honest conversation with your child about pornography. This does not mean you have to confess your pornography habit (if you have one). But it does mean you must be very direct about what pornography is and how it will affect his or her life. You could say something like this: “Pornography is rampant in our society and it will have a negative effect on your life. It is a real addiction, and just like any addiction, the best thing to do is never to start, and if you have started, the sooner you stop, the better off you are. Everyone will eventually run into pornography, and it is best if you have already decided for yourself to turn away.” It could also be beneficial to talk about the de-humanizing effects of pornography and the danger that comes when anyone in society only values another person to satisfy their own purposes rather than seeing another persons innate value as a human being. Talk about the child’s value and how it would make him or her feel to be used for selfish purposes as opposed to being appreciated as someone of value within a loving, caring family. When children/teenagers are assaulted with pornographic images, they often do not have time to process and understand that the images they are seeing are not just images, but rather real people. This leads to our second step:
2- Help the child come up with a pre-determined response to pornography. By making an action plan ahead of time, it is much easier to make good decisions in the moment. Create some “if/then” scenarios that might help them. For instance, “if a friend shows me porn on their phone, I will…” or “if an image pops up on a screen I’m using, I will….” This may seem a simplistic exercise, but it can be very helpful in a moment when a person is surprised and under stress to help him or her to do what they know is right.
3- Talk to your kids about how to remain accountable, even in their media consumption. It has been proven again and again that when we are held accountable for our actions, our actions improve! Imagine having to report what you ate to a nutritionist at the end of every meal. Just knowing that you will have to report will make you a wiser eater. Or, if you had to report to your spouse each penny that was spent from your family budget, you would spend much more wisely! There are many ways to help a person remain accountable, such as regular and open conversations with an accountability partner, putting accountability and filtering software on electronic devices, and keeping computers/phones in a central/public location of your home. Realizing that a report will be sent to their parents will help children and teenagers use the internet more wisely. Furthermore, accountability also helps people form good, strong habits that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
In a culture flooded with media, we must choose which forms we will consume. Let’s make wise choices.
Tyler Patterson, Founder and President, www.everaccountable.com
Next week: Are you a dad who uses pornography? (Part Two)
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed therapist, and these views are entirely my own. I do not claim to have sure-fire answers to all problems. The steps presented in these articles are meant to be helpful and encouraging to parents wanting to take preventative measures with their children regarding the harms of pornography and to arm themselves with real tools that might help their families gain the peace that comes from accountability and trust. I’ve spoken specifically to fathers in this article, but the same things apply to women and men who aren’t fathers too because our actions always impact those we love.