Children and Pornography
The parental responsibility to protect kids from the ever-widening scope of sex abuse material.Second of three parts.
When it comes to children encountering pornography, it’s a matter of when, not if, experts say.
“They are going to be exposed to it because the culture is permeated with it,” says Jay Mooney, executive director of COMPACT Family Services, the Assemblies of God child welfare agency based in Hot Springs, Arkansas. “We live in a highly sexually charged media world.”
The goal of pornography is to distort and deceive a viewer’s perception of themselves, says Mooney, 58. Once a person has been desensitized enough by watching repeatedly, the less capable he or she will be able to function in real-word healthy relationships, he says.
Those exposed to images at early ages can be the most traumatized, according to Sam Black, vice president of business development at Covenant Eyes, a screen accountability software company. Patterns of behavior formed as a child can be difficult to overcome as an adult, he says.
“It’s one thing for children to see pornography; it’s another thing for it to become repetitive,” says Black, 52. “Repetition builds patterns in the malleable brain that begin craving it more.”
When a person becomes desensitized looking at porn, Black says more variety and intensity are needed to attain the same “high.” The pleasure centers of the brain can override the religious and moral reasons to stop viewing, he says.
Although Black says the average age for first exposure to pornography is about age 11, if a child has access to internet devices, the onset is much earlier. Kids under the age of 10 account for 22 percent of online porn users, according to Bitdefender.
Black, who has been with the Owasso, Michigan-based Covenant Eyes for 13 years, says he hears common myths parents have in regard to seeing pornography, including:
— My kid is a good kid who just wouldn’t do that. Black counters that children, while they may be overwhelmed by the visual depictions, nevertheless are still curious about the human body. “Sadly, the internet responds to a child’s natural curiosity with hardcore pornography.”
— If my child saw it, he/she will look away because he/she knows it’s wrong. Black argues that while images might be frightening or confusing, the brain is designed in such a way that dopamine associated with viewing them might draw in a child repetitively.
— The safeguarding measures I have in place are good enough. Black suggests that a child alone with an unprotected internet device (even a child peeking at a parent’s device and then erasing the history) is a danger.
— Boys are the only ones who struggle; girls don’t have the same inclination. Black says while fewer younger females than males actively seek out porn, the percentage nonetheless is significant. And the shame is greater for girls in watching it, he says.
“This all is coming from a very evil and dark place, to pollute and corrode the sexuality of our kids,” says Donna Rice Hughes, a Great Falls, Virginia-based nonprofit with the goal of making the internet safer for children and families. “This is a spiritual battle, and prayer is our biggest weapon.”
Christian parents can best lead their children if they themselves are accountable, Hughes says.
“The faith-based believer must be godly, responsible, and pure,” says Hughes, 62. She stresses, though, that parents must protect their children.
“It’s imperative that parents are the first line of defense for their kids,” Hughes says. “These devices come with complete open access to the internet.”
She recommends that parents place parental control tools — filtering, monitoring, and accountability — on everything. That especially holds true during the COVID-19 lockdown, when adults and children are more apt to deal with their anxieties by spending inordinate amounts of time engaged in technology. Enough Is Enough has devised cyber parenting safety tips.
“Parents must not be afraid to address these issues with the clear truth in the Word of God,” says Lori L. Warning, 47, director of Assemblies of God National Girls Ministries in Springfield, Missouri. “The number one place for spiritual development of kids is in the home.”
“Pornography robs kids of God’s intended future for them,” says Mooney, “Consuming porn results in serious consequences for relationships, including with marriage and family.” According to Mooney, regular consumption of porn means a person is more likely to have multiple sex partners, attachment disorders, depression, anxiety, suicide attempts, and, if married, a higher propensity to sexual infidelity.
“As adults, whether we are a parent, custodian, guardian, teacher, or youth worker, we have to be responsible for not welcoming it into their world,” Mooney says. He agrees that nothing is a greater deterrent than adults holding themselves accountable for their sexual behavior.
Next: Children are being targeted as porn victims.