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5 Myths about children’s exposure to pornography


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Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 08/11/23

The best way to protect your kids from addiction is to arm them with prevention tools in the first place.

Pornography addiction is rampant, and sadly, many people were first exposed by accident and don’t want to be addicted. 

It’s hard to hear as a parent, but almost certainly your child will be exposed to pornography. The majority of kids are exposed to porn by age 13, usually accidentally. Young people can find themselves addicted before they even realize the harm. 

The best way to protect your kids from addiction is to arm them with prevention tools in the first place. 

Many people of faith struggle with this addiction, but churches are often poorly equipped to help them. This ongoing disconnect inspired a new book, The Healing Church: What Churches Get Wrong About Pornography and How to Fix It.

A man on a mission

Author Sam Black is an expert in the field of pornography recovery. After an 18-year career as an award-winning journalist, Black now serves as the Director of Recovery Education at Covenant Eyes. Before The Healing Church, he wrote The Porn Circuit: Understand Your Brain and Break Porn Habits, and has edited 16 other books on the impact of pornography, as well as regularly speaking at parenting, leadership, and men’s events across the country.

Black is committed to bring healing and hope to what is an incredibly difficult and painful struggle for countless people, and a big part of his mission is preventing pornography exposure in the first place.

Parents can do a lot to protect their kids, and Black shared some advice for parents seeking to “porn-proof” their kids.

“Today’s parents likely didn’t have formative, helpful, and ongoing conversations about sex, let alone pornography,” he said in an interview with Aleteia. “So, most parents are still missing the details of how to have supportive and redeeming conversations with their kids about pornography that prepare them for their teen and adult years.”

Myths about pornography exposure

Part of the problem is that many well-intentioned parents don’t really understand what they’re up against.

“Parents don’t take action because they believe five myths about their child and porn,” he said. He cited these common myths:

  • “My child is a good kid and wouldn’t be curious about sex and would never look at porn.” 
  • “If my child saw it, he or she would just look away.”
  • “The measures I have in place are good enough.” (He added, “This typically means occasionally looking over a shoulder to see what is on a screen.”)
  • “Boys are the only ones who struggle. I don’t need to worry about my girls.”
  • “If I talk to my child about pornography, they will become curious and search for it.”

Too often, parents put this conversation off until they think their child is old enough to hear about it as a teenager.

“Because this topic has been taboo, the teen gets embarrassed, the parent becomes  embarrassed, and the whole conversation comes to an awkward and abrupt end,” he said.

Age-appropriate conversations

Instead, when parents have age-appropriate conversations with supportive tools, children can learn, grow, and work together with a parent in guarding against the influences and impact of pornography. 

“We can teach our children to be courageous, daring, and brave,” he said.

Black has found that parents really can equip young children to be resilient to porn. 

“We can sharpen them to be knowledgeable and brave, but it will require courage from each of us,” he said. 

To that end, Covenant Eyes created Safe Haven Sunday to help equip parents and has partnered with more than 40 dioceses and archdioceses. 

A story of hope

Black shared this story about a young child who was exposed to porn and knew how to handle it, thanks to training from his parents:

I was speaking at a large Christian parents’ event for the second year in a row, and a mom, whom I will call Tammy, sought me out. She said, “I attended your session last year, did exactly what you said, and my seven-year-old son was exposed to porn!” Since she was smiling, I knew she had a good story to tell. 

Tammy went on to explain how she had used the software, training tools, and conversation guides with her son that I had recommended. My talk explained parental awareness and how parents can prepare kids for the day they are exposed to porn so that young children know what porn is and how to turn away and let a parent know what happened. 

Her son was playing with their seven-year-old neighbor, who had just received a tablet for his birthday. Unfortunately, this boy quickly found pornography with his new device, which he thrust into the face of his friend with the exclamation, “Look what I found!” 

Tammy’s son turned his head immediately, thrust his hand in front of the screen, and said, “No, that’s pornography!” And then he turned, ran, and told his mom and dad what happened. Tammy praised her son for doing exactly as she had taught him. But she also let the neighboring parents know what had transpired. 

The neighbor parents were taken aback, shocked that their son would even be curious about sex at age seven. When they dug deeper, the parents discovered their son had shown pornography to kids (ages seven through 11) throughout their neighborhood.

The neighborhood kids kept the porn a secret. Some had been shocked by what they saw, not knowing what to do. Likely, some felt shame or feared they would get in trouble. Others might have seen porn before and corroborated with their young friend. Whatever the reasons, these kids were mum to adults. 

Tammy’s son, the only youngster who had been trained by his parents, was the lone child who told a parent.

Parents want their children to tell them when (not if) pornography exposure happens. Preparing our kids requires having hard but important conversations and training them so they know what to do. 

Check out The Healing Church for lots more practical and tested advice from Sam Black.

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