Parents who are trying to protect their kids from pornography install internet filters. They move all computer to public areas, and monitor their online activity. They build close relationships, and they talk to their kids about sex and family values.
What too many parents forget to do, though, is tell their kids why people look at pornography– to cope with feelings. And they don’t think to teach their kids how to cope with their feelings in healthy ways.
A recent Deseret News article (read it here) uses the following example:
“Matthew trudged up the stairs, vowing to study [for tomorrow’s test]. He got sidetracked texting a friend and listening to music and an hour later he still hadn’t cracked the book.
After dinner he watched some television, loaded the dishwasher and texted a few more friends. In the back of his head, the stress was building, throbbing like a toothache. Finally around midnight, the stress was unbearable.
But instead of studying, he flopped onto his bed, grabbed his phone and typed in an X-rated porn site. That night, instead of the usual 2 or 3 hours of viewing, he watched video after video.
For seven hours.”
In this case study, Matthew’s pull toward pornography was not really about sex or relationships. The issue was that pornography had become Matthew’s go-to method of dealing with unpleasant emotions.
It is not easy in our culture to teach children how to deal with negative emotions. The mixed messages don’t help. Does anger make me strong or weak? Is sadness normal, or is there something wrong with me? We brag about being stressed like it is a measure of our personal importance. Rejection is embarrassing, so kids are unmotivated to seek help with emotional processing and recovery. And how does one deal with loneliness?
But the truth is that children who are not taught to manage (not bury!) unpleasant emotions are unprepared for the ups and downs of adulthood. People who do not have healthy coping mechanisms turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms. One of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms in our society is pornography. It is ubiquitous and alluring. It offers a false escape and temporary release. Pornography scars minds, bodies, and families.
The way to protect your child from pornography is to teach him about himself. Teach him why pornography may look appealing, and why he should turn away. Teach your daughter about stress, about sadness, about loneliness, and about rejection. These are normal and natural emotions that can be useful when managed and debilitating when improperly dealt with. Give your son good coping mechanisms and habits. Let your daughter see you feel negative emotions, and then let her see you handle those emotions.
And pornography will have lost another potential customer.
While you’re teaching your kids, protect them by blocking all online pornography from your home.