In my last post, I discussed how parents could lessen their child’s risk for exposure to pornography. As I said, it’s not a matter of if their child will be exposed to pornography, but rather when. This week, I will share a very enlightening interview I conducted with a Youth Pastor at a large, prominent church in the metro Atlanta area about what he sees in his interactions with the youth in his church.
It’s bigger than you think!
Jackie: How big of a problem do you think pornography is for teenagers based on what you see in your work as a Youth Pastor?
Youth Pastor: I have no doubt that pornography has become one of the biggest threats and attacks on teenagers today. I think it’s a bigger problem than drugs or alcohol, even more so with technological advances such as, smart phones, iPods and even gaming systems that can access the Internet. When I started in youth ministry 10 years ago, I would sometimes hear about struggles with pornography. As the years have advanced, it’s now one of the top issues I hear from teenagers as far as their struggles and for a lot of them it has become an addiction.
Jackie: Is it a bigger problem for girls or boys?
Youth Pastor: That’s a good question. I think it’s a bigger temptation for boys because of how visual they are. However, it is more and more becoming a major struggle for girls as well.
Jackie: Based on your experiences, what’s the youngest age of a student struggling with pornography that you’ve been made aware of?
Youth Pastor: Age 6! Last year I talked to a dad that had attended a conference at our church on pornography. His eyes were opened up during the conference about how big of an issue pornography is and how easy it is accessed. When he got home he was led to look at his 6-year-old son’s iPod. When he looked at it, his heart sank when he saw the history that was on the browser. He found sites that contained very, very explicit, graphic and dark pornography. The way it all came about was that his son was searching the Internet for something about his Razor® scooter and inadvertently clicked on a link that took him to pornography. Not really knowing what he was seeing, he kept going back.
Jackie: Over what period of time did the history cover?
Youth Pastor: It had been going on for about two weeks when the dad found out about it. The dad asked the son why he didn’t tell them what he had seen and the son said he didn’t really know what he was seeing. The father then asked him what made him keep going back to look again. The son said his curiosity began to grow and then he began searching for the things he had seen initially.
Jackie: Wow! A speaker at a conference I attended once shared that he knew a psychologist who was counseling an 8-year-old boy who was addicted to porn, which was difficult for me to even comprehend at the time. Now, I see how something like that could happen because if this father had not looked at his son’s iPod, his son could have very easily been addicted to porn by the age of 8.
Youth Pastor: I have no doubt that this boy would have ended up addicted. It’s sad to hear stories like this where this 6-year-old’s first introduction to sex (something that God created as very good), was based on the enemy’s perverted lie about what sex is. The dad now has to come alongside his son for the next how ever many years to help him deal with what he has seen.
Jackie: Absolutely! His innocence was taken away from him at such a young age and he may never be able to get those images out of his head.
Youth Pastor: Parents need to be careful about saying they know their kids would never go look for pornography. Well, it’s almost guaranteed that they are going to stumble upon it whether they are looking for it or not. I can assure them of that based on a first hand experience I had just a couple of weeks ago.
Our church has some of the best filtering software you can buy. I was in my office at the church one day and went online to look for a new desktop background for my computer. I Googled “Guy Harvey fish paintings” and while I’m looking at the Google images, a photo of very explicit pornography appeared on about the third page of images. And here I have some of the best filtering software on the market today. The words that I Googled had nothing to do with pornography and boom, there it is! That’s how easily kids can be exposed to it as well. If their parents have not prepared them for that possibility, they may do exactly what this 6-year-ol boy did, and continue to go back to the site.
Stigma = Silence
Jackie: How do you most often find out about a kid struggling with pornography? Is it the student who comes to you or the parent?
Youth Pastor: Although I do have parents come to me for guidance on how to handle the issue with their kids, most times it is the student who comes to talk to me because they don’t feel comfortable going to their parents.
Jackie: I hear that a lot also. Most of the teens that write me letters say they do not feel comfortable sharing their struggle with anyone, and most definitely not their parents.
I would like to come out and say that I’m a male struggling with an addiction to pornography, and I’ve been trying so hard to stop for the past year. I’m actually regaining control of myself, but it has taken a huge toll on my life. I’m so depressed and I consistently have suicidal thoughts. I can’t make it through one week without mentally breaking down. I hate that I’m so afraid to tell someone about it, but I am. For some reason, I cannot handle the stigma…I hope that my letter can warn other students of the dangers of pornography addiction.
Jackie: I wish more teens could get beyond the fear of the stigma; but that seems to be a huge reason teens suffer in silence. When parents do find out their child has been viewing pornography, how do they typically respond?
Youth Pastor: A lot of times the parent is completely caught off guard and surprised, which shows me that parents aren’t educated or aware of how big of a problem this issue is. If parents were aware of how huge this problem is, not only would they not be surprised, but they would also be proactive in discussing pornography with their child. They would be checking in with their child on a regular basis before it even becomes a struggle.
Next week, I will share the rest of the interview where you’ll hear what the Youth Pastor sees as the three biggest mistakes parents make when it comes to teens and pornography.