So why, pray tell, when Junior turns 11 or 12 or 13, would we gift him with an accidental gateway to pornography?
In the name of being able to reach Junior “in case of an emergency” as well as the fact that “everyone else has one,” and besides, “I don’t want Junior to think I’m a mean mom,” we hand him this magical little portal to a world that is more harmful than anything we’ve spent so much effort to avoid.
In a study by ABC News called“Generation XXX: Teens Addicted to Porn,” it is shown that SEVEN OUT OF TEN teens are accidentally exposed to porn online. Think your teen is safe? If any of his or her friends has a smartphone, you’re wrong. Through apps that you and I use daily—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram—as well as YouTube, your children risk exposure. I once pulled up YouTube to show my children that really sweet video of the baby who started crying when her mother sang (y’all remember that cuteness?), and when I found it I noticed on the top of the list of YouTube’s suggestions was a video by the EXACT same name but the thumbnail was a nude woman’s rear-end. All four of my children were crowded around me and looking over my shoulders. I felt ill. Several friends have told me that their children first saw porn in the locker room at school, thanks to a buddy who was sharing his smartphone. Exposure to sexually explicit content online can occur very easily through a misdirected Google search using an innocent word such as“toy,” a misspelled word or URL, a misleading website or email, or a link or photo sent by a peer or through spam (Wolak et al, 2007).
Here are some statistics from the Center for Parents/Youth Understanding:
· 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography before the age of 18
· The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11
· 70% of boys have spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at online pornography on at least one occasion. 35% of boys have done this on more than ten occasions.
· 23% of girls have spent more than 30 consecutive minutes looking at online pornography on at least one occasion. 14% have done this on more than one occasion.
· 30,000 Internet users are accessing pornography every second.
· There are 4.2 million pornographic websites. That equals 12% of all Internet sites.
· The 12-17 year-old age group is the largest consumer of Internet pornography
· Only 3% of boys and 17% of girls have never seen Internet pornography
·One poll indicates that 50% of evangelical Christian men and 20% of evangelical Christian women are addicted to pornography
And if you think this is all harmless, well, you’re just not paying attention. Use of pornography has been proven to lead to a cycle of preoccupation, compulsion, acting out, isolation, self-absorption, shame and depression: disorders all widely achievable now with the touch of a button on that beautiful, shiny, little smartphone. The very same smartphone you gave Junior, with the best of intentions, in order to protect him from this big bad world. Little did you know you were putting the big bad world in the palm of his hand, just a click away.
What we must understand is that porn does to the mind what drugs do to the body. As Dr. Jeffrey Satinover of Princeton University said, “It is as though we have devised a form of heroin... usable in the privacy of one’s own home and injected directly to the brain through the eyes.”
When you view porn, your body responds by rewarding you with a release of dopamine. Why are you being rewarded if it is such a bad thing you ask? Well, we are biologically engineered to procreate in order to keep our species alive. Our bodies do not realize we’re not with another human when this stimulation occurs; therefore it still rewards us with these chemicals, inducing a euphoric feeling. We were made to enjoy sex. Sex is a wonderful thing. However, when we get addicted to a sex substitute, a neural-pathway in the brain is created that craves more and more of that type of stimulation. The type that is always changing, always new, always exciting and more erotic than the day before. This counterfeit sexual experience becomes our new norm and intercourse with another human being becomes bland and not enough to induce such euphoria.
It’s kind of like eating McDonalds every day for every meal. It will sustain you for a while; however it is not necessarily good for you. And after six months on a diet of high fat, high sugar, high salt foods engineered only to stimulate your body’s pleasure receptors, it might be hard to find satisfaction in the good, healthy foods which will truly nourish your body.
There’s no doubt we love our children and want what’s best for them, so we must protect them from this new virtual drug, a proverbial pink slime for our minds, just like we would protect them from any other harmful substance. Because while we can fix broken bones, purge toxins out of their system, and kiss boo-boos away, the mind is not so easy to heal. These images will stay with them long after they’ve been viewed, like a trace amount of a drug always pumping through their veins, trying to lure them back in for one more cheap high.
If we keep their bodies intact, but allow their minds to decay, then we have failed as parents and never truly protected them at all.
The compromise? In an ever changing world where pay phones are becoming more and more scarce, cell phones are not always a bad idea. However, we must fight the urge to go bigger and better just because our plans allow it, or our provider is willing to cut us a deal. Buy the cheap flip phone. Monitor it closely. You can still give your child the level of independence they're ready to handle without setting them up for failure. Prepare them, while still protecting them. They will thank you one day.