Developing your child’s convictions about pornography will take many different forms. We’ve gone to junior high and high school to talk to teachers who have asked our sons to read what would be rated R in movies. We’ve sought to expose pornography’s lies by talking about its impact on men like Ted Bundy. And we’ve taken our sons and daughters with us when we’ve gone to movie theaters to talk to theater managers and protest an NC-17 (formerly X-rated) movie that came to our community.

All of these actions and more can shape your child’s convictions and keep him out of the traps. In addition, there are two other convictions your child should learn and embrace.

Child’s Conviction 1: I understand that pornography is sin and can destroy my life and my future marriage and family.

You may wonder how much detail to share about pornography with a child without drifting toward prurience. A great guideline is to look at Scripture and see how the Lord warns us about certain things. He certainly doesn’t tell the whole story to provoke our carnality and flesh to sin. For example, in Proverbs we read this description of a woman to avoid: “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and smoother than oil is her speech” (5:3). That is not an explicit description of a prostitute propositioning someone, but it gets the point across.

When talking to a preteen or teen about pornography, you can explain that many people today look at pictures of naked women and men performing sexual activity, but none of this is pleasing to God. Pornography takes something that is beautiful when it occurs between a married man and woman and makes it dirty. At younger ages, say up to about 12, your child needs only to know that pornography isn’t good for him. He certainly doesn’t need details that would attract him.

Talk to your child about the importance of keeping his life pure by guarding what enters through the eyes. Jesus said, “The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness” (Matthew 6:22–23).

As your child grows older, begin pointing out some of the sexual images you see in the media, in commercials, in magazine advertisements, etc. Here are a few things you could talk about:

  • Explain that pornography is any type of media—words, photographs, movies, music—that stimulates sexual excitement. (If you don’t care for our definition, create your own; you’ll find it challenging to clearly define.) The beauty and the allure of the human body does stimulate such excitement; this excitement is appropriate and good within the marriage relationship, as God intended. Pornography ruins relationships and can lead to destructive compulsions or even addictions.
  • Without being overly explicit, explain that there are so-called gradations of pornography. Each step is dangerous. What may be harmless looking may be the first step down a slippery slope toward the polluted water. Warn your child of the danger of bringing impure images into his mind and heart. Pornography by its very nature is so addictive, so powerful, that even a casual, innocent encounter can trigger the desire to see more.
  • Explain where hard-core pornography is likely to be found—and how to stay away. Explain as well what to do if your child stumbles across a pornographic book, magazine, or Web site.

Is Pornography a Problem for Girls?

Males, who are generally more stimulated by sight than females, will always be the main consumers of pornography. But in our sex-saturated culture, pornography is becoming a problem for females as well.

FamilyLife received a message from a man who had been married for many years before he found out that his wife was addicted to suggestive literature and a harmful, compulsive sexual behavior.

This problem isn’t discussed much in the Christian community, because women trapped in pornography see this as such a shameful sin for a woman.

Since girls are sexually influenced more through their emotions than by visual stimuli, a gate opener for a future problem with pornography may be a girl’s exposure to romance novels and the fantasy orientation of most television soap operas and many movies.

When Ashley was in junior high, I (Barbara) bought her some Christian novels because they contained historical information. Ashley became more and more interested in reading these books. Looking through the novels, I discovered that the plot was centered around a romantic relationship.

I finally had to talk to Ashley about reading some of these books. They were making her think too much about “being in love” and having a guy pay her special attention. She was too young to be preoccupied with romance; it just wasn’t healthy for her. When you’re trying to keep a daughter from early dating and being too focused on guys, there is enough to combat in the culture without dealing with the Christian version of the same thing.

Of course this type of Christian literature would not be considered pornography. But some Christian novels can stir up romantic or even sexual emotions.

A good verse to share with your daughter on this issue is Proverbs 4:23: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the spring of life.” As parents we are commissioned by God to protect these young hearts by helping them develop their own convictions about what they will listen to, read, and watch.

Child’s Conviction 2: I will be accountable to my parents for how I entertain myself—what I read, view, and listen to.

Don’t assume your sons or daughters are free from the trap of pornography. We know good Christian families who have been blown away by a child’s involvement in this snare. Aggressively monitor your child’s entertainment habits by asking hard questions:

“Have you been looking at or reading anything at school that you ought not?”

“When you’re on the computer, are you surfing where you ought not to be surfing?”

“How are you doing in your thought life? Are you steering clear of feeding your sexual thoughts?”

As your child grows up and enters puberty, you will need to discuss this trap on a number of occasions—if for no other reason than accountability. As your child transitions into adulthood, it’s healthy for him to know that you are going to ask him these types of questions. The pornography temptation will take on new meaning as the child develops sexually and has the opportunity to be more independent.

If your family computer is linked to the Internet, make sure the computer is in a high-use room of your home—perhaps the family room or kitchen. This will allow you to monitor what your child does. Also, purchase software that screens and blocks pornographic sites.

But continue to be on guard. An article in U.S. News & World Report said this about screening software: “Censorship programs won’t slow down a precocious teen who has just been handed a smutty new Internet address, nor can they sniff out e-mail with a naughty picture attached.”(1) While we were writing the book Parenting Today’s Adolescents, an advertisement for a Russian sex Web site mysteriously appeared in our e-mail on our home computer. Like junk mail, solicitation by such sites can occur on a random basis.

What If You Find Pornography?

Don’t be like one mother who found some pornographic literature when she was cleaning her boy’s room and did nothing. She later said with a sigh to a friend, “Boys will be boys.”

First, ask God for wisdom in how to handle this volatile subject. Most likely, you will find that your child will react with tremendous shame when confronted with your discovery. Ask God to enable you to express His grace and forgiveness to your child. (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If your child is not present when you find the material, show it to your spouse. Decide who should be the one to talk with the child. Then lay out a game plan that gives your child a chance to tell the truth before you show him what you’ve found. Pray that God will guide you and grant you the ability to speak heart-to-heart with your teen.

If you find the material when your child is present, then you need to begin dealing with it right on the spot. If your spouse is at home, do this together. Sit down and talk to your child and ask him where he got the pornography and why he is looking at it. Then review with him why this is wrong and inappropriate for him.

Also point out to him the dangers in pornography. Some people are as prone to a compulsive need for pornography as others are to alcohol or drugs.

Tell him you are going to ask him to be more accountable to you than he has been in the past. Continue to ask him hard questions on a regular basis. If your child has a room to himself, consider taking the door off the hinges if needed to eliminate the child’s opportunity to shut you out and hide in his room.

1) Robin Bennefield, “When kids prowl the Net, parents need to be on guard,” U.S. News & World Report, April 29, 1996, p. 75.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers.