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boytech“Today, it’s reported that at least 90 percent of kids between the ages of 8 and 16 have watched pornography online at least once. Not only have most tweens and teens seen porn, but boys ages 12 to 17 are actually the largest consumers of online pornography. With this statistic, pornography has even been compared to being the drug of choice for youth” (source).

The statistics on kids viewing pornography on the internet completely took me by surprise.  My husband and I had every inclination to discuss this topic with our own son at a time we felt it might be relevant. We had no idea that discussion would need to happen by age 8.  We’re one year too late according to this statistic.

Although we monitor what our children see via screens, we realize that there are far too many opportunities for our kids to come into contact with unacceptable images and content even when “googling” something as innocent as “how to take care of baby chicks.”

I’m not an extremist but I now believe that the internet is simply not for kids. 

I have been more nervous about my kids walking across the street from our house to play in the empty field than I have been in giving them permission to browse my laptop for a family-friendly Netflix movie.  It was my son who revealed to me that one of his recurring nightmares when he closes his eyes at bedtime is the image of an American Horror Story Netflix series box cover listed as one of the choices in the browse option.  I felt awful.  I felt like I had allowed my child to enter into an R-Rated room without me…and I did, virtually.

In Simplicity Parenting, Kim John Payne explains that parents have become more vigilant about keeping our children physically safe than emotionally safe.  When I read that statement last month while preparing to facilitate my Monthly Simplicity Parenting Gathering on the topic of “Filtering the Adult World,” I felt sick. I felt sick because it is accurate, even for myself.

This morning my husband shared with me that he explained to our son that the internet isn’t kind to women. Our family rule is that we do not want him to use a computer when he is with his friends and that we restrict the use of the computer at home. Because it is not our intention for our son to ever think the naked body is shameful or that he will never be curious about it, my husband encouraged our son to always know that we want him to know he can come to us with questions about sex or about our bodies. He assured him that these questions and this curiosity is perfectly normal and part of growing up and that we are here to help him and provide him with truthful answers that make sense based on what makes sense for his age.

So, in essence, without using the word, my husband began a conversation with his 9 year old son this morning about protecting himself from porn. It isn’t a talk that a 9 year old should have to hear.  My little boy loves to draw, crochet, jump on the trampoline, read Roald Dahl books, snuggle with me on the couch, and sculpt things out of beeswax.  Why are we telling him to protect his mind from porn?  Unfortunately we have to tell him because we live in a world that has accepted porn as a part of growing up – some kind of “rite of passage” into the world of sexuality, specifically for boys.

Essentially, my husband and I are rejecting this rite of passage for our child. We want him to know how to protect himself before he is tainted with images that will never leave him, before his adolescent body, without his intellectual consent, responds physically to an image that mixes sexual acts with acts of violence against women.

Rashida Jones, the co-producer of Hot Girls Wanted, a documentary about the world of legal amateur porn, states,

“[There is a] difference between sexuality and sexualization.”

And that difference is what should separate what we see on screen from our actual sex lives. Owning one’s sexuality can be empowering and pleasurable. But being sexualized the way porn stars so often are means the power is in someone else’s hands.  (source)

My friend’s 20-something son spoke last weekend at the Soul Cafe in Efland, NC about his own journey growing up and choosing to avoid and refuse to engage with porn on any level.  As a young adolescent his friends teased him and declared that he must be gay.  He shared with us, an audience predominantly comprised of mothers, that there is a “sleeping monster” of sexual urges that emerges during puberty in our boys (and girls – although differently) that is relentless. For him, he embraced this part of himself without shame and strives to rise above these earthly sexual urges, negotiating with this part of himself regularly.  Our sexuality is a beautiful part of who we are.  It has a place and a context.  For this young man, he simply is choosing not to be a plaything for the porn industry.

The sad truth is that all of us are losing so much due to the accepted practice of viewing porn. Women are losing for obvious reasons. But men are losing too. They are losing realistic expectations of their sexual partners; they are losing their marriages to their porn addictions; they are losing childhood innocence as they are seeing too much too soon; they are losing their ability to explore their own sexuality without it being tainted by images of sexual violence; they are losing to feelings of shame as their young bodies respond to images of rape or worse, believing they must be sexually depraved; they are losing the ability to see women as equals; and some men have even lost a portion of their lives to prison for downloading illegal pornography.

It is imperative that I share this ugly truth with you so that you have the information to reflect on and make your own parenting decisions when it comes to the internet, porn, and our kids’ access.  I am specifically speaking about the impact on our boys because the number of men who have shared that their first sexual experiences of seeing porn in their father’s stack of magazines under the bed, or finding a porn video hidden in a drawer are too many to count.

Unfortunately, porn is no longer under the bed or in a drawer “hidden” – it’s on your child’s iPad, or Smart Phone, or laptop and is accessible at any time.  We can be neither naive nor ambivalent about this topic.  It’s time to think differently and ensure our child’s emotional well-being is well guarded just as much, indeed more, than our child’s physical safety.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Share in the comments below and we can continue this important dialogue.

Atarim

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