How To Talk To Kids About Porn

May 11, 2023

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In this episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, host Elizabeth Urbanowicz discusses the crucial topic of when and how to start talking about pornography with our kids. The episode covers important aspects such as being proactive in addressing the issue, understanding what children are exposed to, and building a positive biblical foundation for human dignity and God's design for sex and sexuality. Elizabeth offers practical advice, resources, and strategies for parents to prepare their children for potential exposure to pornographic content and to guide them in making wise decisions. Tune in to learn how you can equip your children to navigate the challenges of a porn-saturated culture with wisdom and grace.

Transcript

Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question is short and straightforward. It says, "when should we start talking about pornography with our kids?" Such an important question in this culture that is just obsessed with pornography and where pornography is very predatory and is specifically coming after our children. So we're going to dive down deep into that question today.

Before we do that, just again, I'd love to remind you to please make sure that you like, subscribe and write a review if you found this content beneficial so that we can equip as many adults as possible to understand how to get their children to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter.

Now, as we think about this question about pornography and our children, one thing we want to make sure that we're doing is that we are being proactive rather than reactive. We don't want to wait until our children have been exposed to pornography or until this issue has come up before we train them in what to do. Because anytime we're reactive, we're just fighting against something that has already started, where when we're being proactive, we have the time and the space to build up just a sound positive biblical theology of what it means to be human, God's good design for sex and sexuality, and how to avoid the traps of the enemy.

Now, one mistake that I think that we make when it comes to thinking about when to talk with our children about pornography is we tend to underestimate how much our children have been exposed to, whether it's been through their exposure at school or their exposure in front of a screen, or even just their exposure being with other kids in a Sunday school class at church, that our kids are usually exposed to a lot more than we give them credit for.

I just very distinctly remember when I was in middle school, just sometimes the conversations that I would have with adults at my church and just thinking, oh my goodness, you have no clue what I have been exposed to at school. You have no idea. Here you are thinking I'm this sweet, innocent little seventh grader, and I mean none of us are innocent before God. It was true that I was innocent in that I hadn't been actually involved in a lot of the things that I was exposed to in middle school, but I was exposed to so many heinous forms of sin and deviation from God's good design just over and over and over and over and over again every day at school. And I just remember almost laughing at these conversations that I would have with adults at church who tended to think that I didn't know what any of this stuff was.

And so sometimes we are just very naive to what our children are exposed to at very young ages. So my recommendation is that we start having talks with our children about pornography at the age of four. Now, many of you might have just gasped and thought, oh my goodness, Elizabeth, you have to be nuts. Well, let me clarify that. I'm not talking about talking with a four year old about graphic violent pornography at the age of four, but that we just expose them to the idea that there are good pictures and that there are bad pictures, and that we want to immerse ourselves in the good and reject the bad. And so the reason that I recommend starting at four is because the average age of exposure to pornography is eight. And so when we're talking about average, we mean that that's a lot of times the median that there's some kids aren't exposed to it until later and some kids are exposed to it earlier.

So we want to make sure that we are preparing them very early on. And those of you who have followed Foundation Worldview for a while that we recommend that we start talking to our children about God's good design for sex and sexuality at the age of three. And again, we are always pushing the Birds and the Bees course as an easy guide for just guiding you through these conversations to have with your children. So by the age of four, you should be able to have the first conversation with them about the different types of pictures that are out there. And now, as always, we always recommend that you start with building up the positive biblical theology, that our bodies are valuable, that we are God's image bearers, and He's made us both bodies and soul and our bodies are valuable and they were designed by God to do good.

And so then what you can do is you can walk through with your kids just listing good things that you can do with your body that our bodies were designed to eat good food. Our bodies were designed to play, they were designed to run, they were designed to sleep, they were designed to give hugs, all of the good things that our bodies were designed to do. And then that's when we can introduce the concept of what, there are pictures of us that are really good pictures that show us on family vacation that show mommy and daddy when they were little that show you when you were coming home from the hospital. There are really good pictures, but you know what? Then there are some bad pictures. And these bad pictures are the pictures that show parts of our body that are good parts of our body, but that should be covered up by a bathing suit.

Now, a great way to have this conversation is to get the book Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jr. This book is just a great resource and kind of just walking you through what I just talked you through, that there are good pictures and there are so many good pictures, and then there are bad pictures. And then if you're ever exposed to a bad picture, what are you going to do? It's a very short picture book. It's written for kids ages three to seven. So it's a great resource to have in your home that you can just read through with your kids and you can read through it over and over and over and over and over again, just so you're preparing them for the day that they do see a bad picture and what are they going to do when they see that bad picture? And one thing that I always recommend for parents to do with little ones is to give them short, simple catechizing phrases that are going to help train their brains to remember the truth.

So when it comes to the evils of pornography, what we want to catechize our kids in is that our bodies are so valuable because they were made by God. So a simple phrase that you can just have your kids memorize is "God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable." You can just have them practice saying that over and over again. "God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable." And that's something that you can say during healthy experiences as your kids are taking a bath when you're washing their hair, God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable. That's why we're washing your hair right now, brushing your teeth. God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable. That's why we're brushing our teeth. Same thing when you're eating or getting ready for bed or playing, just talking about God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable.

And then we can also have our kids practice saying that in negative experiences when we're disciplining them for hitting one of their siblings, "I'm disciplining you for this because God made your little brother's body and his body is so special and you chose to hit his body and that was not the right thing to do." When your child is sick and you're giving him or her Tylenol say, "oh, I'm so sorry that you're sick right now. God made our bodies, our bodies are so valuable, and it's so hard when our bodies are sick." When you're passing scantily clad magazine covers and the grocery store, maybe you want to turn them around so your child's not looking at them when you're checking out and saying, "you know what? That's a bad picture right there. Why is that a bad picture?" And then you turn it around and say, "oh, that's because God made our bodies and our bodies are valuable. And when we see a picture like that, that is not showing that bodies are valuable."

So when they're little, when they're between those ages of four and seven, just read through that Good Pictures, Bad Pictures book, then start talking about a catechizing phrase to have them start thinking through the fact that God made their body, their body is so valuable."

By the age of eight, Good pictures, Bad pictures, Jr actually has a next step up book, which is just called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures. That's a great resource that you can go through once your child is eight. It talks through a lot of the brain chemistry and what happens when we see a bad picture or a bad video. And so the book actually comes with questions. It's in workbook format, so you can go through one chapter at a time with your kids, go through the workbook questions just so they're understanding what's going on brain chemistry wise when somebody looks a pornographic image or video so that they have some understanding of when I am exposed to this is what's going to happen in my brain, and I don't want that to happen in my brain. And so that book, Good Pictures, Bad Pictures also talks through a game plan for what can you do when you are exposed to a bad picture or a bad video to make sure that this isn't creating a pattern in your mind.

Again, this is where we want to bring in the biblical theology of humans being image bearers and talking about it's not just what's going on in our brains when we see a bad picture or a bad video, but it's the people that are in that picture or that video, that person is an image bearer of God, and that picture or that video doesn't treat them like an image bearer. It almost treats them like an animal, like someone that we can just look at and enjoy for our own pleasure. And so we want to have that theology of humans being image barriers at the front and center.

Then another thing that's really important once our kids reach the age of probably like six, but especially by the time they're eight, when they're spending more time with friends, we want to make sure that we directly talk through and practice ways of escape when they're encountering pictures with a friend that sometimes a friend might show them pictures. And so what do they do if they encounter that? You know, might think that your child is safe if he or she is homeschooled or in a Christian school or their only exposure is in Sunday school with other kids. But even in situations where all of the kids together come in a certain situation come from Christian homes, that's not a guarantee that your child is going to be safe from pornography.

I taught at a wonderful Christian school for the first decade of my professional career, and this was a covenant school, meaning that the parents had to sign a statement of faith. And so most of the parents at that school were very intentional in having their children there so that they would get a Christian education. But I even had situations in my third grade classroom where one little boy would expose another little boy to pornography when they were having a play date. And so we have to understand that our children are not safe. We have to prepare them for what are they going to do when someone is showing them a picture or a video that is pornographic.

And so we can just give them simple phrases as in, "nope, that person is an image bearer of God. I don't want to look at that picture." And so giving them a phrase like that is reminding them of who that person is, but is also helping that friend understand why they are not going to look at that picture. It's not that they're a chicken, okay? It's not that they're scared, it's nothing like that. Is that person in that picture or that video is a valuable person because they bear God's image. So I am not going to at that. So we want to just teach our kids what to do if they are in those situations.

Another thing that I think is really important to do is just to prepare them for when they do accidentally bump into a pornographic picture, what are they going to do? This is something before I would ever hand out laptops from the laptop cart when I was teaching, I would go over this with my students. I would say, "you know what? We're going to be doing some work on the internet today and you know what, on the internet, there are some good things and there are some bad things, and it's possible even with all of the safety things we have at this school that you might encounter some bad pictures or bad videos when you're online."

And I said, "you're probably going to have one of two reactions when you see a bad picture or bad video. The first thing is you might feel really embarrassed or you might feel ashamed. And so you might not want to tell anybody because you feel so embarrassed or ashamed, or you might feel curious and you might say, I like the way that that picture made me feel. I wonder if there are more pictures or videos out there like that." And I would say, "no matter what your response is, whether you feel ashamed or whether you feel curious, the immediate thing you do is you close that laptop screen and you immediately come to me or the nearest safest adult, and you tell them exactly what happened. And you know what? We're going to be so proud of you for telling us we're going to be so grateful that you cared so much about protecting your heart and your mind that you came and told us the truth. And you know what? When you tell an adult about what happens, that brings everything out into the light, and there is no more shame or no condemnation for that."

And so just to remind them that they're going to have some of these reactions when they do see this picture and to let them know exactly what to do, this is something in your family just intentionally practice avoiding porn culture in your family. If you're watching the Super Bowl and there's a really raunchy halftime show, don't just turn it off without saying anything. Just say, "oh, you know what? That person up there we're, the way that they're showing that person is not as if he or she is an image bearer of God and is valuable. So we're turning this off." And so be very intentional about doing that and everything that you let into your home, it's also really important that you make sure you get filtering software on all your devices that we know that pornography, the porn industry is predatory. It's coming after us, it's coming after our kids. And so we have to have those safe filters on our devices and be honest with your kids about why you're putting those filters on your devices.

Now, as our kids grow into teens, we want to make sure that we're continuing the conversation. This isn't a one and done conversation when they're four or when they're eight or when they're 12. We want to continually have these conversations so that they're reminded of why we are making sure that we're intentionally protecting our minds and our hearts from the pornography that is so prevalent in our culture. As your kids get phones, make sure that you're setting very clear parameters around the phones, where they can go, where they cannot. Again, that's the software that you can put on all your devices is really helpful so that you get a record of every place that they've been.

You're also going to want to make sure that you're preparing teens for the type of pornography that can come over the phone in text messages that a lot of teens are into sexting. We want to make sure that we're helping our kids avoid that as well. So make sure that they understand what it is and what they're to do if that ever happens on their phone, that they should come to you immediately. I have a friend who every evening, she and her husband, they collect their kids' phones and they read through all of the text messages that were sent, and their kids just know that all of their text messages will be read.

As our kids are developing into teens, it's really important to bring other adults in the body of Christ in. Now, I don't recommend that you put all this pressure on the youth pastor, mainly because usually the youth pastor is very young and is not super well trained. Find an older adult in the body of Christ. Find older couples, older families, okay? Older single individuals. Start inviting them into your family, practicing biblical hospitality and asking them to come alongside and mentor your teens so that they're living a life that is honoring to the Lord.

And then the final thing I want to recommend, which is by no means the final thing that we should do, it should be one of the first things that we should do is to pray. Pray that God would give our kids hearts that are soft towards Him. Pray that God would convict our kids of sin quickly. Pray that God would protect our children from the predatory pornography that is out there and is coming after them. Because you know what? We can't be with our children every single moment, day and night, but who is? The omnipresent God of the universe. And so we need to be praying that God would protect our kids, that he would soften their hearts towards him, and that when they do fall into sin, that they would be caught quickly and that they would be brought to genuine repentance before him.

So these are many important things. I know I just gave you the whole mouthful today, but I hope that there's just some helpful tips at different stages of development for when to have this conversation about pornography, some helpful resources like the Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Jr, the regular Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, and then just conversations that we can continue to have with our kids and tools that we can give them to prepare them to understand the truth and the goodness and the beauty of God's good design for our bodies, God's good design for sex and for sexuality.

Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, my prayer for you as we leave this time together is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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