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My Teen Uses Porn (Part I)

by Anne Kerr

*A note about Anne: Anne was part of Out of Darkness when it was started in 2011. She served as the ministry’s first Executive Director, and has since gone on to found True North Freedom Project, which shares tools to navigate a sexualized culture.

“My Teen Uses Porn”: Ten Ways to Come Alongside Your Son or Daughter (Part One)

My Teen Uses Porn

How can it be that the baby you nurtured and protected, the one you would literally give your life for, has a struggle with porn? You anticipated acne, a bad attitude, and late nights, but not porn. Just yesterday she was jumping rope and he was building with Legos. Most teens who are addicted to porn haven’t even had their first kiss, yet feel trapped in an endless, virtual world of sex. It’s like a deep, dark hole that keeps sucking them further in.

If you are aware of your child’s struggle, consider it a blessing that it’s no longer in the dark. I’d like to share some insights that will shed light and bring hope.

All of us are naturally drawn to notice sexual things. It’s part of our wiring. Pure sex within the safety and security of marriage is God’s original design. In today’s culture, porn is unavoidable and easily accessed. Children share porn on buses, at recess, at sleepovers, or while hanging out. You can’t monitor your child’s world 24/7. And when children see porn, it’s incredibly shocking, yet also interesting! Viewing sexual images piques their natural curiosity and feels good. There’s nothing wrong with that feeling. Sex is supposed to feel good. God wired us to experience pleasure in sex, in part so we would make babies, be fruitful, and multiply. He also gave us natural brain chemicals to bond us through sex, which help foster a secure marriage and family life.

But porn finds kids, even good kids, way before marrying age, and porn isn’t godly sex.

You can come alongside a teen who desires to live free from the bondage of porn. I’ll use he and she interchangeably because girls can become addicted to porn also. And though my focus is on porn addiction, it’s typically accompanied by an addiction to masturbation as well.

Here are some good first steps. Next week I’ll share more.

  1. First, pray

Prayer paves the way for divine encounters with others that can be life-changing. Recognize the spiritual battle for the heart of this child. But before entering that battle, pray. Confess your own sin and ask God to cleanse your heart from any judgment, negativity, anger, regret, or fear. Seek His wisdom, timing, and perspective. Your only motivation must be love, and your first desire should be for God’s love to heal this wounded child. Realize you could be a means of God’s grace in his life. That’s an honor, and you’ll need God to lead and equip you.

  1. If needed, apologize

The organization Fight the New Drug polled teens about their first exposure to porn, and overwhelmingly they wished they’d been warned. It caught them totally off guard and left them feeling curious, but ashamed.[1] Shame leads to hiding. Apologize for not preparing her better, for not realizing the impact it could have, for not being there for her, or perhaps for your own weaknesses that left you unable to engage on a difficult topic. Admit if you were embarrassed or afraid of discussing it. You might also add, “But I really do want us to be able to talk about important things – even when they’re uncomfortable. I didn’t do a great job of modeling that and I’m sorry. Do you have any thoughts on how we could do that better?”

  1. Identify

Have you ever seen porn? Of course you have. We all have. I searched for photos of half-naked people in National Geographic magazines. I saw porn in homes where I babysat. It was fascinating! I felt shame, too, though I never talked about it with anyone. Help your teen realize he is not alone. Tell him that you’ve looked at porn, or that you know what shame feels like. Perhaps you can’t understand his specific challenges, but you can relate to his fear, the isolation that results from sin, and his desire to move forward out of a hard situation. Identifying with his struggle on any level could open a door to many more honest discussions, including ways in which God redeems our struggles and provides for all our needs.

  1. Affirm worth

What she has done is not who she is. Our worth rests solely in God who made us in His image, and in Christ who died to give us a new identity. Your child is priceless and precious; her worth is not based on performance, looks, intellect, the opinions of others, or anything else. With your words and actions, remind her often of her worth.

  1. Connect

Connect on a regular basis. God uses our natural need for connection to lead us away from sin and isolation. Having unrushed, distraction-free time together creates opportunities for organic conversation. Agree to leave the devices on silent or better yet, at home. As you begin to bond through shared experiences, you’ll learn new ways to affirm your child and store up new memories to share and laugh about later. Plan a weekly dinner date to try out new restaurants, go hiking or fishing, see a concert, or take that trip you’ve always talked about. Kids spell love T-I-M-E, and your window of opportunity is quickly closing. Make the most of it by intentionally nurturing his heart. Use the time to affirm all the good gifts and character traits you see in him.

Next week I’ll share Part Two of this important message, which focuses on practical things you can do and how to enter into conversations with your child about the struggle. Until then, commit some time to pray over the ideas presented here. Ask God to help you see this child as He sees her. Think back to your own early sexual experiences and how confusing that time was. And wait. In our waiting God often reveals important things we might have missed if we had rushed ahead. Trust in His perfect timing and provision.

See you next week.

If you’ve found this insightful, please share it by e-mail or Facebook. Porn addiction is a growing problem among children, teens, adults, and even older adults. As we normalize conversations about a common struggle, more will find true freedom. We would love to hear your story and pray for you. E-mail me at annek@truenorthfp.org

Anne Kerr

Founder and CEO of TrueNorth Freedom Project in Atlanta, Georgia

TrueNorth is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization committed to sharing tools for navigating a sexualized culture.

[1]The Guideline: A Parent’s Guide to Addressing Pornography with Children (PDF).  https://store.fightthenewdrug.org/products/the-guideline-pdf

Photo credit: Andrew T. Neel

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