Your Child's Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Health
By Nathan Hiatt, JH/HS Spiritual Life Director
Over the last decade, we have been massive beneficiaries of technological advancement. We now have phones and devices that are more powerful than our old clunky desktop computers ever were! It's amazing to see how much we can do at the touch of a finger.
As with most things, there is a downside to the convenience and power of our technology. One major way this downside is manifesting itself in our culture today is the extreme ease with which one can access and view pornography. The fact that pornography can be summoned to any personal device at any moment is a big deal. It is so accessible and frequent that most students' first encounter with pornography is accidental.
Pornography is because it is a major threat to the physical, emotional and spiritual health of your students. If you have not discussed this issue with your students by the time they are in 7th grade, you have most likely missed your chance to be the first to inform your students about porn. The average age of an initial exposure to pornography is eleven. The number of statistics dealing with pornography is daunting and disheartening. We have to talk about this issue with our students. You need to talk about this issue with your kids.
I plead with you to discuss this issue with your kids today. If you have never talked about it before or if "sex talks" with your kids have not become normative, this will most likely be an awkward conversation. However, with stakes this high, awkwardness should not be a formidable hurdle. Bring it up at home. Come right out and ask your kids if they view or have ever viewed pornography. Please do not be deterred from these conversations by a fear of awkwardness or discomfort.
It is important to understand the nature of sin as you approach this topic. Sin is darkness and darkness wants to remain hidden. If your child is struggling with pornography, they will feel a certain amount of guilt and shame. This guilt and shame will be a barrier to their confession. You know this as well. When we think of our own sins, we would much rather leave them hidden in the dark than expose them to the light. It is imperative that you communicate with your child your unconditional love for them and their safety in disclosing their struggles to you. This may take time, but don't relent if your first attempt is unfruitful.
As I mention in the title, pornography is a threat to the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your kids. There are increasing studies that show the harmful effects of pornography. Regular viewing of internet pornography will have a significant impact on the consumer's physical health. Pornography drastically alters the way that our brain reacts to different stimuli and people.
The physical consequences of regular porn viewing then develop into emotional problems. These types of problems include: guilt/shame, failed relationships, inability to interact with the opposite sex, unrealistic expectations of the opposite sex, increased anxiety and depression.
Finally, pornography handicaps the spiritual formation of the one who is enslaved to it. One who struggles with porn will regularly define themselves by their struggle. They will fail to see themselves the way that God sees them in Christ. They will feel distant from God. This effect can be devastating to spiritual health. Instead of clinging to God's declaration of being a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), they feel like they can never change. Instead of living in freedom, they feel enslaved to their sin (Galatians 5). Instead of believing that they have been made alive in Christ, they may continue to feel dead in their sin (Ephesians 2). These are incredibly valuable truths to remind your kids if and when they struggle with pornography. There is grace for them.
Remember, your goal in addressing and solving this issue is not to instill fear, guilt, or shame in your child. Your goal should be to point them to the gospel and remind them of their purity in Christ, the victory He won for them, and the light in which we are called to walk as believers. Ultimately, we do not want your children to turn away from pornography simply because they are afraid of getting caught or for fear of some kind of consequence. We want them to turn away because they are convicted by the Holy Spirit and are aware that it is a sin against our holy God. We want them to turn away because it is an inferior counterfeit love. Christ will fulfill us completely.
I pray that this will be a spark for you to initiate this conversation with your kids. One statistic shows that 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet pornography by the time they are 18 years old. I have included some links to additional articles and resources that may be helpful in this endeavor.
If you are not sure where to start, it might be a good idea to have a conversation involving Snapchat and Instagram. Neither of which are inherently bad, but both provide access to explicit material that can be seen whether it is being searched for or whether it is viewed unintentionally. Snapchat especially has made its money by selling advertising in the "stories" section to websites and publications that use explicit photos and stories constantly. This isn't a "red alert" on these apps - just a caution.
I am praying for all of you as you courageously begin these conversations to help your children prepare for a healthy and free post-high-school life. Below, I've included links to some helpful articles.
- Advice for having the conversation about pornography with your kids. (article)
- In-depth plan for protecting your home and personal devices from pornography. You will need to carve out some time for this article if you find it valuable. (article)
- Information and resources detailing how pornography affects the brain. (article)
- Information from science that tells us how pornography is linked to chemicals in our brain and how it harms us. (article)
- Pornography can be linked to depression and anxiety. (article)
If you have questions, need resources, or want to talk further about this topic, please don't hesitate to contact Mr. Hiatt.