Editor’s note: Both because of the quantity of searches we’ve had over the years from wives struggling with their husband’s addictions and because of my new(ish) job in the porn prevention world, you will continue to see posts on this topic from me. I think we as parents need to be discussing this more, sharing ideas and experiences (both successes and failures) with each other. Remember when Sister Beck invited sisters to fight against the plague of pornography? If you haven’t heard it, it’s worth a listen. Here’s the snippet where she urges us to rise to the responsibility to protect our children. This plea has been repeated recently by Elder Cook as well. “Our primary emphasis, however, should always be to make any necessary sacrifices to protect our own family and the rising generation.20 The vast majority of them are not yet in bondage to serious addictions or false ideologies. We must help inoculate them from a world that sounds a lot like the Jerusalem that Lehi and Jeremiah experienced.”
Protecting our children needs to be our “primary emphasis”! We can’t just protect through filters or technology solutions, or by waiting for petitions or government action to take place. We have to lead out and help protect our children by being educated and aware ourselves (and getting help if we struggle with addiction!). And we need to help them develop internal filters through spiritual health, emotional health, mental health, and social/relational health.
It was a combination of a fifth-Sunday lesson from our bishop and the emotion and passion in Sister Beck’s voice that spurred me as a mom to get more educated about pornography addiction. The Spirit was working on me with intensity. I will be honest; I also had the nagging desire to bury my head in the sand and pretend pornography addiction really wasn’t as big of a problem as my bishop made it sound. But I knew I couldn’t do that. I knew I had to be deliberate and get educated and make protecting and preparing my children against pornography and addiction a priority.
Now that I have spent years becoming more educated, I realize that I started way too late thinking about this. My children were still in pre-teens/pre-pre-teen mode at the time, but now I have learned that teaching children media literacy (thanks, Beauty Redefined!) needs to happen a lot younger and very deliberately. I have learned more about the brain science of pornography/sexual addiction how even young children’s brains can develop addictions. From that point on when the Spirit spurred me out of my slumber, I was open and deliberate with my children about my hope to help them grow up without addiction in their lives. (That means we talk about more than just pornography, but we do talk a lot about that specifically.) I will say, too, that that meant a lot more than just talking about sex. (I’d been open with them about sex from the time they were young.) What I have learned is that talking to them about sex is NOT the same thing as talking to them about pornography!
I recently shared some resources for talking with children about cell phone safety. I wanted to share some resources that I hope can be helpful for you to learn more about pornography and sexual addiction, and about pornography prevention, so that you can be informed and empowered as a parent or grandparent or teacher to know how to help children navigate our porn-saturated world
(If you have a child already struggling with addiction, there are places you can go for support. For example, Healing through Christ has a workbook for loved ones of those in addiction. They also have phone meetings (email me at mormonwoman a/ gmail d/ com for more info and I can forward information from them to you). The Sons of Helaman community is made up of LDS moms who are supporting each other and sharing what is helping them through this challenge. The Hope and Healing Forum has women (mostly wives, but some moms) who understand what it is like to have a loved one in addiction. LDS Addiction therapists who can help you navigate this include people like Brannon Patrick, Jeffrey Ford, Geoff Steurer, Tyler Patrick, Dan Gray, Kathy Kinghorn, Dorothy Maryon, Roger Stark, Mark Chamberlain, Rory Reid, Matthew Buckley (specializes in helping youth…just heard about him and his book) and others. Fight the New Drug has a new program coming out for youth struggling with addiction as well, called Fortify. You can email me for more names.)
I already shared a few links above. There is a lot more great educational material at sites like Net Nanny, Candeo, Covenant Eyes, Porn Harms, Fight the New Drug (linked above), SA Lifeline, Porn Proof Kids, and more. (I don’t have time to include all the resources of which I’m aware, but that can be a good start.)
If you can get your hands on this journal, there is a review of research done in 2012: The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents: A Review of the Research (from Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, in a special issue on Cybersex
Some good authors on the topic include Jill Manning, Mark Kastleman, Don Hilton, Mary Muller (you can preview some of her book about protecting innocents here), Steven Cramer. You can see more authors and books that have been listed at lds.org here.
I also highly recommend reading books and tapping into educational resources about shame. Brené Brown is a well-known researcher and speaker on this topic (warning, she has a bit of a foul mouth sometimes but the principles she teaches are brilliant). I also had the opportunity to read one of the books by a pastor named F. Remy Diederich, which helped me understand a lot about how I can help my children avoid being trapped in shame. And he kindly has offered to share them for free.
Have you ever heard of the LDS Tech forums? This is an underused resource where tech experts from the Church gather in “crowdsourcing” mode to help the Church work on technical projects and to help members get answers to questions about technology. There is a whole section in the forums just for Family Safety with Technology. Topics in this particular space include discussions not just related to concerns about pornography (e.g., filtering technology (and the very real limitations and downsides of filters, or at least relying solely on filters — with some VERY wise advice), thoughts about using Facebook, more), cybercrime issues, general internet addictions (remember, parents, kids don’t have to be addicted to pornography to have an addiction that can hurt them), video game addictions, and more.
You can also find more information about technology solutions, internet safety, and how to communicate with your children at places like Enough is Enough, McAfee’s family safety center, the FBI’s website, and Women for Decency (including Digital Safety How-tos and tips for talking to children).
Women for Decency (the organization I work for) also has created a couple of programs for White Ribbon Week (a program used in some schools). While these are designed for a school’s parent-teacher organization (PTA, PTO), the principles are valuable for anyone with a stewardship for children — especially for parents! See two booklets that are free for download: I Have the Power and Let’s Get Real.
You can find more resources for talking to your children at BYU’s Continuing Education website (I already did a search for you!). In those search results you can find a multitude of documents shared at a BYU Women’s Conference Sharing Station, for example, or a handout about addiction and recovery. found a couple of BYU Women’s Conference links, for example. There have been some programs on BYU-TV about pornography as well.
For teaching children about sexuality, A Parent’s Guide is at the top of my list. Jill Manning shared some thoughts at a Time Out for Women a couple of years ago. You will see that she has recommended books by Brad Wilcox and Richard and Linda Eyre. (I do want to say that I disagree with the Eyre’s about a recent article they published…my thoughts are more along the lines of this post in response to their article — about how emotional health (not just talking about healthy sexuality) is KEY to helping protect children from porn.)
As I said before, this is an incomplete resource list. If you have other resources you would like to share, please leave them in the comments below!