Question: We’ve done our best to monitor our children’s online activities, but our teen has apparently found a way to visit pornographic websites in spite of our best efforts. What can we do about this?

Answer:

You should take immediate and decisive action. Sit down with your son and tell him that you know he’s been accessing Internet pornography. Let him know that you’re disappointed with his behaviour and that you are going to be implementing appropriate consequences, including complete restriction of his use of the Internet for the time being. Make sure he understands that you are doing this because you love him and care about his future.

At that point, you can proceed to explain exactly why pornography is such a bad and dangerous thing. Though its images may seem enticing, pornography actually fills the mind with false and destructive messages about sex and human relationships. Let your son know that viewing porn can potentially harm his relationships with girls by causing him to see them as objects rather than persons. It may even affect his ability to build and maintain a healthy marriage later in life.

Get online protection

You didn’t clarify exactly what kind of precautions you’ve been taking, but we’d strongly suggest that you purchase some Internet filtering software or sign up with an Internet provider that allows for parental monitoring to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.

Along these lines, Focus on the Family Canada is now partnering with Net Nanny, the most endorsed and trusted provider of parental control software, to give families the online protection they need. Net Nanny blocks unwanted content and provides a window into the online activity of every member of the household by keeping track of search keywords, places visited, pictures, conversations and personal contacts. We realize that software programs of the nature aren't necessarily the ultimate answer to problems like those your son is facing, but we feel strongly that they can play an important role in helping you keep tabs on the entire family's online activities. When he earns back his Internet privileges, let your son know that you will be keeping a close eye on his online activities. As a minor living under your roof he should understand that his right to privacy has limits.

Set Internet guidelines for your child

Many parents find it helpful to draw up an "Internet use contract" with their kids. The contract should spell out what sites your child is allowed to visit, what time of day he is allowed to access the web, and how long he will be allowed to stay online. Similar guidelines can be devised with reference to chat rooms and instant messaging. Include a written explanation of the consequences of breaking the rules. When the document is complete, both parents and kids can sign it and post it on the refrigerator.

By the way, it’s worth pointing out that you’re not alone. Statistics indicate that teenage boys and young men are accessing Internet pornography at an alarming rate. Pamela Paul, author of Pornified: How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, reports that 70 per cent of eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old males visit pornographic websites in a given month.* And many of them started viewing porn when they were much younger.


* Statistics based on a study of males in the U.S.

For more information on the dangers of pornography and practical advice on returning to wholeness, we suggest you read the related article, Resisting the Power of Pornography.


© 2010 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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