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You Just Caught Your Child Using Porn; What Are You to Do?

You Just Caught Your Child Using Porn; What Are You to Do

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A biblical counselor interviewed Rick Thomas about a situation he is counseling with parents who discovered their child is watching porn. The counselor asked questions that are in italics with Rick’s responses underneath. The fictionalized, flattened version of the story is the dad came to the counselor asking for advice. He said his son has been sneaking out of bed, looking at porn on the computer and circumventing the protective software.

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Start With Hope

The first thing the parent needs to know is that God’s grace is sufficient for this problem. The starting point when dealing with personal challenges must be in the hope we have in God. While we may not understand everything going on in our lives, we can understand, know, and trust in God’s goodness even in our darkest hours.

I would want to make sure the parents are rooting their hearts and minds in God and the sufficiency of His Word. God is writing His story in their lives. God is in control. God is working His plan. And most importantly, they need to know that God is good. These concepts should be fixed anchor points in their hearts.

My first goal would be to make sure the parents are rooting their hearts in these truths. Additionally, I want to make sure the parents understand that the real issue is in the kid’s heart, not on his computer. While the parents can use technological protective measures to guard the computer, they will need to take another approach to safeguard the child’s heart.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15).

Believe the Truth

Sometimes a dad or a mom can have a hard time accepting what they see in their children. While they can understand why other children mess up, it can be hard to receive and accept the truth about their children. If a child like the one you’re asking about goes to these lengths to get to porn, you are more than likely talking about what our culture calls an addiction. Paul frames it better by calling it being “caught” in a transgression.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).

It may help them to reframe what is happening in their family in another way. For example, if you think about an alcoholic or crack addict who was circumventing sound advice and obstacles to drink or use, the parents may see the depth and severity of the problem. This kid is not a victim of his culture or technology. He is premeditating how he can get to porn to satisfy the cravings of his heart. He is a user.

According to James, porn is in his heart. The evil desires of his heart are luring him away from holiness. I know this perspective will be hard for them to hear, so carefully bring this truth to them. Make sure they are working on the primary issue more than the secondary ones, i.e., computer and software. Indeed, you want to amputate (Matthew 5:30) those externals, but the mortification (Romans 8:13) of the internal source problem will be the most significant hurdle.

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End with Hope

This juncture in the process may be a good time to re-remind the parents of the grace and mercy of God. God is working His plan in their lives, and now they have an excellent opportunity to cooperate with what God desires to do for their child. With that perspective in view, part of God’s mercy could be His desire to blow this thing up while the child is young.

This unexpected providence could be God’s grace actively working in this family. For example, dealing with this problem today is far better than finding out about it when he is forty years old, married to a bitter wife, and his kids are in rebellion.

Rather than the parents getting lost in the discouragement of what is going on at the moment, I would want to motivate them to think and biblically respond while implementing a biblical plan to help their son.

Leading Parents

What are some first steps of protection you would recommend to parents to prevent future porn surfing?

The parents should have all the possible blocks on their computers. This kind of protection would also apply to cell phones, iPads, and any other form of technology that allows the child to access pornography. While there are no foolproof ways to stop a guy if he wants to get porn, it would be good to do as much as possible. Additionally, I would remove or reduce his accessibility to technology.

Does he have to have technology? What is the purpose for him to have a computer and other devices? Cell phones are a desire, not a need. Most people do not need a cell phone. Our culture tells us we need one while enticing us to have them. Facebook is similar. Nobody needs to be on Facebook. Though this flies in the face of our technology gods, the truth is that we don’t need all that we have.

I have counseled many parents who are afraid of disappointing their children. I would want to carefully walk the parents through the “needs vs. desires” tension regarding technology. If there are times when the child needs to be on the computer, I would move his computer to a central, obvious, and public place in the home. If your son struggled with drinking, I don’t think you would put a mini-fridge full of beer in his room and give him a stern warning about what you’ll do to him if he takes a sip.

Model, Serve, Protect

How should a parent talk to their teen about the details of what they have seen? Should a parent probe into specific questions about what kind of porn the child is viewing?

The parents should talk to the child about how they want others to speak to them if someone discovered them doing similarly. Yelling and screaming at a child is not wise. The parents should seek to model what they want their child to be. Paul taught us this in several places. (See 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 4:9.)

  • If they want their child to be humble, they should model humility.
  • If they want their child to be accountable, they must be accountable.
  • If they want their child to be honest, they should model honesty.

As far as the actual content, it would depend on the situation, the content viewed, and the parents. For example, the dad has a responsibility to protect, lead, and shepherd his wife. Sometimes the role of a shepherd-husband is to protect his wife. Will it serve her to know what the child was viewing? What would be the point of her knowing all the details? It may not serve the wife to know the severity or the explicit nature of the porn her son was viewing. It is enough to know that her son was in porn and that he needs help.

From the husband’s perspective, it would not be wise to view the porn—nothing more than what he has discovered. Men are affected differently than women. She may succumb to losing hope by what she sees; the husband would wrestle with the temptation to watch the porn. In either case, porn takes no prisoners. It is violence to the soul. All parties involved should be highly cautious when dealing with it.

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Matters of the Heart

How should parents be discipling their children to help them understand why pornography is wrong?

While I would want to disciple my children on the sin of pornography—if they were into porn, I would like to disciple them through the deeper and more insidious problems that are happening—the things that feed the porn. Our behaviors flow from our hearts, and if the parents do not shape the child’s heart toward Christ, the kid does not have a chance. Here is a partial list of some of the things operating in the child’s heart.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:43-45).

  • Slothfulness – The child is lazy, meaning that he uses sex to satisfy himself rather than sex being a beautiful thing that God designed for marriage. You will find laziness at the root of a lot of what the child does. Laziness is not a singular tributary out of the soul. Laziness will touch many things in his life. Begin to scrutinize his whole life, and you’ll find pockets of laziness in other places.
  • Dishonoring – More than likely, the child knows he is dishonoring his parents, but he does not care. He wants what he wants. Like laziness, you’ll also find a “dishonoring worldview” popping up in other areas. Suppose his dishonoring attitude is not taken care of now. If not, there will be many other repercussions in his future, e.g., how he works for his future employer or loves his future wife are just two examples.
  • Deception – Lying is one of the more heinous sins operating in this situation. When a person lives a lie, it is hard to know if anything he says is the truth. Deceit in a relationship destroys the relationship. One of the reasons we love God so much is because He always tells the truth. We can assuredly know where we stand with Him. You cannot be sure where you stand with this child.
  • Self-righteousness – Porn is a form of self-righteousness, and the self-righteous person has a greater than/better than attitude. Porn devalues women, and the porn user is “using” women to satisfy his selfish cravings. He has an elevated view of himself.
  • Self-centeredness – As you might deduce, self-centeredness is the center of the porn user’s worldview. This centerpiece defines him. Selfish is who the son is. Being self-centered will creep into every single facet of this person’s life.
  • Ignorance – One of the reasons he’s choosing to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season is because there is something he does not understand about God. You can find this kind of life portrayed by the life of the fool in Proverbs.

This list represents samples of some of the things going on in the kid’s heart—things that have led to his pornography use. As the parents insightfully talk to him, they will find other sinful categories operating in his soul. They will need to unpack him to eliminate the roots of porn carefully.

Two Final Thoughts

Self-assessment – One of the more challenging things to walk the parents through is a sober self-assessment of their marriage and how they have parented their child. In more cases than not, it has been my experience to find that there are problems between the parents and how they parent when it comes to the sin of porn. Though the kid is personally responsible for what he did, if the parents are humble, they will want to know how they contributed.

If there are parental issues, they must change to serve him well (Matthew 7:3-5). It may be that the parents need to go to their child and confess their sins, whatever they may be. I have seen many parents humble themselves through the years, and it went a long way in restoring what was broken in their family, the porn being just the tip of the iceberg.

Community – Finally, everybody involved needs to understand that what was born in isolation will be overcome in the community. Porn is a secret sin, and it lives undercover and in the dark. The parents and the child need to pursue the care and accountability of their community—their local church. They need the family of God. The parents and the child will be embarrassed. Exposure cuts against the grain of a proud heart. If they humble themselves to the help of God’s people, they will soon experience a new and refreshing kind of grace from God.

Call to Action

  1. This article is not an exhaustive treatment on working through a child’s porn addiction. If you want more help, study the articles embedded throughout this one. Also, watch the webinar. You will find links to our forums below.
  2. What other questions do you have, things you would like to know about this situation so you can help these parents and child?
  3. Why is modeling the gospel to the children essential for all parents? If the parents were not modeling Christ and His church to the family, how would you help them change?
  4. List five examples of amputation—physical things they can do to make it harder for the child to access porn.
  5. Why is it essential to deal with the source of porn—the child’s heart?

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