With summer comes lots of unscheduled time for children. With many parents busy working, there will be occasions when school-age children are on their own or with peers. No parent wants to imagine that their child is looking at pornography, but it does happen. Some researchers say the average age of exposure to pornography begins at age eight.  Others say exposure begins by 11 years of age.
Many times the first viewing is accidental. Be aware that a child’s exposure to pornography may trigger some unresolved issues that parents have with pornography or other sexual behaviors, making it more difficult to deal with the child’s pornography viewing.
Five Keys to Successfully Raising Porn-Free Teens
- Love on your Kids
Stay engaged in your teen’s life. Know what they are up to and who they are with when away from the house. If your teen spends a lot of time at a friend’s house, get to know the parents and their house rules. Travis Armstrong, Pastor of Junior High School Students at Grace Church said: “Keep an open dialogue going with your teen.” Spend time with each of your children individually. It will give you both an opportunity to get to know each other, and it makes children feel special. Tim Block, former Grace Church youth pastor, says, “Communication is critical in helping teens realize that this is a winnable war as we depend on God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to enable and strengthen us.”  Think seriously before accepting a job promotion that takes you out of town a lot, or worse, has you move the family during these teen years. I learned from hearing the stories of many men with father wounds that their fathers were just not involved during these critical years.
- Teach them to love God
Encourage Bible memorization. Make it a fun game. There is great power in having verses memorized.“I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” Psalm 119:11
Host Bible studies in your home, and encourage your teens to be involved in church groups. Go to church as a family on Sunday. “Parents need to set godly examples and model Christ-like behavior when it comes to sexual issues,” says Block. Show the teens that your faith is important to you. Memorize these verses with your teens: Romans 12:1-2, 1 Corinthians 10:13, Philippians 4:7-8.
Why is reading the Bible so important for your teens? It is important because no matter how young in the faith your teens are, the Holy Spirit is at work when they read. The Holy Spirit will cause conviction. Conviction leads to obedience to the Word. When a teen commits to obey the conviction, they are moving towards surrender. Surrender is the willingness to do anything for God.  Surrender is giving up our rights and following what God has laid on our hearts. 
Talk to your teens about their faith. Ask them about their personal testimony – not how they became saved – but their lifestyles. What areas need to be changed in order to make them better witnesses? Have them come up with their own “I” statements about what areas need changing. This gives something you can discuss as an accountability item. When you review these together, you are reviewing directions that they gave to themselves.  I recommend reading “Protecting Your Teen From Disturbing Behavior.” (See the “Information and Resource” list.)
- Be open and honest about your failings
There is a transition that needs to happen from raising little children to raising teens. It is sad that we have to make this transition at such an early age now, even as young as eight. But since our children are facing such harsh realities, we need to be real with them. Realize that you, as a parent, can be a stumbling block to your child’s development into young adulthood. Admit when you are wrong. You have to be real and vulnerable and open. That way, when your teens have issues – and they will – they will know they can talk to you because you are not perfect either. Make it safe to talk. They need to know you’ve had to work through your own struggles with cigarettes, alcohol, and sexual matters.
- Expect the best from them
You should always expect the best from your teens. Children tend to live up to, or down to, the expectations that are placed on them. Armstrong says, “We talk to the teens about having a ‘Prevent Defense.’” In order to help them do their best, set boundaries. Boundaries make children feel secure.”Establishing boundaries that are consistent with God’s Word are paramount,” says Block. John Young of Teen Hopeline and ZJAM ministries says, “Unsupervised Internet usage is more dangerous than alcohol in the life of a teen.”  Create an environment in which they can succeed.
- Monitor their behavior
We will only know if our teens are staying within the boundaries we have set by monitoring their behavior. Accountability is important. Pastor Armstrong reports that teens are embracing the seriousness of the battle going on for their souls. “Teens hold each other accountable and use texting as the means of helping each other.”There are many options for monitoring teen’s behavior. Part of monitoring is checking what they are texting to people. Be aware of the slang and acronyms used in text messages. Find useful links and a short list of texting acronyms in the “Information and Resource” list at the end of this article.
Take on the Challenge
Pray for your teens, for the protection of their hearts and minds. You can’t be with them all the time. What you can do is be proactive. Get them out of the house. Do things with them that they enjoy. Go golfing, shoot hoops, or go camping to help them see there is more to living than their electronic toys. Take summer vacations at the lake, go skiing in winter, and go on retreats and mission trips. The years from age 11 to 18 can be the most challenging and rewarding years of raising your children. Take on the challenge and don’t shy away from it. This is no time to be on auto-pilot.
My views on this topic come from working for nine years with men in the For Men Only sexual integrity group at Grace Church. I have learned by listening to the men’s heartbreaking stories of father wounds, lack of boundaries, and the trouble they got into with sexual matters as teens. My hope in writing this article is that more teens will avoid pornography or other sexual sins. I pray they will have a healthy view of sexuality.
1. Rob Jackson, When Children View Pornography, accessed 5/20/15.
2. Tim Block, Family Life Pastor, Mission Viejo Christian Church, Mission Viejo CA.
3. Lee Vuckich and Steve Vandegriff, Protecting Your Teen From Disturbing Behavior, Living Ink Books, 2007, pp 26-27.
4. Ibid., p. 34.
5. Ibid., p. 32.
6. Ibid., p. 44.
Information and Resources
YouTube Tutorial Videos:
- “Checking Browser History – Tips for Parents,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9K7B_MZBL24&t=29s
- “Viewing and clearing browsing history on Chrome 2015,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOLcbdBAJh8&t=2s
Popular Texting Acronyms (partial list)
9: Parent watching
99: Parent gone
1337: Elite or leet or L337
143/459/ILU: I love you
1174: The meeting place, meet at
AEAP: As early as possible
ALAP: As late as possible
BROKEN: hung over from alcohol
CD9/Code 9: Parents are around
HAK: Hugs and kisses
KOTL: Kiss on the lips
KFY/K4Y: Kiss for you
KPC: Keeping parents clueless
LMIRL: Let’s meet in real life
MOOS: Member of the opposite sex
MOSS: Member of the same sex
MorF: Male or female
- Covenant Eyes: www.covenanteyes.com
Accountability software products that track a computer’s browsing history and periodically report questionable web activity to a designated accountability partner, such as a parent.
- Common Sense Media: www.commonsensemedia.org
Rate, educate, and advocate for kids, families, and schools.
- Family Online Safety Institute: www.fosi.org
Making the online world safer for kids and their families through enlightened public policy, industry best practice, and good digital parenting.
- My Mobile Watchdog: www.mymobilewatchdog.com
Over 20 parental controls that make it simple to monitor, block, filter, and track what your child is doing with their phone.
- Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan – Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, Zondervan, 2011.
- Neil T. Anderson and Dave Park, Stomping Out the Darkness: Discover Your True Identity in Christ and Stop Putting Up with the World’s Garbage, Regal Books, 2008.
- Neil T. Anderson, Victory over the Darkness, Regal Books, 2013. Find more information about Neil Anderson’s ministry at: www.freedominchrist.com.
- Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods- The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and The Only Hope That Matters, Penguin Group, 2009.
- Lee Vuckich and Steve Vandegriff, Protecting Your Teen From Disturbing Behavior, Living Ink Books, 2007.