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Hope After Betrayal

Meg Wilson and John Splinter

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Internet Porn:
Five Steps for Safer Surfing

I'll never forget Tammy's* stricken look when I mentioned the alarming statistics I found while browsing the Brio® Web site. I came across an article dealing with Internet pornography and teens. The statistics surprised me. Ninety percent of 8- to16-year-olds had viewed porn online and 80 percent of 15- to 17-year-olds had multiple hard-core exposures. I would never have guessed this was a problem in Tammy's active Christian family. After all, she home-schools her three boys ages 12, 16, and 17 and both she and her husband Dan* are loving and involved parents. Surely, the Smith* family was immune.

Tammy's expression told me otherwise. She confessed that all three of her boys had been exposed to Internet pornography. I could see her shame.

"Clearly you are not alone." I said squeezing her hand in support.

"Looking back I can see we should have had better controls in place. When we bought our first computer, I suggested to Dan we look for a filter." He said, "The boys will just have to learn to stay away from that stuff; we can't protect them forever." Tammy's voice was full of regret, "It made sense at the time, but I see now that was a costly mistake. All three boys have had to deal, at different levels, with the battle in their minds because of those images."

The Smith family was one of many that doesn't understand the intoxicating and often addictive nature of sexually charged images. Parent's naiveté regarding pornography is only part of the problem. It is compounded because most parents know less about their computer and the Web than their techno-savvy teens. Tammy's broken heart, along with those alarming statistics, reveal the urgent need to educate parents about the growing dangers of Internet porn which their children face every day. A few simple steps now can protect our kids from years of pain and struggle.

The wide world of the Internet holds a glut of information and resources; that's a fact most computer and cell phone owners understand and enjoy. Unfortunately, the Web also contains a dark side-pornography. This "adult" industry drives the Internet with the most new sites, hits per day, and money made. There are 4.2 millions Web sites dedicated to porn. That's 12 percent of total Web sites. Many target children and, unfortunately, it's working. The largest consumer group of Internet pornography is the 12- to 17-year-old. These seductive "Sirens" call to unsuspecting surfers in creative ways. Pop-ups and spam are spread like nets in hopes of snaring the innocent. Pornographers understand the addictive pull of adrenalin caused by arousal. It's a powerful drug leaving its victims wanting more.

Is the Smith's situation unique? Are they overreacting? Is it just harmless curiosity? In 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, the apostle Paul paints a vivid picture of God's stance on sexual immorality. It warns that a person who sins sexually sins against his/her own body. 1 John 2:16 addresses the images we see with our eyes. "For everything in the world . . . the lust of the eyes . . . comes not from the Father but from the world." Matthew 5:28 says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

God warns about the power of arousal outside of marriage. Under God's perfect plan of a life-long covenant relationship, men and women build healthy intimacy by using all their senses to love unselfishly. Within a marriage, God designed arousal as a wonderful and powerful chemical that imprints the visual image of his wife's body on a husband's heart. God at the center of a couple's most intimate moments holds them together and ensures a strong foundation for their future.

Taken out of the marriage context, sexual images result in exposure to thousands of inappropriate sexual experiences, imprinted fantasy, and a life of self-centeredness. Because the fallout can last for generations, this is a growing stronghold of the enemy. The Deceiver knows that shame keeps people in hiding.

How can parents bring light to the potentially dark influence of the Internet? Good news! There are ways to protect our children even when they know more about the computer than we do? Talk to your teens. By starting the conversation with questions about their peers, your teen will feel less threatened. Ask if they know what "sexting" is. Once they see your concern and knowledge, they're more apt to open up.

Before you have this conversation, make sure to be informed. Have a plan. Be sure to stress your desire to protect them. Be very careful not to add to their shame. Talk about the dangers of becoming addicted. If they have seen images, help them give those to God. Sexual images are nothing new to God and He is stronger. When we confess and surrender our battle with temptation to Him we can have victory. Most importantly, pray with them and for them.

My friend Tammy said it best: "I wish instead of assuming it was no big deal, that I had done more research. There is a dark world out there I never knew existed."

So, how can you be informed? How do you set up appropriate roadblocks for your family? Here are five easy steps to begin:

  1. Keep the computer in the open where it's easy to monitor its use. Put it in a room that gets a lot of traffic. Having others around creates natural accountability. Monitor your child's texts occasionally. (Privacy is an adult right, keeping our kid's safe takes precedence until they are on their own.)

  2. Get a good filter-one that filters from a host is best. Software tends to be easy to get around. There are several excellent providers such as . and You can check out filters at If your child is computer savvy, consider a monitoring service like Even the best filters can't restrain some hackers so don't assume it is foolproof.

  3. Talk to your kids more than once. Make sure they are aware of the dangers. Keep an open door policy so they will come to you with any problem. Understand the threats so proper guidelines are in place. For example, never give out information or chat with strangers on the computer. Chances are they are not who they say they are. Never meet in person anyone met online. If something pops up on a screen that is inappropriate they should let you know right away.

  4. Preview any and all games and software. A good resource for reviewing computer and video games can be found at

  5. Have a password in place that only the parents or responsible adults know. This will help you monitor time spent and prevent any unauthorized use when you are not home.

  6. The dark side of the Internet is growing every day. These predators are always looking for ways to infiltrate your computer and hook another unsuspecting surfer. As responsible Web browsers, it is imperative to be aware the dangers are real and then take steps to protect yourself and your children. Though the Internet can be a seductive place, there is still a wealth of information to be enjoyed at the end of your mouse.

    *Names have been changed.
    Brio statistics from, Shannon Ethridge, Are Cybersecrets Infecting Your Life? [Originally appeared in Brio and Beyond magazine (February 2005)]

    Sidebar/Hot Box
    If you think this may be a problem in your home, start by searching the history on your computer. (If you are not sure how, ask a computer savvy friend.) This information is to inform you not to shame your child. Pornography can be an addiction; it is not just "boys being boys." Try to und

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