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Preparing Teens for a Pornified World


Keith, a 24-year-old graduate student came to my office seeking help for pornography addiction.  He first viewed pornography six years ago when he went away to college.  Soon he was viewing Internet pornography and masturbating daily.  What was interesting about Keith is that he had never seen porn until he went to college.  He was home schooled in a devout Catholic family, and his parents were careful to monitor his computer use to ensure that he never viewed any pornography.  While it was good that they protected him from pornography, they did not prepare him to enter a world that is full of porn.  Thus, when Keith went off to college and discovered porn, he was unequipped to say "no" to it.  The mental, emotional, physical and sexual stimulation of pornography were too powerful a drug for him to avoid.  Soon he was looking at Internet pornography and masturbating daily.  Keith felt terrible about his online cybersex activity.  He struggled with much hopelessness and despair.  Each time he promised himself that it would be the last time; however, he would find himself falling the very next day.  Finally, after six years, he knew his life was out of control.  He spent so much time viewing Internet pornography that he was unable to focus on his studies.  He was failing out of graduate school.

While parents need to protect their children from viewing pornography, they need to prepare teens to be able to say "no" to porn.  Our world is full of pornographic images.  Teens inevitably will encounter pornography.  Thus, parents need to warn teens about the dangers of pornography and show them how to reject it.  Below are some tips for parents on how to prepare their teens for a pornified world:

  1. Teach teens about the dangers of pornography.  Teach them that it is an addictive substance, similar to drugs and alcohol, and should be avoided.  It fosters selfishness and narcissism, leads men to use women, is disrespectful to everyone involved, and can harm future relationships.  It is a grave sin that affects one’s relationship with God.
  2. Carefully monitor all media that enters the home and remove/block anything pornographic, including television programs, movies, mail/catalogs, newspapers/ magazines, music, video games, etc.
  3. Keep the computer in a public area of the home and monitor what youths are viewing online.
  4. Limit screen time: television, computer, cell phone, iPod, iPad, etc.
  5. Monitor all email, text messages and cell phone Internet use.
  6. Talk to youths about the dangers of sexting.
  7. Monitor all social media, including Facebook, MySpace, You-tube, Second Life, etc.
  8. Subscribe to an accountability service for all computers, cell phones and any electronic device that has access to the Internet.  Most teens today access Internet pornography through their cell phones and iPads.  I recommend An accountability service differs from a blocking service in that it does not block any websites.  Instead, it will send email reports to parents if questionable websites are visited.  Knowing that parents will be receiving email reports can deter teens from visiting pornographic websites.  It can also help them develop the habit of avoiding such sites.
  9. Know who your teen's friends are and their parents.  Make sure their parents are also monitoring their kids' online activity.
  10. Promote modesty in dress.  Teach teens to respect themselves and others.
  11. Teach youths about healthy sexuality and relationships.  John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility can help.
  12. Focus on character development in teens; teach them to be virtuous.

Because of our First Amendment right to Freedom of Speech, pornography won't be going away.  In fact, I believe it will only get worse in our society.  The best thing that we can do to protect teens is to educate them about the dangers of pornography.  It's similar to tobacco.  Fifty years ago, doctors knew that smoking would kill people.  However, politicians couldn't outlaw tobacco because it was politically incorrect.  Americans believed that everyone had the right to smoke.  The best thing doctors could do was educate people on the dangers of tobacco, and they did it well.  Today, even though tobacco is still legal, most Americans don't smoke.  This is because they are aware of the dangers of it.  We must do the same with pornography.  We must educate young people on the dangers of pornography so that they will want to avoid it. 

Today, Keith is doing well in recovery.  He is actively engaged in my seven-point plan of recovery.  He is learning how to avoid pornography through education and the use of accountability partners, a 12-step support group and counseling.  He is also excelling in graduate school.  By working to educate teens on the dangers of pornography, we can prevent them from struggling with pornography addiction as young adults.

For more information about pornography addiction and how to find help for those who struggle, log on to Peter C. Kleponis, Ph.D. is a Licensed Clinical Therapist and Assistant Director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, PA.  He specializes in marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling, men’s issues, and pornography/sex addiction recovery.