The Pornography Panic That’s Hurting Your Kids

panic hurting kids

 

The Situation

So there we were in a room full of 150 of the best teenagers in the world. These were bright, moral, respectful, hard-working kids that had been part of my Hero Simulations, some of them for years.

They were pretty much the cream of the crop.

These kids were raised in homes where scriptures are read regularly as a family, serving others is a way of life, and staying away from pornography is not just encouraged, it’s expected and talked about regularly.

In short, these kids are from homes where the parents are doing everything right.

So what happened next surprised me on multiple levels.

I had put together this training as part of our Summit Programs. It was our kick-off for the new year with a new theme and exciting new changes. Queen Deborah and I had planned it for months and we had a line-up of messages that we knew would really touch the hearts and inspire the actions of this amazing group of kids. We did our welcome and rah-rah then introduced our first guest speaker.

This was a young woman, our awesome cousin, who has a message that is important to share about Real Beauty, defining ourselves based on what God sees in us, instead of focusing on outward appearance. As part of her presentation she put up a big picture of a girl in a bikini, one of those typical head-chopped-off, body-focused selfies we see online every day. She asked the kids to write down how it made them feel about their own selves while looking at an image like that. Next, she showed a slideshow of dozens of happy people, working together, playing together, taking vacation shots together, etc. All pictures that focused on their faces and their smiles and their connections with each other (all modestly covered, too). She asked the kids to share what those photos made them feel about themselves.

Her point was clear. When we focus on the body only, on our outward appearance only, we are isolating ourselves, comparing ourselves, and we never feel good about ourselves. When we are connected to others and we focus on how we act, how we treat others, we are truly beautiful.

It was an amazing, powerful message. But I don’t think more than a few of those kids got anything out of it.

All that was seen, was that there had been a giant picture of a girl in a bikini on the screen. And. That. Is. Not. Okay.

These amazing kids literally panicked. There were gasps and muttered words like “disgusting” and “sickening.”

As a mentor who works insanely long hours for the purpose of teaching kids to be heroes, to stand up for what they believe in, I NEVER want to put those kids in a position where they feel their values are being threatened. Heroic Youth is supposed to be a safe place. I do understand the tender feelings of our youth. And if I had known everything that was included in our guest’s presentation I probably would have told her that the bikini picture itself wasn’t really necessary to get her point across.

BUT . . .

Panic?

What is Panic?

Panic is a fear response when we are confronted with something dangerous that threatens our safety. Panic is actually the WORST response, however, that we can have in any dangerous situation. If you are in deep water and you start to panic, that is the surest way of drowning. Panic makes your mind stop looking for solutions BUT makes you put your full and constant attention on the source of your terror. In other words, panicking over something is going to make a lasting memory that will be seared into your brain. And it makes it a lot more likely that you will drown.

Drowning-iStock-680x452

This experience has really stuck with me ever since that day a few months ago. I went home from our event, the rest of which was so good I . . . I just don’t have any words. But still, at the end of the evening I was sure that I was about to get deluged with parental emails asking why their kids had been exposed to “pornography” at my event. It made me heartsick to think that we could have put all this work and prayer and energy into bringing a positive, Christ-centered spirit into this training only to have it destroyed by one girl in a bikini.

But as time went by, no parents emailed and I hope that’s because they understood what we were trying to teach. And I’m glad I had this experience because it made me take a hard look at how and what I’m teaching my kids about the body.

What do we believe?

We are firm and unshakeable believers in modesty as a sign of respect for our Heavenly Father who made our bodies. We keep them covered, not because we are ashamed, but because we hold our bodies to be sacred temples of God. We avoid pornography for the same reasons. Not because sex or the naked body is bad and something to be ashamed of, but the exact opposite. Because it is beautiful, and special, and sacred and we want to protect it and keep it that way instead of dragging it through the mud. We don’t want to reduce it to a mere physical act that can be made as base and twisted as the human mind can go. Instead we teach that sex is an amazing thing, a connection between a husband and wife that brings joy, intimacy, and brings new life into this world.

That is all well and good. But the next question is this. HOW are we teaching our kids to handle the situation when they are confronted with something that makes them uncomfortable or is against what they believe in? How are we preparing them so that they can CALMLY and CONFIDENTLY handle the exposures that will come?

And they will come.

Not all pornography is on adult-only websites tucked into the dark recesses of the internet. For a lot of these kids it’s passed around, right under our noses, on facebook and twitter and Instagram. Even if you are a parent who thinks you have every nook and cranny of your home completely fortified against the dangers of pornography, how are your kids going to handle walking through the mall and seeing mostly naked models on posters, women who don’t bother covering up, even buses plastered with advertisements and parked next to your car in traffic?

Avoiding pornography and immodesty is a HUGE and crucial step in fortifying our kids. But unless we also teach them to calmly and confidently handle exposures, we are setting them up for a drowning experience that can tear apart their spirits.

keep calm say no

Since this experience with the bikini-photo panic, we have had some great conversations in our home. My kids span the ages of 6-18 but I taught them all the same thing.

When you are confronted with something that you know isn’t right for you to be looking at (define what that is) this is what you do.

  • First – Take a breath and stay calm.
  • Second – Tell your brain to put that in the “Not for me” category.
  • Third – Turn your attention to something that IS for you. If you are driving and you see a billboard with a mostly naked woman on it, turn your attention to the beautiful scenery around you, or a conversation with the person you’re with, etc.
  • Fourth – remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible.
  • Fifth – report it to a parent when appropriate (pointing out a billboard in a car full of people may not be appropriate as it just calls attention to that billboard. BUT, finding inappropriate images on a family computer needs to be reported).
  • Sixth – ask questions of parents in private WHENEVER YOU WANT! As parents, we are ALWAYS here for you when you want to talk. Nothing you can say will embarrass us or make us think bad things about you. You can ask us ANYTHING.

Let’s all calm down a little as parents and realize that teaching our children to be vigilant is important. But teaching them to panic could be deadly.

Best Wishes,

Emily

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8 Responses to The Pornography Panic That’s Hurting Your Kids

  • I love this, Em, and I totally agree! Thank you for outlining points to help others protect their children when exposure happens.

  • ‘Not because sex or the naked body is bad and something to be ashamed of, but the exact opposite. Because it is beautiful, and special, and sacred and we want to protect it ‘….Love it. Exactly. Thank you.

  • Great points, Emily! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head why this incident was so disturbing. Love that you offer an alternative way to handle this!

  • How can I follow your page?

  • Wonderfully expressed, Emily. Thank you so much for taking the time to address this. The way we react to difficult situations tells us so much about ourselves. I hope these kids realize what panic teaches and I’m glad you took the time to tell the rest of us!

  • I can understand why these youth would be shocked to see such a picture in this context, but what disturbed me were the whispers of “disgusting” and “sickening”. This is NOT the message we want to give our kids about their bodies. We don’t cover our bodies because we think they are disgusting, dirty, or shameful, as people seem to believe. I am so glad you covered this well. But what is a young man to do, when he has a normal, healthy response to a beautiful female body? He has to reject it to protect himself, which may keep him clean for now. But if he has to reject such images thousands of times, it can create problems later when he is married and a healthy response is needed. This is such a challenging part of raising kids now days. We must teach them the appreciate their own sexuality as God intended it and to shun the twisted perversion of sexuality that the Adversary has made.

  • Thanks for this; I’ll be using this for our next Family Home Evening lesson!

  • I love this perspective and I would love to see your cousin’s presentation! Panic in any situation is certainly counter productive.

    We live in Germany with our four sons. We moved here a few years ago to a beautiful little town on a lake. We love to spend the warmest part of the summers here down at the lake. When we first moved here our oldest was only 8 and we hadn’t yet talked much to any of them about concepts of modesty but our first outing to the lake initiated that conversation. They were noticeably uncomfortable with the couple of women there who were sunbathing topless, or the few other people (mostly kids or old people) who changed in or out of their swimsuits right there at the lake. Fortunately, we didn’t panic but found this was an opportunity to discuss with them modesty and the differences between nudity and pornography. We still go to the lake regularly and they still see nudity in various forms (as I mentioned above) but they don’t seem to notice it as much. They’re more interested in playing, as kids should be.

    Now before I upset anyone, I don’t mean that we should intentionally expose our kids to nudity or that I’m planning to take my kids to a nudist beach for the opportunity it would give us to talk about nudity. I just think sometimes we could have a healthier reaction to the nudity that we encounter in normal situations. When I take my older kids to The Louvre some day, or even to any number of castles and historical sites we have access to here (incidentally, the castle you have pictured at the top of this blog is just over an hour away from us), I want them to be able to appreciate the paintings and sculptures for the great works of art that they are. I believe there is value in teaching our children to appreciate respectful artistic depictions of the human body. I hope I am teaching them about the evil and danger of pornography as it is contrasted with a healthy image of our glorious bodies that have been given to us by our Heavenly Father. Then, through the course of their lives, when they are faced with the degrading images of pornography, as they surely will be, they won’t panic but will recognize it for the counterfeit that it is.

    I’m sorry for the long comment, I really did try to be concise. You can probably tell that this is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Your post really resonated with me and I hope I have added to the conversation.

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