This is not a subject I enjoy writing about. Yet it is so serious, that as Christians, I believe we need to shine a light on it and do our utmost to combat it. It's not "someone else's problem." It's a problem that is corroding the soul of America and it has probably touched the life of someone you know – maybe someone in your own family. Statistics show that 9 out of 10 teens have been affected by it.
I'm talking about the problem of pornography. Writing for the Baptist Press, (bpnews.net, 5/17/2012) Doug Carlson calls it a "pandemic." "In this digital age, the images are no longer limited to salacious magazines or adult stores. Such content is readily available on the Internet, on smart phones, on cable and satellite TV, in hotels." The problem is, writes Carlson, "No longer do viewers have to actively look for it; it looks for them."
Yes. Pornography is a stalker. One has to be vigilant or you'll inadvertently walk into one of its traps. Perhaps, like me, you've done a search and found images that could only be judged pornographic.
Carlson says that at $13 billion a year, the porn industry piles up more revenue than any of the major sports organizations. Are Americans becoming bigger fans of pornography than of major league sports?
Well, there's nothing "sporting" about how pornography is affecting our youth. As the website, ProtectKids.com points out, exposure to pornography:
• May incite children to act out sexually against other children
• Shapes attitudes and values
• Interferes with a child's development and identity.
These effects should not surprise us, considering the powerful grip pornographic images can get on impressionable minds. But reading the stories of young boys who were caught in its snare at the tender ages of 10, 11, and 12 brings these facts home.
One boy said it led him to have sexual intercourse at age 13; another said he started downloading the images and trying out the "weird things" he saw. The 10-year-old boy, now age 14, wrote that it caused him to picture every girl he saw naked.
In an interview in the February issue of World, Donna Rice Hughes, the originator of the ProtectKids.com site, explains how pornographers are seducing kids.
Nine out of 10 kids have seen pornography on the Internet. The pornographers put free pictures and free videos and everything else on the Internet in order to get people to come to their site and get hooked on the material before they ever get charged for it. We have today, in this country, absolutely no regulation with respect to softer-core material.
Thus images that would have made us blush a couple of generations ago are so commonplace that we now see them on taxi-cab ads. How do we begin to protect our children from this flow of filth?
Hughes says, "The harder-core material, including sex acts or any deviant material like bestiality, group sex, and rape, violence, everything else, is prosecutable for adults as well as for minor children." But, as Politico.com reported (1/17/2013), the U.S. Department of Justice has stopped prosecuting adult pornographers. It has prosecuted some child pornographers, but since the end of the Bush administration, the DOJ has not filed any new charges against purveyors of adult pornography.
It's good that the Obama administration is going after child pornographers. The problem is the easy access youngsters have to adult pornography. In a 2010 interview with Truth in Action Ministries, Hughes, who works with Enough is Enough, a non-profit dedicated to making the internet safer for children and families, pointed to one of the major loopholes. "There have been very few prosecutions over the past 16 years of any type of obscenity on the Internet. So what this means is that kids can get for free what adults couldn't even get in a triple-X-rated bookstore."
Sexual imagery is pervasive in advertising, TV programs, magazines, and yes, even taxi-cab ads, causing youth to experiment with sexuality at younger and younger ages. "Worst of all," says Zachary Gappa, Director of Research for the Center for a Just Society, "parents are complicit in all this. They accept [the] idea that their children will act-out sexually and that there is nothing to be done about the barrage of sexual images fed to them every day." Yet although more parents are now using internet filters to protect against pornography, almost 50 percent do not.
"Sexting," sending naked pictures of oneself through text or email, is now becoming common among teens. A study reported in the September 2012 JAMA Pediatrics found that 28 percent of the students in seven southeast Texas high schools said they had sent a "sext." The percentage of those who had been asked to send one was almost twice as high – 57 percent.
In an article in The Telegraph (1/27/2013) Cole Morton wrote about boys who "have explicit images of up to 30 different girls on their phone. They swap them like we used to swap football cards. If they fancy a girl, they send her a picture of their genitals. As one teenage girl said after the report came out, sending pictures of your body parts is 'the new flirting'"
Parents need to be pro-active to protect their children from this type of peer influence and pressure. They should not apologize for actively monitoring their children's interactions online, on Facebook, and on their phones.There is no way to undo the harm done if your child succumbs to the pressure to respond to a sext, as a number of girls have tragically found out.
One way to stop the filth is to go after the producers. According to Patrick A. Trueman at MercatorNet.com, "A handful of companies control large numbers of porn sites, so a few well-placed prosecutions would go a long way in cleaning up the Internet, where most kids find hardcore pornography."
Donna Rice Hughes says that we need a three pronged approach to protect our children. The Department of Justice should prosecute pornographers to the full extent of the law. In addition, citizens can expose those businesses that promote or make pornography accessible.
And finally, the most important step is for parents to take an active role in protecting their children. For more information on how you can do so, visit ProtectKids.com and PureIntimacy.org, where you can also find articles on how to talk with your children about social media.