Conventional Thinking: Pornography, technology & teens
In my last column, I addressed the growing problem of pornography and the church. Ultimately, the enemy and our own impulses drive this evil, but technology has accelerated the problem.
I recently became aware of a new photo-sharing smart phone app being used predominantly by teens. The app allows photos to be sent and viewed for limited seconds, and then the message self destructs. Teens are using it to send silly or inappropriate messages, believing there will be no permanent trace for their parents or others to discover. Scary stuff!
This is only one example of how technology has enhanced the spread of pornography. How did we arrive at this, and what do we do from here?
First, let’s own up to the fact that the average teenager on his own could not afford a cell phone, let alone smart phone with a data plan. Many parents are literally funding the destruction of their teen’s soul.
Secondly, we have succumbed to cultural trends and a “keeping-up-with-the-Joneses” mindset. Trying to win their favor, we end up unwittingly putting a tool with a great capacity of destruction in their hands. We make excuses along the way, such as “They need a phone to call me when… .” We buy the most expensive phone out there, when a not-so-smart cell phone would have sufficed.
Next, we have failed to monitor their cell phone use. With good intentions and ground rules, many parents buy their teen a computer or cell phone. Meanwhile, they do not put safeguards on the devices and effectively let their teens swim in the shark-infested waters of the Internet. If the Bible tells us to “put no confidence in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3), is it unreasonable to put no confidence in the strangers surrounding our youth online?
Space does not permit a detailed list of the damage in the wake of the pornography boom. However, I want to offer suggestions that each parent, grandparent, guardian or friend could employ.
///Talk to them
Sin isolates, and grace brings together. If you suspect your youth is in the clutches of pornography, Christ compels us to reach out to them and offer a hand up. This could be something as simple as open lines of communication between a father and a son. In such cases, the Bible instructs we should “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” An age-appropriate talk now could prevent much heartache later. Our ultimate goal is to reach, not repel our children.
///Use tools available
Christians are working overtime to put filters and other tools in parents’ hands to protect our youth from pornography. We should be as savvy about the good online tools out there as the enemy is about the bad ones. More than tools of technology, you can lay down common-sense rules as a parent. For example, you could require, as a condition of your child having a cell phone, that they turn it over to you at the end of the day. So much of the inappropriate actions via text occur after hours. Simply remove the temptation.
///Live out loud
If we, as adults, spend hours on end on Facebook, staring at a cell phone or computer screen, while neglecting the people around us, why would we expect anything different from our youth? By God’s grace, we can set a good example with our own wise use of technology tools.
///Prayer & faith
If we were to stem the tide of pornography with only temporal tools, we would not have won the war. Every person needs salvation from Christ. After all, Christianity is not about avoiding sin but is all about rebirth. If we only save them from pornography but do not point them to real salvation, all we have done is create a less bumpy ride down the road of perdition.
In summary, I do not want to give the impression that I am anti-technology. In fact, many have heard the Gospel and truth spoken that would not have without the advent of the Internet. Yet with limitless technology comes great responsibility. May God help us all!