Hey, before we get to today's program, I want you to know that Dave and I were perfect parents. Until we had a child.
Exactly. And we used to think there were perfect parents, but there are no perfect parents. And that's why we wrote the book, No Perfect Parents. And we're excited because now we have an online video course for you.
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Hey, Shelby Abbot here. Just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on Family Life Today covers some sensitive but important subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears. So please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast.
All right, now let's jump into it. You walk into your 11 year old son's bedroom. His back is to you.
Over his shoulder, you can see that on his phone, he is watching a violent pornographic video clip. How you react then may well have a significant impact on the rest of his life. Will you yell? Ignore it? Freak out?
The best thing you can do as a parent is have a calm conversation with him about it, based on the facts of what pornography does to him and to others. Are you ready for that conversation? Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson.
And I'm Dave Wilson. And you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our Family Life app. This is Family Life Today. I feel like we've been through that phase. But as I read that in the book we're going to talk about today, I thought this is every parent's nightmare. And also their fear of I don't know how to react.
I don't know how I should react. And so I think that this topic is really helpful today. So I hope people will lean in.
Yeah, obviously, I read from a book that it's sitting in front of me right here by John Fobert called Protecting Your Children from Internet Pornography. And guess what? We've got John in the studio with us today. John, welcome to Family Life Today. Thank you.
It's my honor to be here. I mean, when I read that, as we were picking up your book and reading it as a parent thought, that is a reality for so many of us as parents. I mean, maybe you haven't literally walked into your 11-year-old son's room. But that could happen. And I know that many listeners, that has actually happened to them. Absolutely.
So you put that in your book. And obviously, one of the first questions would be, so how do we prepare ourselves for a conversation with a son or a daughter if we found that as our reality? I think we need to get more information on how awful the pornography industry is and how we can explain to our kids, you don't want this in your life. It may seem attractive to you at first, but it's going to go after your brain. It's going to go after your sexual functioning. It's going to go after things like anxiety and depression.
And these are things that you don't want in your life. So I think it's important not to freak out if you see something like that happening with your kid, but also not to be totally disengaged and feel like you can't do anything. I mean, parents, especially with kids of 11, the parents are going to have a very strong impact on their kids. And they can still speak into their lives in meaningful ways.
I hope they always can, but I think they still can at the age of 11. And just talk to them very matter of factly, leading with the head and not necessarily the heart, but leading with the head on, here are some things that the pornography industry is trying to do to you to trap you into this way of thinking about sex. And here's why our family doesn't think that that's the right thing to do and why I hope that's not what you'll choose. Well, let's dive into some of that, but you got to give our listeners a little bit of background. I mean, here's your guys written a few books about pornography. I'm guessing that isn't what you grew up thinking, that's what I'm going to do with my life. So tell us a little bit about what you do. You're a college professor, right?
Yes, I am. I'm a college professor. I teach students how to write their dissertations. I work at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.
My degree is in college student development, so how students grow and change in their college years. But I got involved in the sexual assault prevention movement early on in my career about 30 years ago. And then about 15 years in, I started to notice that there was a connection between pornography and sexual assault. And at the same time, I heard the Lord calling me to do something that would be even more directly related to the church. And I heard of so many pastors going down because of the pornography industry and children and teenagers that I figured I could use my research skills and my ability to reach people with distilling that research and giving them practical advice on how to talk with their children to really help out.
So I began a journey to fight the porn industry. And not only that, but you're a dad. I am a dad and that's important. And you have a 14-year-old daughter. I do, and a 12-year-old son. And so this is close to your heart. It's very close to my heart, very. So give us a little bit of, you mentioned pastors going down. Yes.
Your book is full of all kinds of science, brain, rewiring, things that parents need to know. How prevalent is this? It's very prevalent. I mean, right now, if you take a look at the statistics on how many high school students have seen pornography since before they go to college, it's about 93% of the boys and 64% of the girls.
The boys statistic doesn't tend to surprise too many people, but the girls statistic does. Has that gone up, John? It has gone way up. The porn industry realized it cornered the market on boys and men. And so what they wanted to do was to go after girls and children as growth markets. You have to think of the porn industry as a business that wants more and more money, more and more markets. And so they've really gone after women with various and sundry different exercises to try and get more of them both using pornography and hooked on it.
And so it's very sad. I mean, they'll label violent pornography. They'll call it feminist pornography to try and get some women to watch it. It's the same old porn, but it gets a feminist label put on it.
So it's supposed to be like a safe cigarette type of deal, but it really isn't. And so how would they draw kids in too? So they're marketing and strategizing of how not only to reach men, but women and kids, would it be different for kids as well? For kids, they try to make sure that if a kid looks on Google for the word sex or something like that, that it'll go straight to pornography. And so they'll see a picture, not necessarily a description. So if a kid is 11 years old and here, it's the word sex at school, frequently he'll go to Google to find out the answer on that. And there's a lesson in there too. And that is that parents need to teach their kids, come to me if you have a question about something, don't go to Google, then we can answer them together. I mean, that obviously implies that there's a relationship between mom and dad or mom or dad with their son or daughter, right?
And it's like, that has to be cultivated and built. I mean, I laugh a little bit because, you know, when you mentioned going to Google, you know, one of our sons had a little baby three years ago and Anne texted and said, Hey, you know, we're going to come over. I was at their house to see the baby.
Super excited. And they said, Hey, in it tonight, we're going to give him his first bath. And I was thinking, Oh, they're going to ask me to help them because at the hospital, they didn't show them because I don't know why. And so I said, well, do you guys need some help? And my son said, no, we're just going to Google it. No, he said, no, we're just going to YouTube it. And I thought, Oh, that's so sad. And we walked out to our car and drove home, but that's the world.
So you're saying, man, a simple search could end up leading to danger. John, when do we start? I think so many listeners are saying, when do I start having those conversations?
And what would it sound like? I think that's a great question. I would start having those early conversations when they can first understand language.
Like I'm thinking around three or four years old. What kind of conversation? And that is a very important question. You don't say, well, this is pornography and this is what that's all about. But talk to them in the way that you say, you know how we like to take pictures of each other in our family? Yes, we do.
And that's a fun thing. Now, we would never take a picture of someone without their clothes on, would we? And you get the kid to say, no, we would never want to do that because it exposes their private parts and private parts are meant to be private.
So because we wouldn't take those kinds of pictures, we wouldn't look at pictures of people without their clothes on. So I think that's a message we can send when they're three or four, which is important to build on for later conversations. A very key point in all of this is it needs to be an ongoing conversation with you have kids.
It's not the talk, it's the conversation that's continuing out over many years. So as you were a young dad, had you already been studying this? I was just in the beginning parts of studying it. So did you start having those conversations pretty early on with your own kids? I had some of those conversations with my kids. A lot of the material that I developed to help parents came when my kids were older. But I did have some conversations with my kids when they were younger and they looked at me like I had two heads. But at the same time, they knew, for example, that four years ago, I wrote a different book about pornography or five years ago, rather, and they just saw it on my desk and they said, what's this? And so that led to some more conversations.
So I'm unique in that regard. I mean, now they're 14 and 12. They're sort of more adult conversations going on.
There are more adult conversations going on. My son is a little bit, I would say, immature for his age. Not that he behaves in silly ways, but he's not as sexually mature in terms of asking those questions yet. So I make sure he understands what sex is, what it leads to, what pornography is, how we shouldn't be looking at that, how you need to function with your thinking brain, not your feeling brain.
If you ever come across it, some basic tips on how to avoid it. But he's, to the best of my knowledge, he's actually right at that age. Eighth grade is when the big tipping point happens when people tend to see it, if not on their own cell phone, on a friend's cell phone, and he's in sixth grade. So with a pretty sheltered group of kids.
Now, that's not to say that they're not looking at pornography because I believe some of them probably are, but he hasn't quite crossed the threshold. Yeah. I asked my oldest son when he was in middle school. Eighth grade.
How many years? 20 plus years ago. Yeah.
How many of your wrestling buddies ever see porn? And this is before it was on their phone. This is before, yeah, this is before cell phone. And he said every day. Wow. He says they talk about it, see it every day. I hear about it every day. You're talking at Taylor University.
And I went to Ball State, so Taylor's just down the street. And you quoted a stat that a kid under 13, exposure to porn went up from 14% to almost 50% in three years, from 2008 to 2011. Yes. So as a parent, I mean, of course, that's the phone. And as a parent, you're just freaking out like, oh my goodness. So that means if I have two kids, one of them statistically has already seen it. I mean, that's scary to a parent.
So how should a parent react? I think a parent should react calmly and have lots of conversations with their kids about how pornography harms them. And that's one of the reasons I wrote the book to give them that information so that they can have those in-depth conversation with here are all the different ways that pornography can harm you.
Because they're thinking about the benefits. They're thinking, oh, I get to see a naked person. And pornography today isn't your grandfather's Playboy magazine. It's very violent. It has actions which lead women to vomit. And it has all kinds of other actions in it that are really so far removed from God's design for sex between husband and wife that it's really scary. And so we need kids to know this isn't how sex was meant to be. And it's not something that God intended for us to watch others doing. And you're saying this isn't just a Christian perspective.
There are other authors. There are other people that are not even believers that are fighting for this because of the harm that's coming. There's a number of documented harms of pornography. And many in the secular movement are leaving pornography behind and encouraging their kids to do the same. So it's an exciting time to be in the anti-porn movement. We've reached the tipping point of establishing definitively through the social science research that pornography is harmful.
Now we need to get the word out to kids that this is harming your life and you'll never get it back if you try to use it. Let's go into some of those harms, what you wrote about. First, pornography objectifies the person in the image. It makes a body into an object. And the more you objectify, the more likely it is to commit violence against them. Now that's a theoretical argument, but they actually did a research study where they took a look at men who were in one of those MRI machines where you can see inside their brains and they showed them pornography. And what they found was the parts of the brain that light up when men see pornography are the parts of the brain that lead to objects, not to people. So men really think that they're looking at an object when they're seeing pornography, not to a person. And that makes it so much more likely that they'll be violent with an individual.
And so one of the things that's also plaguing our society today is the skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression. Well, nobody's talking about the fact that excessive pornography use leads to anxiety and depression. And so I think- And they've done studies to prove that? Yes.
Yes. So there's peer-reviewed research, and this isn't a Cosmos study. You know, I look at only studies from peer-reviewed research that's been done with rigorous scientific methods. And so anxiety and depression are going up. Another sad thing is loneliness. And when you think about the COVID pandemic, people have gotten more lonely as it is. Well, there's a vicious cycle with pornography. The more lonely someone is, the more they'll use pornography, and then the more they use pornography, the lonelier they get. So you get trapped in this cycle of loneliness.
Because when you think about it, using pornography tends to be an activity that one does by themselves. And so it leads to more loneliness, which I think is sad. We were made to interact with other people. We were made to fellowship with other people.
And I would hope that that would be where we would want to go. Yeah, it's interesting. You know, when you hear about anxiety and mental health and issues right now, especially during and coming out, hopefully we're coming out of the pandemic. Right. I've never heard not one time anybody connect any of that to pornography use. And you're saying there's a connection.
And then there's a connection to many other things too. Life satisfaction. You know, you want to have a life where you're satisfied. Sexual satisfaction, for that matter. I mean, if you take a look at the erectile dysfunction rates over time, in the 1940s, less than 2% of men had erectile dysfunction. If you look at today, a third of men under 30 have erectile dysfunction and it's from all this pornography that they're consuming. And if you wonder why you're seeing on TV so many erectile dysfunction medications, 10, 15 years ago, it was for Viagra and they targeted to old men like Bob Dole and that sort of thing. Today you'll see a young guy who looks cool sitting on a couch saying, hey, you know, use this product for your erectile dysfunction trouble. We didn't use to have erectile dysfunction among 30 year olds or younger, but we do now.
I remember seven, eight, maybe 10 years ago, it had to be walking through an airport to get on a flight to go speak at a family life weekend to remember marriage getaway. And as I was walking by a bookstore, I look in and I see the cover of Time Magazine on the cover. And I bought it because I was so shocked. It said, porn kills or porn harms. I had a big circle with a cross like, do not do porn. And I'm like, a secular magazine is like making a statement about porn is bad. So I opened up the article and it said what you just said that there is now a generation of young men and women who are grown up in a different culture.
I have to sneak around and find a magazine, a bookstore somewhere, nobody knows about it. They've been exposed their whole life since they're young boys and girls to pornography. And the article was riddled with young men saying, stay away from this. What has done to me and my brain and my sexual life, I had no idea how harmful it was. So it was secular science, endorsing the moral values of the Christian faith to say, this is bad because of this, but science was now backing it up. Yes. And so you had young, you know, men basically who weren't churchgoing boys. Right.
Getting married. And this is really messed up my life. Exactly what you're saying. Right. The nice thing is we have the science on our side. The science isn't on the pro-porn side. The science is on the anti-porn side. So we just need to get the word out over all the many different ways it's harming people.
And these aren't harms you want in your life. Mm-hmm. I can't help but go back to the MRI situation.
Oh, yes. Now, men in this MRI start seeing women as an object. Have they ever done that MRI on women? Not yet that I'm aware of, but that would be an interesting study to do because they're just now starting to do studies showing sexual dysfunction in women who watch a lot of pornography. It really wasn't until five or 10 years ago that the people who were doing research on porn realized that women were looking at it too. And so the first step in the research is to document the problem.
And so now we're documenting the problem, but not necessarily looking to the effects that it has on women. So. It's so interesting. Growing up in the 60s, some of my first memories were of pornography.
Wow. And I grew up around a lot of family, friends, cousins. I was one of the younger of like 15 kids in the neighborhood.
My cousin and I were given, girl cousin were given the task of collecting or finding or taking pornography from anybody in the neighborhood and kids were running in and out of houses and then taking it back to the older boys to have. And then growing up, I think my brothers had it and it was no big deal. So I was reading that even in the second grade. And so I'm thinking of how that even changed my mind. And even growing up then as a teenager, now I'm also have sexual abuse in my background.
And so I'm seeing this power that a woman can have over a man to even control the situation in sexual context. And I'm telling you that messes you up. All of that messes you up.
And then I give my life to Jesus and now that's this wholly beautiful, I couldn't switch it. I think that we just don't understand the effects and the dangers as you're saying. And I mean, I've lived that, we've lived that. And so I think that it's really important even as moms, we can think, oh, it's not that big of a deal. I have a daughter, but it is because it has a negative influence even on our future and our marriage. And a lot of our daughters are being pressured by their boyfriends to send them nude pictures of themselves. That's just going through the roof and it's sometimes expected in dating relationships that you'll send a nude picture. It's not looked at as a big of a deal. And we need to send a message as parents that that is a big deal. That's your body.
It's the only one that God will ever give you. And it's something to keep to yourself. So what does a parent do? I mean, your subtitles, you know, ways to help parents protect their kids.
How can we protect our kids? Have as many ongoing conversations about pornography as you can from as many angles as you can. So talking is critical.
Talking is absolutely critical. What do you mean by angles? Angles, I mean, talk about the angle of it hurts her sexual functioning. It hurts anxiety. It hurts depression. It warps your brain. It gets your brain used to a different type of sexual behavior, but also that it's not in accordance with God's will. And sometimes what we need to do is even if something seems tempting, we need to resist that temptation and it's a good opportunity to resist temptation in our culture. We're supposed to be counter-cultural as Christians and this is one of the ways we can be counter-cultural. Now, when you say ongoing, is this something like every week we should revisit? That's a bit much. That would, I think, traumatize the child to some extent.
But every month, I would think. So you're figuring out some way to sort of enter in and invite them into a conversation. Give us an example, like, of your daughter. Like, let's say this is something that's just happened recently. What did that sound like? What that would have sound like is something along the lines of, I know that you've heard of the word pornography. Has anyone showed it to you on their phones at school?
What did it make you feel like? What do you think you should do when someone shows you that kind of image? So it's not a lecture. You're asking questions. You're asking lots of questions. And that's what I try and emphasize in the book is just list of questions after questions for different ages of children.
So from 8 to 11, and then from 12 to 17, so that they can get a sense of, here are some age-appropriate questions to ask our kids so that it can be that dialogue. It shouldn't be a monologue. It's not a lecture.
It's a discussion. And what about the parent that has never had a conversation about anything sexually with their child? All every parent's talking to their kids about sex. There's a lot.
It just feels so uncomfortable. Give us an assignment. Like, what could that look like to start the conversation maybe with a teenager? For a parent who's never had a conversation with their teen about sex, first I'd pray for you because you'll need prayer to get over that hump. But I think one of the things you can say is, I've heard that there are a lot of teens who have pornography on their phones. I'm not accusing you of having pornography on your phone, but I wonder about your friends and what they're showing you on their phones. Can you tell me some of the things? Like, what do they show you on their phones?
And of course, the teen is going to start with, oh, mom, or oh, dad. We just look at pictures of each other doing funny things. Well, have those funny things ever included them without their clothes on?
Oh, well, maybe sometimes if they're answering honestly. And so it's important that we convey our values to our kids so that they know this is what my family values and this is what it doesn't. And one of our chief values is we don't look at pictures without their clothes on. I think we should use the word pornography judiciously also because it has such a negative tone to it.
I mean, it should have a negative tone to it, but I often refer to pictures of people without their clothes on just to be more specific with our kids and not to sort of touch the hot button of pornography, but just to talk about people without their clothes on. I think it's great wisdom and advice to encourage parents to start talking about this. I mean, it was a joke 30, 40 years ago that a parent couldn't talk to their kids about sex. My mom and dad never, we never had a conversation. A lot of us grew up in homes where it was taboo to talk about. That is not the day we live in anymore. We have to have these conversations. Absolutely.
It's a requirement. You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John Fobert on Family Life Today. And coming up, Dave's got some advice for preparing your kids for a phone in just a minute. And little spoiler, it's not just about talking to them about it. So let me first say I'm living in this world right now that they're talking about.
My daughter is in sixth grade and she is one of only a handful of kids at school without a phone. I need help navigating these tricky waters. And that's why I love that Family Life goes right at topics like these and views them through the very specific lens of the gospel. I'm so thankful that we aren't afraid to talk about the real world stuff many of us are facing each and every day.
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That's 800 F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. All right, here's a final thought from Dave on not just talking to our kids about the dangers that come along with a cell phone. The cell phone is a wonderful, unbelievable gift, but the danger that we put in a kid's hands basically says to a parent, you cannot give that device to your kid without saying, we're going to start talking about things, including this because we have to.
And we're called by God to direct and lead our kids that way. So I don't care how scary it is. And it is scary.
It is. You got to enter into that tunnel and say, okay, God, I'm going to go in there and we're going to start a conversation. I love what you said. And a lot of that will be listening and asking asking questions and listening to open up their their minds so that they'll feel like we're trusted.
Yeah, we all know porn can leave crippling effects on your relationships. So what can you actually do about that? Well, John Fulbert joins David and Wilson again tomorrow to talk about just that. We hope you'll join us on behalf of David and Wilson. I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
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