September 17, 2014 by FHElessons
In this month’s Ensign magazine there is an article about pornography. The author likens the story of the 2,060 Stripling Warriors from the Book of Mormon to the youth of our day in the fight against pornography. The young men fought a battle that their parents could not fight for them, and they fought it because their society had been attacked. They fought “most desperately” and relied on faith, taught to them by their mothers. Although none of the stripling warriors were lost in battle, ALL of them received wounds.
from lds.org media library
Today our society is being attacked by those who purvey pornography. It seems to be everywhere we look, touted by many as being harmless or fun, and is a pernicious evil that destroys families and souls. We, as parents, wish we could fight this battle for our children. We want to protect them from ever seeing one little bit of a pornographic image, and we most certainly want to protect them from its evil influence. Yet, we often feel powerless and even hopeless against the overwhelming onslaught of this evil.
Today I would like to offer some “battle plans” that we as parents can give to our youth, so that they will be prepared for the attack that is sure to come to them.
1. Increase your efforts to instill a testimony of the gospel in your children. Give them an internal filter.
The stripling warriors were young, inexperienced men (maybe 12-18 years old?) fighting against grown men, seasoned in battle. How were they able to all survive each battle they fought? What protected them when they were out in the thick of the fighting?
“They had been taught by their mothers that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them. And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” (Alma 56:47-48)
Our children need to have a faith firmly grounded in the gospel. They need to love the Lord and want to please Him. They need to trust that His commands are those that will bring happiness to their lives.
Our children need to have a personal understanding and conviction that pornography is an evil that will ruin their lives. They need to WANT to stay away from it. Their will to choose the right needs to be stronger than their curiosity.
In the April 2014 General Conference, Linda S Reeves told us,
“Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us.” (link)
We need to focus our efforts on helping our children develop this personal internal filter. We need to help them increase their testimony of God’s love and of the Savior’s Atonement and teach them how to make these things work in their lives.
If instilling this kind of testimony in your children means that you need to first strengthen your own testimony, then do it. If it means that you need to cut out some after school activities and make regular Family Home Evenings a priority for your family, then do it. Do whatever you need to do so that your children can say, “We do not doubt our mothers (and fathers) knew it!” Strengthen your own testimony, and then make it a priority to teach and strengthen your children.
2. Don’t think your family is immune.
The Ensign article I mentioned above gives statistics showing that virtually all children will have been exposed to pornography by the time they graduate from high school. Both boys and girls are susceptible.
If you think your family is the one family that can avoid pornography altogether, then you will be wrong. If you focus your efforts on trying to protect your children from ever seeing any pornographic images, then you will fail.
Please focus your efforts on teaching your children what to do if they are inadvertently exposed to porn. Teach them to avoid it. Teach them to run from it. But also teach them how to deal if they do see something they know they shouldn’t.
Check out the website Porn Proof Kids for more info on how to help your child avoid and combat porn. If you subscribe to their website, you will get a free printable poster to put near your computer that teaches kids what to do if they see some porn. (Close my eyes. Alert an adult. Name it. Distract myself. Order my thinking brain to be the boss.)
3. Start young! Begin talking to your children about sex and about pornography as soon as they can talk.
It seems that children are exposed to pornography at younger and younger ages. The average age for addiction to pornography is 11 years old. 11 YEARS OLD! And children are exposed to it even younger than this.
I know it’s hard to talk to children about sex. For some reason our society has conditioned us to be embarrassed to discuss sex with our children. But children are going to be naturally curious, and if they don’t get their information from you, they are going to want to seek information from the internet.
From the time your children are very young, teach them the correct words for their genitalia and for the genitalia of the opposite sex. Show them pictures from medical textbooks so that they will know what each person’s anatomy looks like. Speak of these things naturally. Casually work them into everyday conversation.
Tell your children that sexual relations and the parts of our body used for sex are very special and sacred. Let them know that these things are not secret, but that they are sacred and so must be spoken of and treated with reverence. Teach your children what sex is and why it is beautiful when enjoyed within marriage.
Teach your children about the reasons for the law of chastity. (See my article Why Be Morally Clean? for these reasons). Teach them to respect their bodies and the bodies of others.
Hold multiple Family Home Evening lessons on the subject. Teach your children about pornography and why it is dangerous. Teach them that it can destroy their lives, making it so they cannot enjoy pleasure in normal, sexual relations. Teach them about how addictive it is. Teach them how it can steal their free will.
Teach them that the people posing for pornographic pictures or acting in pornographic movies or talking on pornographic chat lines are just actors. Teach them that those people are children of God, with mothers and fathers who worry about them. Teach them that many times those people are being exploited or are there against their will or because they have no other options. Teach them about human trafficking and sexual slavery, and tell them how those who use pornography contribute to this business of forcing people, even children, into sexual slavery.
From a very young age, teach your children how to cope with inadvertent viewing of pornographic images. Teach them to turn off the computer (even the wrong way) to immediately shut down any site they don’t want to see. Teach them to tell you immediately if they see any porn. And if they do tell you, be sure not to have a blaming or shaming attitude. Be loving and supportive and help them come to terms with what they have seen.
This is such an important subject, and there is so much to teach that it will take many FHE lessons, many private talks, and a general ability to be able to discuss this subject in everyday conversation to teach our kids all they need to know to be able to combat this pernicious evil.
Remember, this is a battle that our children will have to fight. They cannot avoid it, and we cannot fight it for them. All we can do is prepare them, and prepare them well.
from lds.org media library
4. Specifically teach safe computer and internet use.
I have noticed that many parents today restrict their children’s computer use to virtually none up until they are old enough to need it for doing homework. To me, this seems like the equivalent in Book of Mormon times of sending them out to battle the Lamanite armies without ever having picked up a sword or practiced with it.
Computers are becoming an increasingly important part of everyday life. Your children will be required to use the computer for homework, not just to type up papers, but also to search the internet for resources and information for those papers. They will be required to get online to complete tests and to turn in assignments and perhaps to join a social media group that allows them to communicate with teachers and other students at their school.
Furthermore, if your child wants to succeed in school, his computer skills will have to be well polished. Being able to search for information online is a skill necessary for success in school today. Your child will also need to be able to type and to have some basic graphic design skills. He may need to be able to create a power point presentation, to lay out a well-designed paper with images and text, and to access information on the school’s website and social media site. You may think that children intuitively know how to use computers better than adults, but this is not true. When children start young learning to use computers, then they become well versed in them and able to navigate new programs and apps. But when they have no training at all, they do not learn the computer “language”, and every school assignment involving the computer becomes painful and difficult.
If you want your child to succeed in school, please teach him how to use a computer.
Not only will your child be required to use the internet for school, but he may often be up late – later than you – completing last minute homework assignments that have to be turned in online. So it is imperative that your child have the skills to use the internet safely.
When your children are toddlers, you know that there are dangers to them going out to play in the front yard alone. You know that they might unknowingly run out into the street and get run over by a car, or you know there is even the possibility that someone could kidnap them if they are alone. Does that mean you never let your child cross the street? That you never let them go outside to get some sunshine and Vitamin D?
No. You let them cross the street, but you hold their hands while they cross. You teach them to look both ways. You let them play outside, but you go out and sit with them as they play. You teach them about “stranger danger” and what to do if someone they don’t know approaches them.
Approach computer use the same way. Allow your child to use the computer, but sit by them and help them learn to do it. As they get a little older, let them play on the computer alone but make sure the computer screen is facing you as you work in the kitchen or fold laundry or whatever. Teach your child about the dangers he might encounter. Allow your child to learn to use the computer and the internet, but supervise him and instruct him to keep him safe.
5. Install safeguards on both family computers and personal devices with access to the internet. Counsel with the Lord about what is best for your family.
Prophets have counseled us to install internet filters on our computers and to keep our computers in common areas of the house. This is simple advice, but many parents don’t follow it. Yes, filters can be annoying to use since they tend to block a lot of sites that aren’t really dangerous and that your children need to go on for school. Then you get called in to override a site 10 times while you are trying to prepare dinner. Yes, it’s a drag to have an ugly computer cluttering up the common areas of your house that you are trying to keep beautiful to make a nice home for your family. I know you would rather have that ugly computer tucked away in the den.
But, if the prophet tells us to do something, warns us that our family is in danger and that this is something that will help to protect them, doesn’t it seem smartest to FOLLOW THE PROPHET? Our children even sing, “Follow the prophet, he knows the way.”
Yes, it is also true that smart and enterprising children can find a way around an internet filter. But does this mean that you should abdicate your own responsibility because you are afraid of what your children will do?
I have found that in raising children, frequently if I try to control their behavior, I will fail to get the desired result. The only thing I can do is to do my part well. I can do my best to teach them correct principles and set a good example. And I need to make sure that whatever falls to my responsibility (such as holding family prayer and installing internet filters), I have done. After that, I really have no control over their personal choices. What I do have control over is my own actions. I have control over how well I do my own part.
This being said, here are a few things you can do to make it more difficult for your child to get around your internet filter, should he desire it.
- Install the filter early in his life (as well as teaching him to use the computer safely and trying to instill a personal filter in him). If he doesn’t get addicted to pornography, he won’t be motivated to try to get around your filter.
- Make sure that your filter is set to block “proxy” websites.
- Change your password often and make it hard to guess, even for someone who knows you well.
- Set your filter to only allow your child access to the internet during times when you will be home and awake. As he gets older, you may have to relax these restrictions unless you are capable of staying up later than him and getting up earlier as he will need to get his homework done, but when he is young, time restrictions are a good practice.
- Lastly, if your child complains about the filters and says it makes him feel that you don’t trust him, let him know that you are following the prophet’s counsel. You can also install filters on your own computer to let your child understand that we all need extra protection no matter how strong we think our own will is. Teach your child that the prophet has advised us to use filters and that, in our house, we always follow the prophet!
from lds.org gospel library
A Note About Personal Devices: Children are more likely to encounter porn on their personal devices, such as phones, ipods, and video game consoles, than they are on home computers. So far, we haven’t received much counsel from the Brethren on what to do about these personal devices.
The #1 thing I recommend when deciding how to protect your children from pornography is to Counsel With the Lord! This is especially important when it comes to personal devices since we don’t have much direction yet. Here are some ideas of things you might ask the Lord about:
- You might choose not give your children any personal devices with internet access. Whether you choose this will obviously depend on your children’s ages. It seems to be nigh unto impossible to get basic cell phones anymore.
- You might choose to block the internet on your child’s personal devices altogether (have your service provider block access or remove the internet browser from the device).
- You might choose to install a filter on the internet on the device.
- You might choose to have a rule in your home that personal devices with internet on them can only be used in common rooms of the house and cannot be taken into the child’s bedroom.
- You might choose to have an understanding with your child that you will be checking their internet history and text messages at random times and you don’t want to find that the history has been deleted. You are giving your child this device but it is not his personal, private property (even if he purchased it himself).
- You might choose to set up a password that you as the parent have to put in before you child can download an app.
Again, counsel with the Lord on which of these options, if any, are appropriate for your family and your children.
6. Realize that you are training your child for transitioning into adulthood.
I have had three of my children leave home now and have learned that one minute you are trying to keep the internet filters on and safeguard them from porn and then next minute they are off to college with their own computer and nobody to monitor them at all.
There needs to be a transitioning phase in between these two extremes.
When your children are teenagers, they are learning to do some dangerous things all by themselves. Teaching them to drive is a terrifying experience. You know when you first send them out on their own in the car after getting their license, that they are risking their lives by driving. You will no longer be the one in charge of making sure they arrive safely at home or at school – you have to turn that responsibility over to their inexperienced hands, and it is hard! But, on the other hand, you wouldn’t want them to never learn to drive, to never be able to be independent.
Internet safety is kind of the same thing. At some point, they will have to handle it all by themselves, even though it is dangerous.
Just as your child first started out riding a tricycle and then moved on to a bike with training wheels, then to a bike by itself, then to a car with a learner’s permit, and finally to their very own driver’s license, you need to gradually turn control of internet safety over to them.
Prepare your child to one day be able to use the internet safely without any parental controls at all.
I cannot tell you what the appropriate age for each step is. It will probably be different for each child. And most certainly, you will need to counsel with the Lord about which steps to take and when to move your child along to the next one.
But I think it is good to be aware of the ultimate goal of making your child responsible for his own internet safety, of helping him develop his own personal filter and use it.
Although the internet can be a dangerous thing, although we seem to have lost many in the last generation of boys to internet pornography, it is possible to combat it! We have to recognize what we are dealing with and teach our children about the dangers and how to overcome them.
from lds.org gospel library
7. Teach your child to use the internet to serve God.
It is my belief that when our children spend time on the internet solely for the purpose of serving God, they will receive extra protection against the influences of evil thereon.
Teach your children to use the internet to #sharegoodness, as Brother Bednar has asked us to do in his recent Education Week address.
“I exhort you to sweep the earth with messages filled with righteousness and truth, messages that are authentic, edifying and praiseworthy and literally to sweep the Earth as with a flood.” David A Bednar
Teach your child to use the internet to:
- Do family history.
- Watch past General Conference talks.
- Share the gospel on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Create a blog to share the gospel.
- Search for information on lds.org.
- Invite their friends to mutual activities.
- Share their testimony of Jesus Christ.
- Download gospel pictures as wallpaper or screen savers.
- Read and annotate their scriptures.
- Explore the gospel library.
- Listen to uplifting music.
- Memorize hymns.
- Listen to scriptures or other gospel works being read aloud.
- Connect with family members who live far away.
- Create YouTube videos that share the gospel.
- Subscribe to LDS Gospel Messages.
- Track their Duty to God or Personal Progress.
When we fill our lives with positive habits, it makes less room for temptation to creep in. And when we follow the counsel of our leaders to share goodness on the internet, we will be rewarded for our obedience.
8. Don’t give up! Have faith that God is mighty to save.
I think many parents fail to install internet safeguards or even develop a battle plan because they have given up hope. They fear that their children will always be smarter than them when it comes to computers and that they have no way to protect their children from viewing pornography.
Or some parents may have given up hope because their child is already addicted to porn. For those parents, here is what I have to say:
Remember all the stories in the Book of Mormon where the Nephite armies were relatively small, and the numbers of the attacking Lamanite armies were so large that they could not even be counted? When facing this battle, I’m sure that the men waiting for the attack by the overwhelmingly large Lamanite army felt fear, perhaps even despair. But what happened? They “fought like dragons”. They fought to protect their wives and their children and their liberty. They used all their strength and then they relied on the Lord. And with the Lord’s strength, that small Nephite army always seemed to win. Sometimes they won because the Lord prompted them to prepare in new and innovative ways (wearing armor, building up fortifications), and sometimes they won because they never gave up.
Remember that at the end of this life, it will be Christ who is the victor. Satan can fight and rail all he wants, but God will prevail. If you want to be on the winning side, fight for the right!
Remember that with God, nothing is impossible. Remember that He has all power and all knowledge and that our might and even Satan’s forces are nothing compared to God’s power. He allows us to struggle so that we can learn, but in the end, He can step in any time He wants and tip the scale.
God is powerful. He is mighty to save. He has provided a Savior for us, through whose Atonement we can be cleansed and healed.
If we rely on the arm of the Lord, we can prevail!
Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 123:17)
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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