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Keep your kids safe from porn before it happens

It’s an epidemic — one that seeps deep into the conscience and morphs the very way one views a fellow human being.

The dangerous effects of pornography have been well-documented by the Church and other Christian organizations in the years since its rise in popularity, but only recently has the secular world begun to catch on to its dangers, too. While it may seem harmless at first – a quick fix to a very human desire – it’s been known to escalate very quickly; so quickly, in fact, that it can be classified as a legitimate addiction.

The scariest part is, the average age that kids are exposed to it is 11, and it’s continuing to fall. It’s for this reason and more that Bishop Machebeuf High School and Holy Family High School are both hosting all-school assemblies that address the topic of pornography later this month.

The Catholic Church is increasingly recognizing the ways in which pornography severely damages and even mutates the purpose for which all we created: love. In 2015, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a pastoral letter in response to the growing porn epidemic, titled “Create in Me a Clean Heart,” and just last year, in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Pope Francis touched on “pornography and the overload of stimuli that can deform sexuality” (Amoris Laetitia, 281).

With the advent of technology, smartphones and the internet, access to pornography has never been easier — especially for young kids. Parents need be vigilant in educating their children about the dangers of pornography, and take proper steps to ensure exposure to it is limited.

Father Sean Kilcawley, director of the Family Life office for the Diocese of Lincoln, began working with internet filtering service Covenant Eyes in 2013 to help develop resources to empower parents to protect their kids from porn.

Our sexual boundaries have been eroded. We don’t notice that TV has become more graphic.”

The problem, he said, is only getting worse, and because kids are being exposed so young, it’s leading to actual sexual abuse among peers who try to re-enact what they see in porn.

“I’d never gotten a phone call as a priest that a first grader was abusing another first grader, but that’s becoming more and more common,” Father Kilcawley said.

He added that there’s an escalation process with porn. Some might start with still images of pornographic images, then move on to videos, then move onto more disturbing videos still – and widespread availability expedites this process, Father Kilcawley lamented.

It also doesn’t help that sexuality has become more commonplace in the mainstream media, be it commercials or nighttime sitcoms, and while Father Kilcawley describes the media’s contribution to porn addiction as a “chicken or the egg” argument, he said it’s played a role in normalizing pornography.

“That normalization has also been the result of the fact that so many people are using it,” he said. “Our sexual boundaries have been eroded. We don’t notice that TV has become more graphic.”

So, what’s a parent to do to help keep their kids safe from porn?

“Many parents feel helpless, and the kids know more about technology than they do, and they need resources to help them navigate the culture that we live in,” Father Kilcawley said.

Be courageous about protecting [your kids] and holding standards and boundaries for them so they don’t fall into those societal pitfalls.”

Thankfully, many resources do exist (see aside for a more complete list). Father Kilcawley has put together a list of tools on the Diocese of Lincoln website (lincolndiocese.org/internet-protection-pornography), and additional websites such as Fight the New Drug (fightthenewdrug.org) and Protect Young Minds (protectyoungminds.org) can properly equip parents with the tools they need. Additionally, internet filtering and accountability software such as Covenant Eyes (covenanteyes.com) makes it easy – and nonintrusive – for parents to ensure their kids aren’t seeing things they shouldn’t be.

Father Kilcawley also suggested that parents be aware of the apps their children have access to on their phones. Protect Young Eyes (protectyoungeyes.com) is a good resource that reviews all the popular apps kids are using and their capability of accessing pornographic images.

“Most high school kids access pornography through Twitter or Tumblr or other social media apps,” he pointed out.

Talking to kids about pornography is a hard conversation to have, but a necessary one, Father Kilcawley emphasized.

“I always encourage parents not to be afraid of taking about it,” he said. “Most kids whose parents do talk to them about it when they’re young don’t want to see that.”

The Lord will win this battle, he added, and reassured parents that they’ll be given the strength and wisdom they need to have those tough conversations.

“Be courageous about protecting them and holding standards and boundaries for them so they don’t fall into those societal pitfalls,” he said.

Prevention and Recovery resources

Fight the New Drug: reference guide, parents guideline and Fortify book http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-help/

Fortify (program by Fight the New Drug): an interactive online recovery program, with app – https://www.fortifyprogram.org/

The Porn Effect: http://theporneffect.com/

Covenant Eyes: http://www.covenanteyes.com/

Integrity Restored: http://integrityrestored.com/

Reclaim: https://reclaimsexualhealth.com/

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Create in Me a Clean Heart” document http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/upload/Create-in-Me-a-Clean-Heart-Statement-on-Pornography.pdf

National Center on Sexual Exploitation: http://endsexualexploitation.org/

Protect Young Minds: https://protectyoungminds.org/

Educate Empower Kids: http://educateempowerkids.org/resources/

St. Raphael Counseling, porn recovery group: https://www.straphaelcounseling.com/work/

Regina Caeli Catholic Counseling: https://ccdenver.org/reginacaeli/

Freedom: Battle Strategies for Conquering Temptation
https://www.ignatius.com/Products/FRE-P/freedom.aspx

Aaron Lambert
Aaron is the Managing Editor for the Denver Catholic.
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