At a recent church gathering Paul, a young father, came up to me and asked how he can protect his children from pornography.
I responded by asking him what he is doing to protect himself. Paul was surprised by my response because he was more concerned about his children than himself when it came to pornography.
When parents like Paul ask me how they can protect their young children from pornography, they are usually hoping for practical advice, such as having filters on computers, limiting their child’s use of technology, or monitoring the television programs they watch. I do provide such strategies; however, I really try to impress upon them that before they can protect their children’s lives, they must first look at their own lives.
Setting the Example
If you are going to protect your children in our pornified culture, you need to look at the example you are setting for them. Do you intentionally view pornography? Do you watch objectionable television programs? Do you watch R-rated movies? Do you listen to music with profane lyrics? Do you play video games that depict nudity? Before you can purify your child’s environment, you need to purify your own. Just because you are an “adult” doesn’t mean that using sinful media is okay. You need to set the standard for purity in your home and live by it.
While he was committed to avoiding porn himself, Paul admitted that he needed to install filters on all his devices. Occasionally he would allow his young children to use his tablet to play video games. He did not want them to accidently encounter Internet pornography on his tablet though misleading ads or pop-ups.
One thing Paul didn’t think about was his use of other forms of media. He often enjoyed watching police detective dramas on television that presented nudity and foul language. Although his children were in bed when these shows were on, I explained that if he wants every area of his kids’ lives to be pure, every area of his life also needed to be pure. His wife agreed.
Walking the Walk
In addition to purifying your life of all objectionable media, it’s important for parents to live lives of strong virtue and moral character. Paul wanted to raise virtuous kids, but could not see the connection to pornography. I explained that if he expected his sons to respect women he had to model that for them early on. He needed to demonstrate that respect by guarding his eyes, insisting that his daughter dress modestly, and treating his wife with love and respect. By observing how Paul treats women with respect his sons will learn to treat them in the same way.
As they grow into adolescence Paul will have set a firm foundation in them so that they will understand why pornography is so harmful to women and to them. They will be better equipped to reject pornography when they see how it exploits women and damages men’s ability to comprehend true beauty.
In addition to respecting women, parents need to demonstrate what it means to be a virtuous adult in all other areas of life. For fathers this means striving to be the best leader, provider and protector you can be. For mothers this means striving to be the best helper, nurturer and comforter you can be. By constantly striving to become the man/woman God created you to be, it will be easier for you to avoid vices (i.e. pornography) and your children will also learn to do so.
While Paul generally lived a good Catholic life, he realized he had some work to do if he was going to model for his children a strong and virtuous father and husband. By doing this, and by purifying his own life, he would then be better prepared to use all the practical strategies for protecting his children from pornography.
While there are many great strategies for protecting children from pornography, parents, you first have to begin with yourself and your own life. Children will learn volumes from you when you “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk.”