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What parents need to know about pornography

Everyday, I wake up and jump into the routine of getting my children ready to go out into the world. I begin by making school lunches using organic peanut butter on 100 percent, whole-wheat bread with all-fruit preserves. I wash the organic strawberries. I grab a handful of whole-grain, pita chips—baked, not fried—and pair them with some hummus for dip. For a little treat, I add some dark chocolate-covered pretzels then put everything in a BPA-free lunch box.

 

 

After tying the children’s close-toed shoes with the orthotics in them, and slipping a backpack with hand sanitizer attached to it on each child, we head to the car. Then every child is snuggly buckled into the appropriate buckle. Or booster seat. Or five-point car seat.

The job of Mom and Dad is to protect their children from—and prepare their children for—the dangers in the world. But an insidious threat to our children’s happy and successful future has quietly invaded our homes, schools and even the devices we carry in our hands. Pornography is not only a real physical danger; it is an emotional, mental, and social danger. It must be addressed in our homes, communities and schools if our children are going to grow up safely, and live happy and successful lives.

In the past, pornography was viewed as a bad, embarrassing habit—but something that really didn’t hurt the viewer or others around. Boys will be boys, right?

Mental, medical and social science have proven those attitudes are dangerously wrong. Children are becoming addicts and acting out, sexual harassment lawsuits at schools are on the rise, and the importance of marriage and families in the rising generation are at all-time lows.

The battle for our children’s safety and happiness is taking place in a technological world, and their brains are the battleground.

Here are five simple truths about pornography that will give you and your children power on that battlefield:

#1 Pornography is everywhere: posters in the mall, mainstream TV shows, music videos, video games, movies, books, magazines, schools, homes and even in the devices we let our children carry in their hands. Pornography is so prevalent that if a young child began looking at a new pornographic website every 10 seconds, he would be almost 200 years old before he would finish looking at all of them.

#2 Pornography is available to everyone, but is targeted especially to children. The multi-billion dollar pornography industry uses every tactic it can to trick, lure and trap children into looking at pornography. Pop-up windows, web addresses that are closely linked to popular child websites, illicit cartoon and video games, and advertising on game sites are just a few ways they directly target your child. The average age a child sees pornography is 11 years old, and that is a conservative estimate. There is almost no barrier between a child and pornography. If a child can tap a screen or click a mouse, she can access vile and dangerous content.

#3 Pornography is as addictive as hard drugs and harder to quit. Pornography addicts have a more difficult time recovering from their addiction than cocaine addicts. Cocaine users can rid their bodies of the drug, but pornographic images stay in your brain forever. The Internet is a perfect delivery system because the viewer is anonymous, aroused and has role models for these behaviors. Thus it’s the perfect delivery system in creating a whole generation of young addicts who will never get the drug out of their mind.

#4 Pornography physically changes and damages the brain. As children look at pornography, their brains create and release chemicals that give them the same kind of high as a drug. The behavior is rewarded on a chemical level, causing them to want more, even though they instinctively know that it is not good for them.  Pathways in the brain are formed and cemented due to the powerful emotional and physical reaction to pornography. As the addiction progresses, the frontal lobe of the brain shrinks. The child has damaged the reasoning, cautionary and stabilizing part of the brain. Pornography literally changes the structure of the brain and affects a child’s ability to reason.

#5 Pornography desensitizes and objectifies women causing serious problems in real life relationships. Social science from the United States, Europe, Canada, and Australia gives us some of the shocking effects of viewing pornography, which include decreased sensitivity toward women (showing more aggression, rudeness and lack of respect toward them); increased risk of becoming sexually abusive to others; decreased desire to marry and have a family; increased risk of cheating on your spouse; increased risk of separation and divorce if you are married; and increased risk of being fired from your job.

Children of all ages need help to be able to navigate this technological world. For parents, this means learning new technology before you give it to your children. It means having constant and strong conversations with your children about what pornography is, where it is, and the consequences of pornography. It means checking and rechecking social media, texts and images your kids are sending and receiving. It means reading, learning and planning with your children about what to do when they see pornography, because it isn’t if, it is when. It means finding parental control software and using it on your computers and mobile devices. It means taking computers, smartphones, TVs, video games out of bedrooms. It means all of these things and more.

This might seem overwhelming, but we are the parents that conquered pesticides, high fructose corn syrup, and BPA in plastic. We know the right SPF level of sunscreen for each child; even our pets are hypoallergenic. If we stay informed and aren’t afraid to act, we can become families that conquer pornography.