Friday, February 14, 2014

*My* Son Would Never View Pornography


Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your child would never view pornography?  That he/she is completely safe because...

    1. You have internet protection software
    2. You have taught them better
    3. They are active in church
    4. They have really good friends
    5. They understand that it is dangerous
    6. ...insert any other rationalization or justification why your child is the exception...
The fact is, our children are bombarded on a daily basis with pornographic images.  Hardcore?  Maybe not.  But pornography is not defined by where it falls on the sliding scale between soft and hard. 

Let's see what Webster has to say...


por·nog·ra·phy

  [pawr-nog-ruh-fee] noun:
  • obscene writings, drawings, photographs, or the like.
Ok, makes sense, right?  
But what does obscene really mean?


ob·scene

  [uhb-seen] adjective:
  • offensive to morality or decency.
Our children are exposed to images on a daily basis that are offensive to morality; to the Lord's definition of morality.  You can read more about what that looks like, here.

The reality is, every-single-child is at risk.


I share the following story by permission from my son . . .


**********

My son is amazing. He is currently 14 and in 9th grade. He has participated in band, choir, chess club and another (weird) club where they made underwater robots. He does well in school, with a stellar 3.36 GPA and is responsible when it comes to getting himself to and from school everyday.  

He loves seminary and often comes home talking about what he has learned and how he can apply those principles in his own life. And let me tell you, the kid is funny, but more importantly - he thinks I am funny; often telling me 'you are the coolest mom in the world.'

He is active in church, having served as the Deacons Quorum President for two years and now, in the absence of an active President for either the Deacons or Teachers Quorum, fulfills most responsibilities for both. He goes to church early every Sunday to secure brethren to bless and pass the sacrament, and stands at the front during Priesthood opening exercises once a month asking for volunteers to collect fast offerings.  

He has a good heart; a service oriented heart. He has this amazing capacity to love everyone, and be kind to everyone, even in the face of not being the most popular kid in school. He is made fun of a lot but he strives to not let it get to him, and succeeds for the most part.

Does he have normal occasional attitude tantrum, missing homework, lying?  Yes.

He is not perfect.
But he is good.
I felt he was one of those kids that  easily fell under the category 'would never view pornography.'

I mean, if there were such a category.

I was wrong.  He did have access and he did view.

He became withdrawn, sucked into his own world.  
He would rush home from school, anxious to play a new computer game:

"Can I just play upstairs in your room where no one can bother me, mom?"
"Sure, I don't see why not"

I was careful to limit his time on the computer, and I wasn't worried about him accessing anything inappropriate because, besides being a 'good' kid and having all the devices in our home protected, it just never occurred to me that it was a possibility.

And so went the next couple of weeks . . .

Then one morning I awoke to find a blog linked to me on Facebook. I was touched by a particular post and took some time to respond to it. A week later I wanted to revisit the post to see if there had been any additional activity. The funny thing was -  for the life of me I couldn't remember the name of the blog and, even after much searching, I couldn't locate where it had been linked to me.

Then came the familiar whisper . . .

Check your computer history

It took me a bit to actually figure out how to check my history, as I'd never done it before.  Once I got it open I started scanning for the blog, but my eyes caught something else. My heart dropped as I found searches on terms that would lead anyone into a dark place. 

I was confused at first because my husband and I have our own computers and 'no one else uses it.' It never even entered my mind that my son, my sweet and good son, would fall into the same trap that kept me bound for so long.

But then I looked at the time periods during which the searches occurred and realized they corresponded with my sons computer time. Seems he wasn't playing his game after all. No, he was hurrying home each day because he was already sucked in. His mind had become desperate for those images, always wanting more more more...

How did he access pornography if my computer has protection software, you might ask?

One word: Youtube

I took a closer look at the searches and quickly identified a pattern.  Each set of inappropriate searches were padded by searches on Star Wars in an attempt to hide his behavior.

I can imagine Satan was whispering all the same lies to my son, that he had whispered to me:

Hide it so you won't get in trouble
Your mom will be mad at you
Looking isn't bad, just acting on it is
If you don't hide it, you'll never be able to look again

I felt so sad for him.  My heart grieved for the loss of innocence, as well as for my naivity. But as sad as I was, it was quickly overtaken by swelling amounts of gratitude. I knew that Heavenly Father had hidden that blog post from me on Facebook so the Spirit could prompt me to check my internet history. Even though I was naive, the Lord was not and was ever watchful over my son.

Later that day my husband and I sat down and talked to him. We were very careful to not come from a place of panic or fear or shame. We worked that afternoon to prepare ourselves Spiritually in order to approach the situation in a loving way.

Our son was surprised, yes, and fear washed over his face - but I was quick to reassure him:

"I love you"
"You are not in trouble"
"I am so very sorry that you were exposed to these things"
"You do not have to carry this burden alone"

His chin raised a bit as tears streamed down his young cheeks. 

"I just couldn't stop."

I felt the heaviness in his heart and I desired so much to just take it away.  But I couldn't, so I did the next best thing.  I took the opportunity to open up a dialogue on shame, cravings, isolation, triggers, desperation, agency (loss of) and bondage.  I taught him about the whispering's of the adversary and how he makes dangerous things seem so enticing. 

The conversation went well and any shame he may have felt quickly alleviated.  


I wish I could say the struggle ended there, but the following weeks were a bit rough. He seemed more sorry that he got caught than he did for what had happened.  He became depressed and irritable; he picked fights with his brothers and was quick to anger toward his dad and I.

I was desperate to help him, but I didn't know how

I felt like Alma as he prayed for his son, Alma the Younger, to find true Godly sorrow because I knew how powerful Godly sorrow is in turning lost hearts back to the Lord.  I didn't expect an angel to appear to my son, but I desperately wanted him to have some experience to help instill in him the desire to fight

I kept asking myself 'how can I teach humility and Godly sorrow?'  But what I was really searching for was a way to make my son feel humility and Godly sorrow. 

But I kept coming back to the same answer.

I can't.

I didn't have the power to instill something in him that he needed to seek out for himself. All I could do was teach him the principles of humility and Godly sorrow and be an example of those principles in my own life. 

Even at the tender age of fourteen, he still had his agency. 
He had to want it.
He had to choose.

It took time, but he eventually came back around to being his usual happy self. I guess, maybe, sometimes we have to sit in our muck a while to really figure out we don't want to be there.

I am grateful for his shame-free willingness to share his experience, his weakness and his humility, in order to help others. I am so proud of him and am grateful he is mine. 


**********

I write this post for me, for God, and for anyone who is reading.
But I write more specifically to the parents who might feel their child is the exception.

Our children are faced with temptation every single day.  While writing this very post, I asked my son what he has seen over the last few days that would trigger him; things he has to fight in order to keep himself clean:
There was girl at school wearing a sheer shirt over a revealing tank top, and many girls don't wear bra's.  I hear dirty jokes all the time, and I overhear conversations where other kids are talking about sexual positions. 
I look away though, mom. I just turn my head and try not to listen. I understand that those things make my body feel good but it doesn't make my spirit feel good. It takes me to a dark place and I don't want to go there again.

And who did he hear these things from? 'Good' kids whose innocence is also being corrupted.

If we believe that our children are completely safe from the harms of such stimulations we are underestimating the power and influence of the adversary as well as overestimating the maturity of the judgement center (frontal lobe) of our child's brain.

If we don't acknowledge the cunning capabilities of the adversary and recognize the susceptibility of our children, he will do what any criminal does... Search and destroy.


My child is at risk.

Your child is at risk.
Every child is at risk.

Satan goes after the 'good' kids that we so naively think are safe because his ultimate goal is destroy families by corrupting the righteous. It makes complete sense that he would strive to destroy the younger, more innocent and more naive, generation.


But do not fret, because there is hope.


We have the Lord Omnipotent on our side, over whom Satan has no power. So long as we call on the principles of grace by doing our best to educate and make aware, keep our homes free from temptation and access, and teach our children the principles of the Atonement - His grace will make up the rest, because His grace is sufficient.

Of this, I have no doubt.

19 comments:

  1. Thank you for being so candid and sharing this story. It reminds all of us that our innocent children can get caught up in this. Praise be to God for providing a way for us to repent and find hope and healing again. God bless your son.

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  2. This really touched me. Knowing your son, it feels even more personal. My heart seriously breaks for him and all children. You're right, everyone is at rick. And the age will just get younger and younger. It's crazy how sneaky Satan is to weasel his way in any way he can. It makes me sick to think about the fact that EVERY child is at risk. So crazy. Scary. You guys handled it so amazing. I think he has pretty amazing parents. So proud of you all on this one.

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  3. Uh I am not sure I knew what I was getting into with thus whole parenting thing!!! Mine are so young still, so imagining them doing ANYTHING seems so crazy... and yet I know temptation is around every corner. We can't keep them in a box... I have to tell myself that all the time. . Because its very tempting.

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    1. Hah I totally get what you are feeling. But let me tell you, as scary as it is, watching my child grow to understand the gospel and use the Atonement himself, to desire humility himself and to call on God and strive to stay in the light, himself... it made it all worth it!

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  4. Proud of you and your son for the courage to share how you are learning and becoming a "Pro" mom like Deanna. I love that God trusts us to be there for Him, to be the voice, the arms and the heart in our own and our children's journeys.

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    1. Thanks, Jan! I do aspire to be Deanna! hah

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  5. I am just so touched by your humble transparency. And honesty. Wow.

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  6. Thank you for this. This is something I think about a ton...how I am going to raise and teach my future children about pornography. I expect my children to make mistakes because we all do, and hope I can help them grow and learn lessons in a loving way that will not only help them trust and confide in me, but also so they know they are not alone and they don't have to hide and have years of addiction. I can't think of a better way of handling the situation than how you did. Thanks for your example!

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    1. Thanks, Stephanie!! I appreciate your words!

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  7. There are times when I feel like this parenting thing is just too big for me. I don't feel qualified to deal with these issues. My daughter ended up being the brunt end of a good boy - just like yours who wasn't found to be dealing with these issues quick enough and he started acting on his curiosity with my little girl- it was devastating! He too was a leader in his classes at church and doing all the good things at school - but the jokes and topics of conversations that come up at school start curiosity that is hard to stifle. It makes me sad to know that because of this my daughter too lost her innocence. The hardest thing about my story is that the good boy is my youngest brother – and I had to find a way to forgive him. Thank you for your story. Thank you for sharing his side of what happened and that it can happen to almost any kid - even the good ones.

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    1. Ya, that is a very hard situation. I'm so very sorry. Sometimes our patience and forgiveness is tested harder than we ever would imagine. Gratefully, the Lord's grace sustains us through the forgiveness process, just as it sustains your daughter through her healing process, and just as it sustains your brother through his repentance process. God is good!

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  8. Please do everyone a small favor that could be huge in the end, please take the site where your son was viewing pornography off your blog. I believe people know you can find porn pretty much any where but when you actually put the site, out of curiosity or for whatever reason, someone might just go have a look for themselves and then what? You never know what will tempt someone, even innocently. Please, from someone who has personally witnessed the devastation pornography addiction can cause, remove the site your son was visiting from your blog.

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    1. I completely understand where you are coming from, and normally I would agree. I am very careful about what I say and how descriptive I write because I know that simply talking about pornography and sexual addiction can be triggering.

      However, I don't feel that applies to this case. I feel that speaking out about the truth, that YouTube is dangerous, is more important than not talking about it.

      I have also considered my audience. This post is directed at parents who feel their child is exempt from getting bound in pornography because of x,y and z. It is likely that most of those parents have the same belief that I did, that YouTube is safe.

      YouTube is not safe. However, if I had left the name of the site out, it is likely that those reading would assume that the site I am referring to is much seedier or 'hardcore' than YouTube.

      How will we ever identify danger zones that are cloaked as safe zones if we don't call the out?

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  9. Hi Sidreis,
    Thank you for speaking out and for sharing your very difficult story. And thanks to your son, as well. We need more moms like you to start talking about this problem with other moms and with their young kids. I especially appreciate this sentence: "If we believe that our children are completely safe from the harms of such stimulations we are underestimating the power and influence of the adversary as well as overestimating the maturity of the judgment center (frontal lobe) of our child's brain." I recently published a book entitled GOOD PICTURES BAD PICTURES to help kids understand how their brain is affected by pornography and give them a CAN DO plan to help them reject the constant flow of images that tempt them. In the book, we talk about the "feeling brain" and the "thinking brain"--teaching kids that one brain may be curious to look at bad pictures, but the other brain must stay in charge in order to stay free from addiction. My hope is that parents will use this to open a dialogue before kids get pulled in. I've met far too many really good kids that have been pulled into pornography without understanding how addictive it can be. Anyway, thanks for all your honesty. I know your post will really help many parents! www.goodpicturesbadpictures.com/videos/

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    1. Hey Kristen - thanks for that info! Your book looks great. I think it is important to get parents talking to their children while they are young. The sooner we start the conversation, the less fear has power over us. Keep up the great work! You rock.

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  10. Thank you for your willingness to share something that is so tender. Our stake in Daybreak, South Jordan has recently started a 12 step program so that we can love and support any members who are struggling with any kind of addiction especially pornography. It takes so much courage to face it. I applaud you.

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Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"