Tag Archives: pornography

Teens and Unrestricted Access: Time to Repent

The statistics have been published, the literature has widely circulated, the conversations continue, but the issue still doesn't seem to be addressed with due vigilance. I'm talking about teenagers with unrestricted access on their smartphones and tablets. I give a hearty "Amen!" to Russell Moore's recent tweet: "I am just stunned by parents who give their pre-teen children iPhones and iPads with unrestricted Internet access."

We rightly claim that pornography is an addiction, but we don't seem to be challenging the dealers of this drug. Who are these dealers? Parents. Parents who foolishly give their teens (and pre-teens) free rein with their smartphones and by doing so have invited the world into their child's bedroom each night.

Some of you might think I am being a bit extreme, but after wrapping up another summer of youth retreats, my eyes have been opened once again to this absolute foolishness (there's no softer way to put it). The things our youth post on social media prove many things, and one is parental absence in this sphere.

I have too many conversations with students addicted to porn and equally as many conversations with parents who don't have a clue what their children are doing on the Internet. Were it not for an all-powerful, reigning, and ruling God, I would worry even more about the effects of this negligence on the future of our culture, including the church. Therefore, here are six pieces of advice from a youth pastor who doesn't pretend to have parenting figured out.

1. Repent

God has graciously given you children as amazing gifts. Before the foundation of the world, he chose you to be their parents. While salvation is from God, he still expects you to steward these children for his glory. Therefore, repent of your laziness in this area. If you don't restrict smartphone usage, and you have little idea what your children are doing on their smartphones, I am speaking to you. Ask for forgiveness from the God who gave you children and ask for forgiveness from the child whose addiction you have aided.

2. Get Educated

The Internet is always changing, and it is impossible to stay on top of all the latest technology. Yet this is no reason to give up. You can still learn about your child's most time-consuming technology. Take the phone you purchased for them and begin looking at the apps they have downloaded. Visit grovo.com for online tutorials of various sites/apps. Check out Walt Mueller's site Center for Parent/Youth Understanding at least once a week to stay on top of youth cultural trends and concerns. As parents, you also need to start downloading the same apps and familiarize yourself with them. If you don't have time to visit these various sites and don't have the ability to interact with them, make a friend who does.

3. Ask the Church Body for Help

In God's infinite grace and mercy, he has given the body of Christ a wide range of people and gifts. Praise God that he fills his church with "nerds," those who not only love to learn about various new technologies, but who also have the patience to educate others about them. Find those within your church who are gifted with computers and ask them if they would meet for lunch—they may even be willing to teach a class. Even simpler, start an e-mail group with some tech gurus who will alert you to various concerns. Bottom line: use the gifts of God's church to assist in this battle.

4. Set Up Boundaries

Whether or not you bought your teens their phones or if you pay their monthly bill, you are still in authority over them, and you need to exercise that authority for the glory of God. Take away your teen's phone every night at a specified time. No text conversations are important enough for teens to stay up into the wee hours of the night. The pictures they are snapping during this time wouldn't make you want to hang them over the mantle. Restrict various apps they can use.

5. Tell Them Why

Almost any parent can switch into combat mode and wield the heavy hand of authority. But it takes grace from God to be a parent who sits down and converses with his or her child. Tell your teens why you are placing certain restrictions on their phone, talk to them about the various idols of their heart, and use this time as an opportunity to communicate the gospel. We so often want to speak in a more relevant manner to our teens—here is your chance. Illustrate the gospel's relevance by applying it to their technology. Ultimately communicate that any restrictions you place on them are motivated by love and care. Remind them you are protecting them from the evils of this world.

6. Pray

While there are foolish parents who have turned their kids loose on the Internet, other parents have been responsible with their teen's smartphone usage and still fear the technology. To those parents, I want to remind you of your loving heavenly Father. Many of you are great mothers and fathers who are, by God's grace, trying to steward the lives of the precious children God has given you. Remember that you have a Father who lovingly cares for you and your children. He is the best Dad who ever existed, and he wants to hear any concerns you have about your children. Plus, he is the creative genius behind any new creation; therefore, turn to him in prayer and trust.

Sexy Pics and Secrecy

A group of researchers at Newcastle University set out to observe the littering behavior of students in a university cafeteria. Posters at eye level displayed pictures of human eyes staring out at the hungry students all around the cafeteria. Strangely, researchers discovered people were twice as likely to clean up after themselves when surrounded by the eye posters.

This and other studies suggest that even on a subconscious level, we modify our behavior if our brain tells us we're being watched. Even though I know the eyes on those posters can't see me, I'm wired in such a way to pay attention to them.

When it comes to facing Internet temptations, knowing others are watching us can change the way we behave—and there are good biblical reasons why.

Triple-A Engine of Porn

From the earliest days of the Internet, social scientists have noted what's called the "online disinhibition effect." Basically, people say and do things online
 they wouldn't say and do in their "real lives."

This goes for pornography and cybersex as well. Several years ago the late psychologist Alvin Cooper theorized that Internet pornography was alluring due to three primary factors: it's accessible, it's affordable, and it's anonymous—what he called the "Triple-A Engine." These three aspects of Internet porn open the door wide to online temptations.

Little can be done about the affordability of pornography: it's freely available at hundreds of thousands of online portals. And unless you eliminate all contact to computers and smartphones, porn will always be accessible in some fashion. This is why many people seek to remove the third factor: anonymity. If I no longer have the option to view pornography in secret, I'm much less likely to view it at all. If someone I trust is monitoring my online activity, I'm more likely to avoid temptations altogether.

Secrecy and Sexual Sin

Secrecy and sexual sin often go hand in hand.

The apostle Paul said those whose lives are marked by sexual immorality, impurity, and greed (Eph. 5:3) commit shameful acts "in secret" (v. 12). He depicts this way of life as hiding in "darkness" (vv. 8, 11). Sin seeks out the darkness so its deeds aren't exposed to God or to others (John 3:20).

Christians are meant to walk in the light. Among other things, this means we must fight both the illusion of secrecy and also our tendency to create private corners where sin can thrive. This is especially true in an age like ours when there are thousands of digital corners in which to hide.

Accountable to God

Additionally, one of the great motivators God has given us to avoid sin is the knowledge that he sees all we do.

Paul calls Christians "children of the light" (1 Thess. 5:5)—those united by faith to the light of the Word (John 8:12) and living in the light of Jesus' return. We know that God is real, that Christ has come, that he is our Lord, and that he is coming again to set all things right. We live in the dawn of the age to come. The night of this present age is ending, so we must live like children of the day: brimming with faith, hope, and love (vv. 6-8) and casting off the works of darkness (Rom. 13:11-12).

One day, each of us "will give an account of himself to God" (Rom. 14:12; cf. 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 4:13). We live knowing we're finally accountable to the God we love.

Accountable to Others

Another motivator God has provided to keep us from sin is the threat of potential disgrace or shame before others (Luke 14:9; Rom. 1:24-26; 6:21; 1 Cor. 11:6, 14; 14:35). We must be aware of how our sins influence other people and our relationships. Paul's term for this awareness is "walking properly" (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 14:40; 1 Thess. 4:12). It means living in a manner of decency, understanding that our actions affect those around us.

None of us sins in a vacuum. Our sin affects our families, our friends, our communities—and our place in those relationships.

Walk in the Light Online

Internet accountability helps to cure us of online tunnel vision. In my seemingly private online life, it's easy to feel that the time is my own, that my choices affect only myself. But when I'm reminded I'm not alone—that at least one other person will see what I do—my myopic vision is broken. For a brief moment I see my temptations through the eyes of another, not just through my own foggy vision.

By choosing to remove the secrecy, we pull our lives into the light. Being exposed to another's eyes helps me remember my accountability partner isn't the only one watching me. The one who loved me and gave himself for me "sees my ways and numbers all my steps" (Job 31:4). And in that moment I recall: I have made a covenant with my eyes; help me, O God, not to look at any worthless thing (Job 31:1; Ps. 101:3).

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This excerpt is adapted from the new e-book Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust through Biblical Accountability (Covenant Eyes, 2013). Download it for free here.