A typical Tuesday night. 5:00. I pull up allrecipes.com on my iPad and grab a pot. I busy myself mixing ingredients as N, my two-year-old climbs up on the barstool and commandeers my tablet. Not two minutes later the familiar lyrics of “The Hamster Dance” fills the kitchen and the glow of the screen lights up my son’s smug grin. As I stir the simmering pot, I notice he has found his way to the paint application and is quickly filling the blank space with a rainbow of colors. Dinner ready, table set, I scoop him up and set him in the high chair. Before I close the iPad and turn off his music, I discover that in the ten minutes he took control, he managed to pose for four selfies, write a novel of toddler gibberish in a document, change my background settings, take off airplane mode, renew our library books, fix two bugs, clean the finger printed screen, order three books on Amazon and write 100 lines of code (ok, so I’m only halfway exaggerating).
My two-year-old knows how to navigate my tablet better than I do.
And frankly, that scares me.
Years ago while I was unmarried and still in college I had the opportunity to spend a summer as a camp counselor for a church program called “Especially For Youth.” Each week we worked with two “co-counselors” and a set of about 8-12 teenagers each. It was an incredible, faith-building experience. One week while talking with my male co-counselor I was surprised to find out that the night before eight of his ten boys, ranging in age from 16-18, confided in him that they had accessed and viewed pornographic images. I was shocked. How could that be? These were really great kids who had everything in the world going for them.
Eight out of ten. I know it isn’t a big enough pool of boys to create a real statistic, but it was none-the-less alarming to me. Now, ten years down the road and (almost) four boys of my own, the image of those kind, handsome young men and their confessions burns in my mind.
If you think that porn has no harm or lasting affect on the person or those associated with them, think again. If you think it is healthy, I have to disagree. If you feel you are alone in the fight, you’re not.
Pornography is… addictive. It impairs decision-making capacities and it “hooks” its users, drawing them back obsessively for more and more. A man who had been addicted to pornography and to hard drugs wrote me this comparison: “In my eyes cocaine doesn’t hold a candle to this. I have done both. … Quitting even the hardest drugs was nothing compared to [trying to quit pornography]” (letter of Mar. 20, 2005). –Dallin H. Oaks
This is a taboo topic I never dreamed of writing about, let alone thought I’d ever have to worry about. But with the power of the Internet at our fingertips, at our two-year-olds’ fingertips, the topic becomes a bit more real. I watch my six-year old create planes and helicopters out of bristle blocks with his brothers, laugh at the same knock-knock joke for the fiftieth time, then cuddle up with his stuffed animal monkey after he’s said his prayers. So innocent. I wish more than anything I could protect him and help him keep that innocence forever. But I can’t wrap him in bubble wrap.
So as moms, what can we do? The dangers are out there, and they are real. I don’t have all the answers. I hardly have any, and probably not all great ones. But I’m learning, and my thoughts are this:
Sure, we can secure our internet, put the computer in a public and heavy-traffic location. Limit their phone data, check their texts. We can micromanage every facet of their lives, but the only way to really help them, to protect them, is to create a relationship with them and love them. No security measures can compare to helping them see their self-worth and that of others. If we maintain an open communication with them, know their friends and genuinely have an interest in them, and help them to understand the seriousness of this addiction, of the way becoming involved in such activities could change their lives and current and future relationships, I think it might help. It’s certainly not foolproof, but why not try?
“My plea—and I wish I were more eloquent in voicing it—is a plea to save the children. Too many of them walk with pain and fear, in loneliness and despair. Children need sunlight. They need happiness. They need love and nurture.” –Gordon B. Hinkley
Being a mom has been by far one of the greatest blessings of my life. As I twirl all 22 pounds of two-year-old sweetness around the air to the fifth repeat of “The Hamster Dance” ( if only he would show me how to turn the darn repeat off!!), I remember what an incredible, wonderful, daunting responsibility I have to raise these boys to be kind, considerate, courageous, stalwart, chivalrous gentlemen. For their teachers, their professors, their future employers. For your daughters, for their children. For God. It’s kind of a big deal, and I hope and pray I can get it right.
What have you done or plan to do to protect your children from the scary stuff out there? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Also, here’s another link that I thought was good for moms in case you are interested.
A powerful post written on a very menacing subject. It’s no good hiding behind things and not worrying “until you have a problem” with stuff like this. You need to be proactive is my opinion and your list up there about limiting data, computer in a public room, checking up on things, and being PRESENT are all very good starting points and habits to set up while they’re young. You’re on the ball, Chelsi, and setting the pace for others to follow! 🙂
Torrie, I was hoping you would comment on this post as you have two older boys of your own and know far better than I do what all this means for our teenagers. It is such an intimidating topic! Sometimes I wonder if having girls would be easier, but I suppose it would just be something else to worry about. I think you are so right, the biggest key is to be present in their lives. I know you’ve talked about that before. You are a great example of really knowing and spending time with our kids. I love that. Thank you!
One of my favorite quotes is some thing like this: the opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is to use someone.
When we use someone for our own selfish purposes, we essentially don’t see them as a person to value and respect, but an object to be used. We take away their humanity. We’re trying to teach our kids that every person is a child of God and deserves our respect. Hopefully, our kids will learn the lesson so well that if they ever come across disturbing images, they will be saddened and appalled that these women (or men) are being treated so poorly and that they don’t recognize their self worth.
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