First, some stats. In 1970, pornography was a $10 million a year business in this country – a small, back-alley, unseen industry. Since the “mainstreaming” of pornography in the 1970s and the invention of the internet, pornography has grown into a $57 billion worldwide industry (larger than the revenue of every pro baseball, football, and basketball team combined). What was once difficult (if not impossible) to find has now become accessible to anyone with an internet connection and the education of a 2nd grader. I was born in 1979 and came of age in the era of the internet – the first generation in history to have unfiltered, immediate, private access to any and every kind of pornography available simply at the click of a mouse. And because we knew more about the computer than our parents, we had no problems hiding our pornography use from those who were supposed to guard us from it. This combination of factors has led to a large number of people (men and women) who have grown from teenagers into adults addicted to online pornography. If not for some godly accountability partners in college and a wife who lovingly helps me protect my eyes, I could have easily have fallen into this category.
Now, we are coming to terms with the consequences of the porn epidemic in America. Marriages are falling apart at record levels because of pornography and porn-related causes. Children are being exposed to pornography at earlier and earlier ages at their own homes or at the homes of their friends. New studies are showing that husbands are putting unreasonable sexual expectations on their wives based on their use of pornography. And wives are feeling more and more insecure about their bodies and their sexual intimacy with their husbands. A recent study showed that up to one in three college men are now reporting erectile dysfunction, largely due to their overuse of pornography. A 2006 survey found that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women were addicted to pornography. This survey was of Christian men and women, not the culture at large. I don’t think I need to go on. You can see the clear evidence: we have a crisis of pornography use in our country and in our churches.
In addition to these scary stats, we have many people who are simply oblivious to the dangers that lurk behind every screen in their house. Our world is becoming more and more connected every year. We are no longer a one-computer-per-house nation, getting online through AOL dial-up on a 14.4k modem. Every home has multiple computers and multiple mobile devices – smartphones and tablet computers and DVD-players connected to the web. Let me be as blunt as possible: every internet enabled device in your home is a portal for pornography producers to bring their content into your home. Remember, their motive is primarily financial. And every new porn addict is good for their business. And every child you are raising in your home is a potential new consumer.
I don’t mean to scare you, but I do mean to wake you up. This stuff is not going away. And the Christian community must make war with this sin. This can no longer be the issue we only talk about a Men’s Retreats or in private conversations. We have to get serious, focused, and vocal about keeping pornography away from our families and out of our personal lives. Obviously, the most important thing you can do to keep your kids from pornography is to preach the gospel to them so that they have the power of the Risen Christ in their lives to draw on. But beyond that, you must model for them the patterns and the boundaries that will help them have a healthy sexual future.
Let’s talk specifics. How can you protect your family (and yourself) from pornography?
FIRST, I would recommend that you have open and honest conversations with your kids about the dangers that exist on the internet. As I have said many times on this blog, start the conversation. Be Proactive! Tell your kids that there are inappropriate sexual images and videos on the internet that they should be on-guard to stay away from. If they are at a friends’ house and they offer to show them something “cool” on the internet, tell them how to walk away, how to leave, how to guard their eyes. Share with them the temptations that await and where they can lead.
SECOND, protect your home network. As a first level of protection (not comprehensive), you should have OpenDNS (or something similar) on your router at your home. Your hi-speed internet connection most likely goes from the DSL or Cable-modem to a wireless router than then sends the internet all over your house. OpenDNS provides a free FamilyShield that you can easily set up with your spouse on your home router. The set-up is simple and easy. If you are a man and struggle with porn yourself, set up these shield on your router and have your wife set up the password on the router so you can’t change the settings. This step will at least give you a first line of defense on your home network.
THIRD, protect your devices. You and your family are obviously NOT going to ONLY access the internet at your house. You will also be taking your computers on the road – to hotels, coffee-shops, libraries, offices, schools, etc. And every place you go has the internet. So how do you protect your devices? There are several good options. I would recommend you use K9 Web Protection. They provide an excellent product that, again, is free. You simply register for a license to use their software on your computer and they email you a code. From there, you download the software and install it with the code. During setup, they ask you to set up an administrative password. Again, if you struggle with porn, ask your spouse to set up this password for you. Once installed, this software tracks your every online move and blocks every inappropriate site. K9 also has a mobile version for the iPhone. Protecting your smartphone can be more difficult, but it is possible. You need to disable your Safari browser & set up the filtered browser as your only access to the internet. They give you detailed instructions on how to do this on their website.
K9 Web Protection is not the only option here, but they are one of the best and they are free. Other good options include Mobicip, which is not free, but includes some other reporting options and an Android version if you have that operating system on your smartphone. My point is simple – you have good options out there. Use them.
Barie and I have used x3 Watch for accountability online for a long time. But with our oldest son now learning how to search the internet on his own, accountability is not enough. We need to keep pornography away. Away from us and away from our kids.
Men and women, I pray that you will not ignore this post. Take action. Have the hard conversations. Get on the same page with your spouse. Surrender this issue to God. Help each other to stay pure and to keep this pandemic from destroying your soul and your family.
2015 Update: We have started using Accountable2You software at our house because it works across all platforms and for a small fee you can add as many devices as you want. Check into it!