Growing up, the church my family attended occasionally sang a song called “How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?” The first stanza says this:
“How shall the young secure their hearts
And guard their lives from sin?
Thy Word the choicest rules imparts
To keep the conscience clean.”
As beautiful as the melody of the song is, it’s the lyrics which keep coming to my mind. Specifically, how do we as parents guard the minds and eyes of our children from what is becoming all too prevalent in our society–pornography?
When most of us were growing up, pornography was not as accessible as it is today. Men tell stories of their first encounter with a Playboy magazine. For women, perhaps their first brush with the softer side of porn came from a trashy romance novel. For the most part, pornography had to be actively sought out. But today, our children can fall into the darkest corners of the Internet with nothing more than the click of a button. In mere seconds, their innocence is instantly gone.
Sometimes it happens by accident. We’ve probably all had the misfortune of incorrectly typing a web address, or clicking something by mistake and being redirected to something we never wanted to see. But as our children are bombarded daily by sexual messages from their peers, from music, movies, and the media, some turn to the Internet to intentionally seek out pornographic images.
Every parent wants to protect the innocence of their children, so here are some practical steps.
- Turn on “Safe Search” in your Internet search engine. This isn’t infallible, but it does reduce the likelihood of inappropriate search results.
- Install content-filtering software to block inappropriate websites. There are several reputable companies available. SafeEyes is one my family has used and recommend. Covenant Eyes and Net Nanny are two other options that I have heard good things about. Most filtering software will allow the user to set up different accounts and different levels of protection. For younger children, you might consider blocking everything except a few allowed websites. For older children, you can filter out certain categories, such as “gambling” or “swimsuits” in addition to the obvious choices.
- Place the computer, tablet, laptop, etc. in a common area. Children are less likely to search for mature websites if they know Mom or Dad will be watching over their shoulder. Also, require all electronic devices to be turned in at bedtime.
- If your child has email, a cell phone, or a social media profile, monitor those accounts closely. Do not allow your child to enter private chat rooms or use instant-messaging apps such as SnapChat or Kik.
These steps help address the practical issues surrounding pornography, but what about the spiritual side?
First, we must talk honestly and openly with our children. Teach them about God’s design for men and women, and talk to them about sex at an age-appropriate level.
Secondly, we need to help our children understand that sexual intimacy is an integral part of the marriage relationship between a husband and wife. Pornography distorts and destroys the beauty of what God created. Hebrew 13:4 tells us, “Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.” (The Message)
Third, have a plan in place so your children will know what to do should they inadvertently come across pornography. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) tells us “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Another verse to instill in children’s minds is Romans 12:9. I like the way The Message translation puts it: “Run for dear life from evil.”
Most importantly, pray! Pray for the purity of your children, pray for their protection against ungodly things, and pray for those involved in the porn industry to be brought to Christ.
I leave you with this verse from Philippians chapter 4, which gives us the best advice of all on how to secure the hearts of the innocent:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8, NIV)
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:7, NIV)
How does your family protect the hearts of your children?