Porn and the Pandemic

Chris Cannon leads the Pastor to Pastor ministry for HomeWord. He is one of the finest people I know and his insight for parents on the subject of porn use is a critical read. If you would like to know about the incredible work of Chris through the Pastor to Pastor program you can visit our website at homeword.com/helpforleaders/.

Porn and the Pandemic, part 1

As we pull out of the malaise of the past year, we are beginning to get a better perspective of what we have gone through. It’s fair to say that none of us saw a pandemic coming in 2020, and none of us were spiritually and emotionally prepared for the toll it would take on us and our kids.

While good things have emerged and will last, damaging and detrimental sociological habits have as well.

I’ve been asked four questions this past year. I will share them in two parts and will pray as we begin to heal from the trauma we have endured.

Is pornography on the rise?

In a word, yes. Pornography has grown steadily for over sixty years, going from a multimillion-dollar industry to well into the hundreds of billions of dollars in the last 20 years. The difference has been technology. An unofficial survey of men who identify as sex addicts report seeing their first images of naked or partially clad women before age ten. This was usually because a relative had copies of Playboy around the house or a kid had found a beaten-up magazine somewhere and showed his friends.

That has all changed. While early exposure to porn shocks most parents, boys are having their first exposure to porn before age 13, and girls before 16. What was once a taboo subject to discuss and hard to find has become a common part of culture and accessible with a smart phone. While parents may assume their children haven’t viewed porn in pre-adolescent years, they also tend to be unwilling to have that same conversation with them. Research continues to reveal that our children’s innocence has been stolen from them in plain sight.

Enter COVID-19. The largest purveyor of online porn (which I will not name to limit the curious) began giving away free access to their website in March 2020. This 30-day period of free viewing was the equivalent of endless samples Krispy Kreme donuts to the quarantined and anxious masses. It was bound to move the needle. Since then, the website reports a 22% increase in users, which many, no doubt, converted to subscribers.

The pandemic has exposed a chink in our grit and resiliency. Many of us have experienced increased fear, isolation, and depression. With fewer social and recreational options for us, we had to look outside of our normative patterns to find fun, excitement, and relief. Our young people are not immune to these same social and recreational needs. As many doors closed during the lockdown months, porn opened its doors wide and welcomed all who wanted instant gratification. The road back from porn, unfortunately, is not as easy as the road to porn.

What is important to communicate to our children?

This is an important question for every parent, grandparent, and educator to ask and answer.

First, parents want to cultivate a NO SHAME mindset in the household. Meaning, we can talk about ANYTHING and we will honor honesty, transparency and sincere curiosity. When young people discover porn for the first time, the universal experience is a mix of excitement, fear, and shame. They don’t know what they are really looking at, but something inside them is aroused. They may not have words for this, but they know it is exciting. But they also know that it comes with a strong sense of shame for what they are seeing AND feeling. This is soon completed by an overwhelming feeling of fear and possible consequence for this typically unplanned exposure to pornography.

The first and best thing to do as parents is to avoid any furtherance of these emotions that can often lead to secrecy and may exacerbate an escalation in further viewing of porn. Rewarding honesty with comments like, “Thank you for telling me about this experience. That must have been scary and embarrassing. It takes a lot of courage to tell me about this. Thank you!”

Parents may also make a child’s experience less traumatic by sharing their own exposure to pornography. “When I was your age, someone showed me a magazine with some inappropriate pictures in it. I was too scared to tell anyone about it. I am so glad you could tell me. Remember, there is nothing we can’t talk about in our family. We don’t want you to keep secrets that bother you or make you feel sad.”

Finally, parents should remind their children (of any age) that Mom and Dad are always willing to get the necessary resources to protect them from further anxiety. Sleepovers, overnight youth retreats, and other outings can be more anxiety producing for kids than parents realize. Parents can and should do their due diligence about the boundaries on these outings, as well as an eyeball to eyeball conversation with their children about THEIR concerns about the aforementioned. We gave our kids permission to blame us for any sleepover that they didn’t want to attend. We were more than happy to be the bad guys.

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Chris Cannon

Chris Cannon

Chris Cannon is the Director of Healthy Leaders at HomeWord. With more than 25 years of pastoral leadership behind him, Chris brings a genuine heart for the health and well-being of those who are on the front lines of churches by providing a safe, non-judgmental space for leaders to unload the burdens.

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