Your teenager is in a daily fight. Make sure you are there in the trenches with them.
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The Deadly Traps of Adolescence
Day 8 of 10
Guest: Dennis and Barbara Rainey
From the series: Pornography
Bob: Hi, this is Bob Lepine from FamilyLife Today. The subject matter we'll be dealing with on today's broadcast is of a sensitive nature and probably not one that you'll want to have children listening to. It's really aimed at more mature audiences, so let me encourage you to usher your children away from the radio and then join us for today's edition of FamilyLife Today.
A lot of guys today think of pornography of something that's essentially a harmless indulgence. I mean, it's not hurting anybody else, right? That's how they rationalize it. Whether it's sites visited on the Internet or magazines that are kept hidden away, pornography can have an impact not just on your heart, but it can also be visited to the next generation. Here is Dennis Rainey.
Dennis: I include in our book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," a story of a young man who found pornography because his father had a stack of it in his closet, and his dad was sampling this stuff, and the boy found it, and it started a pattern in this young man's life that impacted his marriage, his family, and almost destroyed him as a man.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 18th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. What can we do, as parents, to attempt to protect our children against the devastating damage of pornography?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. Last week and again this week, we have been talking about some of the traps that have been laid for our teenagers as they walk through the teenage years and about the things that we can do, as parents, to be proactive in trying to help our teens navigate around these traps so that they don't become ensnared.
And the trap we're going to be talking about today, Dennis, is a dangerous trap. It's the trap of pornography.
Dennis: You know, Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life." What Solomon is talking about there is protecting the headwaters of the soul, because once you pollute the headwaters, the stream all the way out into the life of that person is impacted by that poison.
You know, Bob, you came in one day when we were working on the book, and we'd been talking around this issue about pornography, and you shared a story about how a leader in a church had been impacted by pornography that found its way into his life through Christian families.
Bob: Yeah, this particular individual had grown up in a Christian home and had not been exposed to anything like this at home, but he'd gone to babysit for other families in the church and, again, his parents assumed these families were good churchgoing families. There was nothing to concern them there.
But after the children were in bed, he found, hidden away in some of these homes, pornographic material, and it was his first exposure, and it grabbed hold of him and, Dennis, there is something about pornography that it just seems to get its claws on the soul of a man, and it won't let go.
Dennis: And it's that curiosity, I think, that the enemy uses with men and, I believe, with women as well, that hook them and where they develop a compulsive behavior that begins to habitually get into pornography and sample it, and it poisons the soul. It poisons the heart.
And what we have to do as parents, I believe, we are the guardians of our children's hearts. We are the ones who are to protect them from this evil, but it starts all the way back with our model, what we watch, what we do, what we bring into our homes.
I include in our book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," a story of a young man who found pornography because his father had a stack of it in his closet, and his dad was sampling this stuff, and the boy found it, and it started a pattern in this young man's life that impacted his marriage, his family, and almost destroyed him as a man.
Bob: Barbara, that's one of the challenges that parents face today. In Solomon's day, as we read in Proverbs, chapter 5, 6, and 7, you could pretty much warn your kids, "Stay out of this part of town, don't go in establishments like this, and you'll be protected from these images and from pornography." It has been so mainstreamed today that we can hardly let our kids out of the house.
Barbara: Well, we don't have to let our kids out of the house with the Internet. I mean, you know, that kind of stuff is everywhere, and that's what's so scary. But parents really need to be on guard, as Dennis was saying, in protecting our kids and watching where they are, where they're going, and even in letting them to go somebody else's house, like that story you told about that man when he was a young boy, finding it another Christian's home. We have to be so careful where we let our kids go and who we let them spend time with.
Bob: Then we've got to be asking a lot of questions at the same time, like the question you asked your son Benjamin one day when he came home from school.
Dennis: Yeah, and I asked him if he'd been looking at anything he ought not to be looking at, and he was about 12 or 13 years of age.
Bob: That's a pretty bold question for a dad just to grab his son and say, "Hey, have you been looking at anything you shouldn't be looking at?"
Dennis: Well, I think the spirit of God prompted me to do that, and I think what I want to encourage our listeners to do is when the Lord begins to burden you with something with your children, step on in there and ask the question.
Benjamin had come home from school. We were in the kitchen, and I asked him that question, and it was like he was struck with lightning. It's, like, "Dad, have you been reading my mail or something?" And he said – he looked at me after he paused for a moment, and he got this little grin that he has, and he said, "Well, as a matter of fact, today at lunch I was sitting in the back of the classroom eating my sandwich, and some guys had some pornographic literature up front at the teacher's desk, and they were all huddled around it, looking at it, and they said, 'Hey, Ben, come on up and look at this.'" And he said, "I finished my sandwich, stuffed it all in the sack, and I walked up past the desk and on out into the hall and left the room." And I said, "You did what?" He said, "That's right. I didn't look at it. I left the room."
Well, at that point, it was like my son had scored the winning touchdown …
Barbara: … in the Super Bowl.
Dennis: In the Super Bowl, there you go, and I went berserk. I mean, I started screaming, yelling, going, "Yes, way to go, son, that's a phenomenal step," and you know, I don't know to this day if he remembers his Dad going bonkers there in the kitchen over his choice, but I think if there's anything we ought to be getting excited today about, it's young men, young women, who are taking steps away from evil and toward that which is right.
You know, Bob, I think what we're talking about here is parents being involved in their sons' and in their daughters' lives, because there are so many ways these images can gain entrance into our children's soul and poison the headwaters.
Bob: Barbara, when my son Jimmy was about seven years old, we were driving around one day, and there are a series of stores in our community that we've just chosen not to patronize because they sell pornographic magazines. And so as we drove past one of these stores, he said, "Now, Dad, we don't shop there because of some of the magazines they sell, is that right?" I said, "That's right." And he said, "What kind of magazines are they?" And he's seven – and here's the tension for a dad – how much detail do you share in order to protect your son's innocence and keep him away from the destruction? How do parents navigate that kind of a tightrope?
Barbara: Well, I think parents – again, it goes back to being involved, and it's the word we've talked about over and over again in the book, and as we've been talking through these traps – Moms and Dads have to be involved in their child's life, and that means asking questions all the time and then responding to the questions they ask us like you did with Jimmy, and saying, "You know, it's something that is degrading to what God created."
Or bring it back to the scripture to God's blueprint and God's plan for marriage and family and just let them know that this material is not wholesome, and it's not healthy. But we need to be careful that we do it in such a way that we don't increase their curiosity so that they want to go find out what this is.
And I think, as parents, as we continue to pray, that God will give us wisdom to answer these questions and to ask our kids questions, too, to find out what they're seeing and what they're hearing, I think the Lord will grant that wisdom.
Bob: You know, a number of years ago, one of my sons had a friend come over and spend the night, and Mary Ann and I had gone on to bed and, of course, they stayed up later. I think they were watching something on TV or watching a video or something.
And the next morning when I got up, I was on the computer, and I saw a site that I didn't recognize in our history file. I went there and as soon as it popped up, I went "Uh-oh," and clicked out of it, and then I realized that this had to be something that the kids had gone to while we'd gone to bed.
And so I called to my son, and I said, "Son, can you come into the other room for just a second?" And I sat him down, and I said, "Did you guys look at something last night on the Internet that you shouldn't have looked at?" And he realized immediately that he'd been found out, there was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, so he just kind of dropped his head and said, "Yeah, we did."
And I said, "Well, tell me about it. What happened?" And it turned out that someone at school had given my son's friend an address for the Internet and said, "You ought to check out this site." And they didn't know what was there, they didn't know anything about it. It had been, I think, relatively innocent, at least that when we called the other young man in, and I asked him about that, that's what he told me. He said, "I didn't know all that was going to be there. Somebody told me I should look at it, and so we looked at it."
And I said, "Well, I've got to call your dad and let him know what we looked at, and we've just got to be on the same page, and he allowed that that would be okay. And we didn't make a big deal out of it because I think they had come across this relatively innocently, but we did say, "Look, there is danger here. It's not just something innocent it's not harmless. You've got to be very careful. You don't want to be going to these sites. Looking at this stuff can damage your soul."
And, you know, when we think about this issue of pornography, we typically think about our teenage sons and the pictures and images that they're seeing, but, I'll tell you, there is a growing trend of teenage girls going on the website to look at particular kinds of pictures or images. And even if they're not looking at what we would technically refer to as pornography, they are going to sites, or they're reading literature, or they're viewing things that can have the same kind of influence on their soul.
Barbara: Yeah, I think there are two things that girls are most susceptible to. One would be magazines and the kinds of images – the way they portray women and teenagers in magazines, the kinds of things that they wear. And all of that can desensitize their perspective of who they are as young women and how they are to act and what their standards need to be.
And the other thing would be novels that girls read, because there are a lot of novels out there, even Christian novels, that are romance novels that stir up all kinds of longings and passions and desires and interests along those lines that are not necessary for these girls to be experiencing. It's not something that they need at this age in their lives.
They need to be doing things that are much more wholesome and relational with girlfriends and family, rather than feasting their eyes and their minds on these magazines and books that are all about things that they have no business being involved in.
Bob: Some of the magazines that you subscribed to when you were in high school and had hoped you might subscribe to someday with your daughters you found were wholly inappropriate.
Barbara: Yeah, I remember discovering that and what a shock it was when our oldest daughter was a teenager and I thought, "Well, I'll just subscribe to this magazine for her," and went and bought a copy at the newsstand for her to have and was just amazed at how it had changed over those years from when I was a teenager to when she became a teenager, and that was even about 10 years ago, and the content was awful, it really was.
Bob: Dennis, in the same way that men are stimulated visually, women are stimulated emotionally – what they read in romance novels and magazines can gain a grip on their soul.
Dennis: I think it's the wise parent who understands that this problem is not just a male problem. I think many of the soap operas today, a lot of advertising, other things, are trying to gain entrance into a woman's soul and pollute her much as diabolical forces are trying to do the same thing with men, and it's why we've got to maintain a good connection with our daughters as well as our sons and be tracking with them, asking them how they're doing.
One of the things, Bob, that I think is very important to discuss with our teens and preteens, is just a good definition of what pornography is. I think a lot of times we can classify pornography at such an end of the spectrum that we fail to recognize where pornography starts, and our definition that we use is that pornography is any type of media – words, photographs, movies, or music, that stimulates sexual excitement.
Now, if you start with that definition, all of a sudden, that opens the door to all types of advertisements, whether it be on TV, whether it be on the radio or in print media and, frankly, some of the advertisements that are used even in major news magazines or even in the newspaper is absolutely pornographic.
And, as parents, I think we've got to start with our own basic conviction of what is pornography? What are we going to classify as pornographic literature? Pornographic images? And I believe pornography is that which perverts the beauty of what God said was very good.
The sex drive and sex in marriage is all appropriate and good and blessed by God, but pornography is an appeal to the fantasy. It calls men and women away from real relationships to these fantasy relationships that don't exist.
A second thing that's very important is, without being explicit, you talked about this with your son, Jimmy – we have to explain to our young people that pornography has certain steps associated with it. There's a slow, gradual, slippery slope that you start walking down, and it starts with just a little bit of curiosity, and then there has to be more stimulation to satisfy that curiosity, and it can be so powerful, so alluring that it can take an innocent encounter like I had one time of opening a trash bin to dump our garbage in the trash bin, and there was, opened in the trash bin, a pornographic magazine.
Well, at that point, I could either decide to walk away or pick it up and stuff it in my trash bag and take it back into my home. I left it where it was and didn't look, but it's those types of little steps that determine who we become.
Bob: We were driving along the other night with a friend of my daughter's, and they have an Internet service, one of the large, national Internet services, and we were talking about e-mail, and she said, "We routinely get e-mails sent to us inviting us to visit all these icky-sounding sites," and it's happening innocently where your children are a click away from an image that will burn into their soul and will never leave.
Dennis: Yeah, and that's why parents have got to be involved, and they've got to use some of the resources that are being created to protect our families. There's an Internet service that we list in the book that is filtering out pornographic sites from ever even making it to your computer.
There's software available that's mentioned in the book as well to talk about how to filter these images and words from ever making it into your home, and I think, as parents, we've got to use all these resources that help us protect and guard our children's hearts, because we've been given that responsibility, and your child doesn't have the maturity to be able to discern what to do with that Russian sex site that pops up on your screen.
Bob: Dennis, what should a mom or a dad do if they come across files that they know have been downloaded onto the computer that they realize are inappropriate?
Dennis: Well, first of all, you're making the assumption that they found them casually. I would empower every parent listening who is raising a teenager to take the freedom to look. I wouldn't hesitate to look in my son or my daughter's room or where they've been tracking on the computer if I suspected anything and you know what? Even if you haven't suspected anything, it might not be a bad idea if you just go and look and just check it out.
Now, is that invading the child's privacy? I don't think so. That child is under your care. You are protecting that child. If you came home and were afraid somebody was hiding in your child's room, wouldn't you go look in that room first to see if somebody was in there, if there was evil in there, if there was harm going to come to him? You wouldn't think anything about that. Well, I think the same thing is true of this. I think we need to look at see if our children are sampling.
Secondly, if you do find it, I think immediately you offer grace. You know, that's at the core of the Gospel. Ephesians 2, 8 and 9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it's the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast."
We're all sinners, we've all broken God's laws, we need grace to be able to rightly relate to God and to one another. You forgive your child, and you go armed with that grace and forgiveness, but you take a step beyond that, and you call that young man or that young lady to be accountable. You ask them to step forward and to submit to some actions like not being on the computer late at night after Mom and Dad have gone to bed; not having a computer in their bedroom with the door closed. The idea is, is bring their lives out into the light and let them walk in the light.
Then, I think, third, ask your child questions – are you looking at anything you ought not to be looking at? Are you allowing your mind to feast on anything that could pollute your soul as a young man or as a young lady?
Bob: I think it can be helpful for parents, too, to have software on the computer, things like on our computer at home, we use something called "Safe Eyes," that's a program you buy, and a service then you subscribe to that provides a level of safety.
There is also monitoring software. We've talked before about a program called "Desktop Surveillance," that gives you snapshots of where your children have been, where anybody has been on your computer. And all of these kinds of computer programs can be helpful but, again, we have to remind ourselves that there is no computer program that will keep a teenager away from something they shouldn't be looking at if they really want to look at it.
They can go to a friend's house or a cyber café somewhere, they can find a computer that's available and, I guarantee you, if they go off to college, unless they're in a situation where the college actually filters the Internet, they're going to have access wide open. You've got to make sure that you're not just dealing with the problem by putting boundaries around your teenagers, but you're helping your teenager cultivate the personal boundaries, the personal convictions, the self-discipline to stay away from these sites that we've talked about today.
And to do that, you need the kind of guidance that the two of you provide in your book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent." I think you give us, as parents, a good game plan for how to address these issues, how to have an ongoing conversation with our teenagers so that we can raise this issue regularly as our children go through the teen years.
This is one of the more than a dozen traps you talk about in the book "Parenting Today's Adolescent." And I think it's a particularly helpful resource for parents who have preteens. You're right on the verge of your children becoming teenagers. Maybe you're not dealing with these issues now, but they're just around the corner and now is the time for you to be engaging in these issues, developing some convictions and being ready to have some standards in place that you can interact with your teen about as they start to move into their teenage years.
Again, we've got copies of the book, "Parenting Today's Adolescent," in our FamilyLife Resource Center. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. In the middle of the home page, you'll see a red button that says "Go," and if you click that button, it will take you to an area of the site where you can get more information about the book, or you can order a copy online, if you'd like.
Again, the website if FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button so that you can get a copy of Dennis and Barbara's book, or call 1-800-FLTODAY, that's 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team will make arrangements to have a copy of this book sent to you.
You know, a common theme that we've had throughout this week as we've talked about the traps that are facing our teenagers is the theme of how important it is for parents to be proactive, to be involved, and to make sure you have a relationship in place with your teenager as you move into the teenage years so that you can have some of these challenging conversations.
I was just thinking about the book that you wrote recently, Dennis, called "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date," and if a dad is going to step up and take on that responsibility, he needs to do it on the foundation of a healthy relationship with his daughter.
This month we wanted to make a copy of your new book available to any of our listeners who could help with a donation of any amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We are listener-supported, and so we depend on those donations to be able to continue the work of this radio ministry and the other outreach ministries of FamilyLife Today.
And if you can help us this month with a donation of any amount, we want you to feel free to request a copy of the book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." If you're donating online at FamilyLife.com, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, just type the word "date" in there, and we'll know to send you a copy of Dennis's book as a thank you gift.
Or if you call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation over the phone, just mention that you'd like Dennis's new book, "Interviewing Your Daughter's Date." We're happy to send it out to you. It's our way of saying thanks for your partnership with us in this ministry. We appreciate your financial involvement, and we're also glad you listen to FamilyLife Today.
Now, we hope you can be back with us tomorrow for FamilyLife Today. We want to talk about one of the other issues that faces teenagers today – it's the issue of drug use, substance abuse, alcohol, marijuana – what can we do, as parents, to try to proactively deal with this issue and help our teen avoid that trap? We're going to talk about it tomorrow, I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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