SASKATOON — Content-blocking and accountability software are among the practical tools that parents and educators can use to protect children and youth from exposure to pornography on the Internet, Matt Fradd said Sept. 14 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
The Australian-born, U.S.-based author and speaker also spoke to high school students in Saskatoon and Regina, as well as to a Catholic men’s group about the impact of pornography during his two-day visit to Saskatchewan, sponsored by One More Soul Canada.
Pornography is easily accessed through mobile and hand-held devices, laptops and home computers, and even via gaming systems, Fradd noted at the session for parents, youth leaders, educators and pastors.
Children can easily stumble upon pornographic images through maliciously placed links or seemingly innocuous searches, and curious youth can find porn online with a click or two, he said.
Never before has so much explicit material been so easily accessible to so many, with so few restrictions. On one tracking site alone, in one year, people watched some four billion hours of pornography. Fradd stressed that this epidemic is not only of concern to people of faith. “This is a big deal if you are human, and it is a big deal if you have children.”
Acknowledging the barrage of information, responsibilities and tasks that flood parents today, Fradd urged his listeners not to “bury their heads in the sand” or succumb to “analysis paralysis,” but to take practical steps to protect children from pornography.
In addition to installing content-filtering software such as Net Nanny to block offensive sites, and using accountability software such as Covenant Eyes to monitor Internet use by family members, Fradd emphasized talking to children about pornography, as well as talking to other parents about the issue — including, if necessary, saying, “I’m sorry, but if you do not use filtering software, my child can’t play at your house anymore.”
The attitude that “my kids are good kids,” which suggests that only “bad kids” are interested in sex or are affected by pornography, is nonsensical. “They are being exposed to this stuff. Think what goes on inside an eight-year-old when they first see pornography, what that means for them.”
Parents must talk to children about pornography, he stressed, and probably at a much younger age than many think. This includes giving children a course of action if they encounter pornographic material, such as the “can-do” plan : “C” for close your eyes and close the computer; “A” for alert a trusted adult, tell mom or dad what you saw; “N” for naming pornography when you see it; “D” for finding a way to distract one’s mind from the image if it pops back up in memory, and “O” for “order your thinking brain” to take charge, and remember why pornography is harmful.
The conversation among parents and children about pornography should be built on an ongoing series of conversations about the goodness and beauty of the human body, Fradd stressed. The discussion of pornography becomes more nuanced as children get older and begin to understand the difference between pornographic images and the artistic presentation of the naked human figure.
Fradd noted that art depicts the human person in a way “that does not rob them of their internal life,” while pornography ignores or obfuscates personhood. “It is precisely because the human body is good that it can be degraded.”
Fradd stressed that, instead of getting angry with children or youth who are looking at porn, parents should apologize for the fact that their child has encountered it. “It is not their fault that we raised them in a sexualized culture. It is not their fault we give them these devices,” he said.
Parents can share with older youth the evidence about the damage that viewing pornography can have on individuals, families and communities, and the realities of porn addiction.
“What happens online is not less real than what happens offline,” he stressed, describing the problem schools are now facing with “sexting” and the sharing of sexually provocative images via smartphones.
The range of resources suggested by Fradd include the podcast and website www.integrityrestored.com, as well as his book, The Porn Myth, which cites a range of experts to provide a non-religious response to commonly held beliefs that pornography is harmless, or even beneficial.
Finally, Fradd stressed that the battle against pornography is not hopeless, describing another step Christians can take: to trust in God. “There are no wounds that the Divine Physician cannot fix,” he said, cautioning against despair, calling for prayer, and pointing to the process of spiritual growth that comes from resisting temptation and battling sin.