One study showed that a huge 90 percent of all eight- to sixteen-year-olds had viewed pornography online—most inadvertently while doing homework. Unfortunately, many of these teens are susceptible to developing addictions or compulsions to these images.

The term “addict” may seem exaggerated. Most parents will initially downplay the problem, hoping their son or daughter is simply looking on occasion. Experience has shown me that, in many cases, at least one of the parents will have engaged in similar struggles when he or she was younger. According to Patrick Carnes, the Internet is “the great accelerator” of porn/sex addiction. Linked with the moral decay in our culture and the fact that children’s minds are very pliable and moldable, addiction can happen quicker than we parents like to think.

My own professional experiences demonstrate that the problems of teenage pornography and sex addiction are factual, damaging, and growing. When faced with their teen’s struggle, most parents are in shock and don’t know where to turn to get their child help.

[tweetthis]Protecting children from the negative influences of the culture starts with a strong Christian sexual ethic.[/tweetthis]

In many situations, the first reaction is to determine who is at fault within the family. It is important to realize, however, that bad things do happen to good families. If someone needs to be held accountable, then they will hopefully take responsibility where it is needed. It is important to realize that everyone is impacted in the family.

Parents will also want to evaluate the media outlets they have allowed in their home. There may need to be new boundaries around the use of the Internet. For example, key questions to consider include:

  • Is the computer located in an open and safe place?
  • Is Internet protection like Covenant Eyes being used?
  • Does the family have safety rules regarding the Internet and social networking?

Additionally, parents need to ask if they have taken the lead to provide a biblical perspective on healthy relationships and sexuality. Most parents do not address these important issues with their children. Setting proper foundations for understanding a Christian sexual ethic is a vital step in protecting children from the many negative influences of the culture (advertising, TV, Hollywood, music, Internet, i.e.).

Another often undetected problem is the painful reality of sex abuse. Most porn/sex addicts have suffered sexual abuse at some time in their lives, and the treatment of sex abuse is crucial to overcoming sex addiction.

My own professional experiences demonstrate that the problems of teenage pornography and sex addiction are factual, damaging, and growing. When faced with their teen’s struggle, most parents are in shock and don’t know where to turn to get their child help.

The adolescent addict also has areas of responsibility. Has he or she been honest about the sexual struggles? Have there been other indulgences like alcohol or drugs? Has he or she allowed the bad influence of a peer or perhaps an adult? More importantly, has the adolescent made a full disclosure to his parents so that the family can be prepared to deal with the addiction?

Parents need to realize that their teen is probably struggling from extreme shame and embarrassment. A harsh or critical approach is not likely to encourage your child to open up and share the magnitude of his or her struggles. Understanding and acceptance, such as Jesus demonstrated to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), is most likely to help your child feel safe enough to share the full story.

Many parents and teens will already have experienced serious communication problems. Now is the time to put aside old and unhealthy patterns of communication. The goal is to build a new foundation for openness, trust, and safety.

Parents will need to caution themselves that they may be prone to minimizing what they know or suspect to be the truth. Parents also need to understand the resistance they will encounter from their teen. Most addicts, regardless of age, will deny their problem. They may even become verbally defensive and argumentative. Others may quickly agree that they have viewed porn, and promise too hastily that they won’t do it again. Unfortunately, just getting caught is hardly enough to bring about real life-change with an addictive behavior.

No doubt, this will prove to be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation. Nonetheless, the parents have to take the lead when they have evidence of inappropriate sexual behavior and possible addiction. This is a time for action and looking for help.

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