Exposing the elephant in the room

This month, John Allan offers some web resources to help address the issues of teenage Internet Pornography.

This month, John Allan offers some web resources to help address the issues of teenage Internet Pornography.

When seven-year-olds use an Internet search engine, what do they most often look for? According to software firm Symantec, the top five searches are: ‘YouTube’, ‘Google’, ‘Facebook’, ‘Club Penguin’... And ‘Porn’.

Why is Internet pornography such a magnet for people – even the very young? Every second you spend reading this, 30,000 web users will be accessing it, turning the porn industry into a $90 billion industry. This year an Optenet survey concluded that over one-third of the Internet is pornographic (to be fair, they sell filtering software, so they may be ever-so-slightly biased... but even so). What is the appeal, and what is it doing to your kids?

We’ve looked at this before, of course, but three things have changed recently. First, people are talking about ‘Porn 2.0’ – a new wave of pornography which isn’t profit-related, but a massive amateur enterprise, people proudly uploading their home-made amateur pictures and videos. Second, research is being done into why it’s so attractive. And third, there are a growing number of effective Christian ministries and resources to help us cope.

Does porn affect its users biologically – creating an addiction which alters our mental and physical make-up? A lot of pseudo scientific rubbish is spouted, but Marnia Robinson and Donald Hilton are pretty authoritative. If there’s anything in their thinking, it would explain the horrendous dependency that some people – including Christian teenagers – can get into. Shrewd feminist Naomi Wolf believes it’s damaging our emotional health and changing relationships between the sexes. This is a problem which won’t be going away anytime soon.

Resources? We’ve mentioned before the admirable XXXChurch, which attacks the problem with humour, love and creativity, and has a growing number of videos and software resources to help strugglers. But now there’s also Elephant in the Room (for men) and the wonderfully-named Dirty Girls Ministries (for women), both pioneered by former addicts. Christian youth sites like Fervr are starting to produce short practical articles aimed at teenagers.

Even if it’s something you don’t much like thinking about, you should take a look. Because if my seven-year-olds are typing the word ‘porn’ into Google, they’re already accessing the stuff half a lifetime before they’re old enough to come to my group. That’s scary.