FamilyLife Today®

John Foubert: How to Protect Kids from Porn

with John D. Foubert | October 27, 2022
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Is porn really that bad? Dr. John Foubert digs into just how destructive it can be and how to protect your kids practically from real & present danger.
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Is porn really that bad? Dr. John Foubert digs into just how destructive it can be and how to protect your kids practically from real & present danger.

John Foubert: How to Protect Kids from Porn

With John D. Foubert
|
October 27, 2022
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Ann: Hey, before we get to today’s program, I want you to know that Dave and I were perfect parents. [Laughter]

Dave: —until we had a child. [Laughter]

Ann: Exactly! And we used to think there were perfect parents, but there are no

Dave and Ann:no perfect parents.

Ann: That's why we wrote the book, No Perfect Parents. We're excited because now we have an online video course for you. You can go through it as a small group, individually, or even just as a couple. And to get that, you can go to FamilyLife.com/NotPerfect to find out more. Again, FamilyLife.com/NotPerfect.

Shelby: Hey, Shelby Abbott here; just want to give a heads up before you listen to this next program. Today's conversation on FamilyLife Today covers some sensitive, but important, subjects that might not be suitable for younger ears; so please use discretion when listening to this next broadcast. Alright; now, let's jump into it.

Dave: “You walk into your 11-year-old son's bedroom—his back is to you—over his shoulder you can see that, on his phone, he is watching a violent pornographic video clip. How you react then may well have a significant impact on the rest of his life. Will you yell?—ignore it?—freak out? The best thing you can do, as a parent, is have a calm conversation with him about it, based on the facts of what pornography does to him and to others.” Are you ready for that conversation?

 

Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.

Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.

Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.

 

I feel like we've been through that phase; but as I read that in the book we're going to talk about today, I thought: “This is every parent’s nightmare,” and “Also, their fear of: ‘I don't know how to react,’ ‘I don't know how I should react.’” I think that this topic is really helpful today, so I hope people will lean in.

Dave: Yes; obviously, I read from a book that—it's sitting in front of me, right here, by John Foubert—called Protecting Your Children from Internet Pornography. And guess what? We've got John in the studio with us today. John, welcome to FamilyLife Today.

John: Thank you; it's my honor to be here.

Dave: I mean, when I read that—you know, I was picking up your book and reading it—as a parent, thought, “That is a reality for so many of us, as parents.” I mean, maybe you haven't literally walked in your 11-year-old son's room, but that could happen. I know that many listeners—that has actually happened to them—

John: Absolutely.

Dave: —so you put that in your book—and obviously, one of the first questions would be: “So how do we prepare ourselves for our conversation with a son or a daughter if we found that as our reality?”

John: I think we need to get more information on how awful the pornography industry is and how we can explain to our kids: “You don't want this in your life. It may seem attractive to you at first, but it's going to go after your brain; it's going to go after your sexual functioning; it's going to go after things like anxiety and depression, and these are things that you don't want in your life.”

I think it's important not to freak out if you see something like that happening with your kid; but also, not to be totally disengaged and feel like you can't do anything. I mean, parents, especially with kids of 11, the parents are going to have a very strong impact on their kids; they can still speak into their lives in meaningful ways. I hope they always can, but I think they still can at age 11.

Just talk to them very matter-of-factly—leading with the head and not necessarily the heart—but leading with the head on: “Here are some things that the pornography industry is trying to do to you to trap you into this way of thinking about sex,” and “Here's why our family doesn't think that that's the right thing to do, and why I hope that's not what you'll choose.”

Dave: Well, let's dive into some of that, but you got to give our listeners a little bit of background.

John: Sure.

Dave: I mean, here’s a guy, who has written a few books about pornography. I'm guessing that isn't what you grew up, thinking, “That's what I'm going to do with my life.”

John: No. [Laughter]

Dave: Tell us a little bit about what you do. You're a college professor; right?

John: Yes, I am; I'm a college professor. I teach students how to write their dissertations. I work at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

I got involved in the sexual assault-prevention movement, early on, in my career, about 30 years ago. And then, about 15 years in, I started to notice that there was a connection between pornography and sexual assault. At the same time, I heard the Lord calling me to do something that would be even more directly related to the church.

Ann: —and not only that, but you're a dad.

John: I am a dad, and that's important.

Ann: You have a 14-year-old daughter.

John: I do, and a 12-year-old son.

Ann: This is close to your heart.

John: It's very close to my heart, very.

Dave: Your book is full of all kinds of science—brain rewiring, things that parents need to know—how prevalent is this?

John: It's very prevalent. I mean, right now, if you take a look at the statistics on how many high school students have seen pornography since/before they go to college, it's about 93 percent of the boys and 64 percent of the girls. The boys’ statistic doesn't tend to surprise too many people, but the girl statistic does.

Ann: Has that gone up, John?

John: It has gone way up.

Ann: Yes.

John: You have to think of the porn industry as a business that wants more and more money/more and more markets—and so they'll label—“Violent Pornography”—they'll call it “Feminist Pornography”—to try and get some women to watch it.

Ann: And so how would they draw kids in too? They're marketing and strategizing of how, not only to reach men, but women and kids. Would it be different for kids as well?

John: For kids, they try to make sure that, if a kid looks on Google®, for the word, “sex,” or something like that, that it will go straight to pornography; and so they'll see a picture, not necessarily a description. If a kid is 11 years old, and he hears the word, “sex,” at school, frequently he'll go to Google to find out the answer on that.

There's a lesson in there, too; and that is, that parents need to teach their kids: “Come to me if you have a question about something; don't go to Google. Then we can answer them together.”

Dave: I mean, that obviously implies that there's a relationship between mom and dad, or mom, or dad with their son or daughter.

John: Right; right.

Dave: Right; I mean, it's like that has to be cultivated and built.

John: Right; right.

Dave: So you're saying, man: “A simple search could end up leading to danger.”

John: Often does; often does.

Ann: So John, when do we start? I think so many listeners are saying: “When do I start having those conversations?” and “What would it sound like?”

John: I think that's a great question. I would start having those early conversations when they can first understand language, like I'm thinking around three or four years old.

Ann: What?!

Dave: What kind of conversation?

John: That is a very important question. You don't say: “Well, this is pornography…” [Laughter] and “This is…”—you know what that's all about. But talk to them in the way that you say, “You know how we like to take pictures of each other in our family?” “Yes, we do.” “That's a fun thing; now, we would never take a picture of someone without their clothes on; would we?” And you get the kids to say “No!” “We would never want to do that, because it exposes their private parts; and private parts are meant to be private. Because we wouldn't take those kinds of pictures, we wouldn't look at pictures of people without their clothes on.”

I think that's a message we can send when they're three or four, which is important to build on for later conversations. A very key point in all of this is it needs to be an ongoing conversation you have with your kids—it's not “The talk”— it's the conversation that's continuing out over many years.

My son is a little bit immature for his age—not that he behaves in silly ways—but he's not as sexually-mature in terms of asking those questions yet, so I make sure he understands:

  • What sex is;
  • What it leads to;
  • What pornography is; how we shouldn't be looking at that;
  • How you need to function with your thinking brain, not your feeling brain, if you ever come across it;
  • Some basic tips on how to avoid it.

But he's—to the best of my knowledge, he's actually right at that age—eighth grade is when the big tipping point happens, when people tend to see it, if not on their own cell phone, on a friend's cell phone. He's in sixth grade, with a pretty sheltered group of kids. Now, that's not to say that they're not looking at pornography, because I believe some of them probably are; but he hasn't quite crossed the threshold.

Dave: I asked my oldest son, when he was in middle school, so—

Ann: —eighth grade.

Dave: —how many years?— 20-plus years ago—

Ann: Yes.

Dave: “How many of your wrestling buddies ever see porn?”

Ann: And this is before it was on their phone.

Dave: This is before/yes, this was before cell phones; and he said, “Every day.”

John: Wow.

Dave: He says, “They talk about it/see it every day. I hear about it every day.” Your talking Taylor University. I went to Ball State, so Taylor is just down the street.

You quoted a stat that the—you know, a kid under 13—exposure to porn went up from 14 percent to almost 50 percent in 3 years from 2008 to 2011.

John: Yes.

Dave: As a parent—I mean, of course, that's the phone—and as a parent, you're just freaking out, like, “Oh, my goodness. So that means, if I have two kids, one of them, statistically, has already seen it.” I mean, that's scary to parents. “So how should a parent react?”

John: I think a parent should react calmly and have lots of conversations with their kids about how pornography harms them. And that's one of the reasons I wrote the book—to give them that information—so that they can have those in-depth conversations with: “Here are all the different ways that pornography can harm you…” Because they're thinking about the benefits; they're thinking, “Ooh, I get to see a naked person.”

And pornography today isn't your grandfather's Playboy® magazine—it's very violent—it has actions, which lead women to vomit; and it has all kinds of other actions in it that are really so far removed from God's design for sex between husband and wife that it's really scary. We need kids to know: “This isn't how sex was meant to be,” and “It's not something that God intended for us to watch others doing.”

Ann: You're saying this isn't just a Christian perspective. There are other authors/there are other people—who are not even believers—who are fighting for this; because of the harm that's coming?

John: There's a number of documented harms of pornography; and many, in the secular movement, are leaving pornography behind and encouraging their kids to do the same. It's an exciting time to be in the anti-porn movement. We've reached the tipping point of establishing, definitively, through the social science research, that pornography is harmful.

Now, we need to get the word out to kids that: “This is harming your life,” and “You'll never get it back if you try to use it.”

Ann: Let's go into some of those harms/what you wrote about.

John: Okay; first, pornography objectifies the person in the image; it makes a body into an object. The more you objectify, the more likely it is to commit violence against them—now, that's a theoretical argument—but they actually did a research study, where they took a look at men, who were in one of those MRI machines, where you can see inside their brains; and they showed them pornography. What they found was the parts of the brain that light up when men see pornography are the parts of the brain that lead to objects, not to people.

Ann: Really?

John: Some men really think that they're looking at an object when they're seeing pornography, not to a person; that makes it so much more likely that they'll be violent with an individual.

One of the things that's also plaguing our society today is the skyrocketing rates of anxiety and depression. Well, nobody's talking about the fact that excessive pornography use leads to anxiety and depression. There's peer-reviewed research—and this isn't a Cosmo® study, you know—[Laughter]—I look at only studies from peer-reviewed research that's been done with rigorous scientific methods. Anxiety and depression are going up; another sad thing is loneliness.

When you think about the COVID pandemic, people have gotten more lonely as it is. Well, there's a vicious cycle with pornography—the more lonely someone is—the more they'll use pornography. And then, the more they use pornography, the lonelier they get. You get trapped in the cycle of loneliness; because when you think about it, using pornography tends to be an activity that one does by themselves; and so it leads to more loneliness, which I think is sad. We were made to interact with other people; we were made to fellowship with other people. I would hope that that would be where we would want to go.

Dave: It’s interesting—when you hear about anxiety, and mental health, and issues right now, especially, during and coming out/hopefully, we're coming out of the pandemic—I've never heard, not one time, anybody connect any of that to pornography use. You're saying there is a connection.

John: Then there's a connection to many other things too—life satisfaction—you know, you want to have a life, where you're satisfied; sexual satisfaction for that matter. I mean, if you take a look at the erectile dysfunction rates over time—in the 1940s, less than two percent of men had erectile dysfunction—if you look at today, a third of men, under 30, have erectile dysfunction. It's from all this pornography that they're consuming.

And if you wonder why you're seeing, on TV, so many erectile dysfunction medications—ten/fifteen years ago was for Viagra®; and they targeted to old men, like Bob Dole, and that sort of thing—today, you'll see a young guy, who looks cool, sitting on a couch, saying, “Hey, use this product for your erectile dysfunction trouble.” We didn't used to have erectile dysfunction among 30-year-olds, or younger; but we do now.

Dave: I remember seven/eight, maybe ten years ago, it had to be walking through an airport to get on a flight to go speak at a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. As I was walking by a bookstore, I look in; and I see the cover of Time magazine. On the cover—and I bought it because I was so shocked—it said: “Porn Kills” or “Porn Harms.” It had a big—you know, circle with a [backslash]—like, “Do not do porn.” And I'm like, “A secular magazine is making a statement about ‘Porn is bad.’”

I opened up the article—and it said what you just said—that there is now a generation of young men and women, who are growing up in a different culture. It isn't: “I have to sneak around and find a magazine/bookstore somewhere; nobody knows about it.” They've been exposed their whole life, since they were young boys and girls, to pornography. And the article was riddled with young men, saying, “Stay away from this—what it's done to me, and my brain, and my sexual life—I had no idea how harmful it was.”

John: Yes; right.

Dave: It was secular science endorsing the moral values of the Christian faith, to say, “This is bad because of this…”; but science was now backing it up.

John: Yes.

Dave: And so yes, young men—basically, who aren't church-going boys,—

John: Right.

Ann: —getting married.

Dave: —saying, “This has really messed up my life”; exactly what you're saying.

John: Right. The nice thing is we have the science on our side—the science isn't on the pro-porn side—the science is on the anti-porn side. So we just need to get the word out—over all the many different ways it's harming people—and “These aren't harms you want in your life.”

Ann: I can't help but go back to the MRI situation.

John: Oh, yes.

Ann: Now, men in this MRI start seeing women as an object. Have they ever done that MRI on women?

John: Not yet, that I'm aware of; but that would be an interesting study to do; because they're just now starting to do studies, showing sexual dysfunction in women, who watch a lot of pornography. It really wasn't until five or ten years ago that the people, who are doing research on porn, realized that women were looking at it too.

The first step in the research is to document the problem. Now, we're documenting the problem; but not necessarily looking to the effects that it has on women.

Ann: It's so interesting—growing up in the ‘60s—some of my first memories were of pornography.

John: Wow.

Ann: I grew up around a lot of family—friends, cousins—I was one of the younger of like 15 kids in the neighborhood. My cousin and I were given—the girl cousin—were given the task of collecting, or finding, or taking pornography from anybody in the neighborhood—and kids were running, in and out of houses—and then taking it back to the older boys to have.

And then, growing up, I think my brothers had it; and it was no big deal. So I was reading that, even in the second grade.

John: Of course.

Ann: I'm thinking of how that even changed my mind—and even growing up, then, as a teenager—now, I also have sexual abuse in my background—and so I'm seeing this power that a woman can have over a man to even control the situation in sexual context. I'm telling you: that messes you up; all of that messes you up.

Then I give my life to Jesus—and now, it's this holy, beautiful—I couldn't switch it. I think that we just don't understand the effects and the dangers, as you're saying. I'm/I mean, I've lived that/we've lived that; and so I think that it’s really important. Even as moms, we can think, “Oh, it's not that big of a deal; I have a daughter.” But it is; because it has a negative influence, even on our future and our marriage.

John: And a lot of our daughters are being pressured by their boyfriends to send them nude pictures of themselves—that's just going through the roof—and it's, sometimes, expected in dating relationships that you'll send a nude picture. It's not looked at as that big of a deal. We need to send a message, as parents: “That is a big deal. That's your body. It's the only one that God will ever give you, and it's something to keep to yourself.”

Dave: So what does a parent do? I mean, your subtitle is: …Ways to—help parents—Protect Your Kids—“How can we protect our kids?”

John: Have as many ongoing conversations about pornography as you can from as many angles as you can.

Dave: So talking is critical.

John: Talking is absolutely critical.

Ann: What do you mean about “by angles”?

John: Angles—I mean, talk about the angle of:

  • It hurts your sexual functioning;
  • It [causes] anxiety;
  • It [causes] depression;
  • It warps your brain; it gets your brain used to a different type of sexual behavior;
  • But also, that it's not in accordance with God's will.

“Sometimes, what we need to do is, even if something seems tempting, we need to resist that temptation,” and “It's a good opportunity to resist temptation in our culture. We're supposed to be countercultural, as Christians; and this is one of the ways we can be countercultural.”

Dave: Now, when you say, “ongoing,” is this something like every week we should revisit?

John: That's a bit much. [Laughter] That would, I think, traumatize the child to some extent; but every month I would think.

Dave: So you're figuring out some way to sort of enter in and invite them into a conversation.

John: Right.

Ann: Give us an example—like of your daughter—let's say this is something that's just happened recently; what did that sound like?

John: What that would have sounded like is something along the lines of: “I know that you've heard of the word, ‘pornography.’ Has anyone showed it to you on their phones at school?” “What did it make you feel like?” “What do you think you should do when someone shows you that kind of image?”

Ann: So it's not a lecture; you're asking questions.

John: You're asking lots of questions. That's what I try and emphasize in the book is just a list of questions, after questions, for different ages of children—so from eight to eleven; and then, from twelve to seventeen—so that they can get a sense of: “Here are some age-appropriate questions to ask our kids; so that, it can be that dialogue.” It shouldn't be a monologue—it's not a lecture—it's a discussion.

Ann: What about the parent, who has never had a conversation about anything, sexually, with their child?

Dave: Oh, every parent’s talking to their kids about sex. [Laughter]

Ann: There's a lot: it just feels so uncomfortable.

John: Yes.

Ann: Give us an assignment, like, “What could that look like to start the conversation, maybe, with a teenager?”

John: For a parent, who's never had a conversation with their teen about sex, first, I'd pray for you; because you'll need prayer to get over that hump.

But I think one of the things you can say is: “I've heard that there are a lot of teens, who have pornography on their phones. I'm not accusing you of having pornography on your phone; but I wonder about your friends, and what they're showing you on their phones. Can you tell me some of the things?—like what do they show you on their phones?”

And of course, the teen is going to start with “Oh, Mom,” or “Oh, Dad,”—you know—“we just look at pictures of each other doing funny things.” “Well, have those funny things ever included them without their clothes on?” “Oh, well, maybe sometimes,” if they're answering honestly.

It's important that we convey our values to our kids; so that they know: “This is what my family values…” and “This is what it does…” and “One of our chief values is we don't look at pictures without their clothes on.” I think we should use the word, “pornography,” judiciously, also, because it has such a negative tone to it—I mean, it should have a negative tone to it—but I often refer to “pictures of people without their clothes on”—just to be more specific with our kids, and not to sort of touch the hot button of pornography—but just to talk about people without their clothes on.

Dave: I think it's great wisdom and advice to encourage parents to start talking about this. This is a—I mean, it was a joke 30/40 years ago that a parent couldn't talk to their kids about sex—you know, my mom and dad never/we never had a conversation. A lot of us grew up in homes, where it was taboo to talk about.

John: Right.

Dave: That is not the day we live in anymore.

John: No, it’s not at all.

Ann: We have to have these conversations.

John: Absolutely; it's a requirement.

Shelby: You're listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with John Foubert on FamilyLife Today. Coming up, Dave's got some advice for preparing your kids for a phone in just a minute—and little spoiler—it's not just about talking to them about it.

Let me, first, say, “I'm living in this world, right now, that they're talking about. My daughter is in sixth grade; and she is one of only a handful of kids at school, without a phone. I need help navigating these tricky waters. That's why I love that FamilyLife goes right at topics like these and views them through the very specific lens of the gospel.

I'm so thankful that we aren't afraid to talk about the real-world stuff many of us are facing, each and every day. That's why your partnership matters. Would you consider partnering with us, at FamilyLife, to continue the work of making every home a godly home? When you do, we'd love to send you a copy of Jen Wilkins book, Ten Words to Live By. It's our “Thanks,” to you when you partner, financially, with us today. You can give, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 800-358-6329; that's 800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”

Alright; here's a final thought from Dave on, not just talking to our kids, about the dangers that come along with a cell phone.

Dave: The cell phone’s a wonderful, unbelievable gift; but the danger that we put in a kid’s hands, basically, says to a parent: “You cannot give that device to your kid without saying, ‘We're going to start talking about things, including this,’ because we have to; we're called by God to direct and lead our kids that way—I don't care how scary it is—and it is scary.

John: It is.

Dave: “You’ve got to enter into that tunnel, and say, ‘Okay, God, I'm going to go in there; and we're going to start a conversation,’”—I love what you said. And a lot of that will be listening/—

Ann: —and asking.

John: Yes.

Dave: —asking questions and listening to open up their minds so that they'll feel like we're trusted.

Shelby: We all know porn can leave crippling effects on your relationships. What can you actually do about that? Well, John Foubert joins Dave and Ann Wilson, again, tomorrow to talk about just that; we hope you'll join us.

On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

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Episodes in this Series

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John Foubert: This is Your Marriage on Porn
with John D. Foubert October 28, 2022
Is porn tanking you or your marriage? Dr. John Foubert knows the danger is legitimate. He gets real about taking back what porn steals, kills, & destroys.
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