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Picture this scene: I’ve just given a talk about kids and porn and now a small line of parents forms at the front of the small auditorium. Some people want to shake my hand and say thank you while others have a follow-up question or merely want to get the last word.
You know, the norm.
As the room clears out, I notice a mom nervously hanging around the edges of the group. Before long the tech guy comes up and hands me my MacBook while I hand over his wireless microphone in a wordless dance I’ve done a hundred times before in a hundred different locations. A few minutes later the room is mostly empty and it’s time for me to pack up and go to dinner.
As I head over to the book table so I can gather up my stuff and head back to the hotel, the mom meets me there. I think to myself, There’s a 2% chance that she wants me to sign her book. But there’s a 98% chance she wants to talk about something she didn’t feel comfortable asking during the closing Q&A portion of my talk.
“Hey, I’m Adam,”
I say. “What’s up?”
“I didn’t want to talk about this in front of everyone else, it’s kind of embarrassing. But a couple weeks ago my husband and I found out our daughter is making porn with her phone and we don’t know what to do.”
How should I respond? In three different ways, actually:
1) The Parental Response
First things first—this has to stop. In our house we have a simple rule: No internet-connected devices are allowed in private spaces of the house. I guarantee you that, if your teenager is sexting or creating pornography with a cell phone or webcam, they aren’t doing it in your living room. If you don’t have a rule like that in place, this would be a good time to implement that rule for every person in the house (And that includes you, parents!).
Second, you need to make sure your teenager is safe. This is risky behavior and you need to have some difficult conversations to determine if this is something they wanted to do, were manipulated into doing, were doing it hoping to attract the attention of someone they liked, or something else. If you don’t think you can have a matter-of-fact conversation with them about sexual activity, then you need to find someone they can talk to, like the parent of a close friend, a youth leader at church, a even a professional counselor. Just bear in mind that in some states, some of the people your teenager might be comfortable talking to might also be required by law to report this behavior to the appropriate authorities.
Third, you need to get a full picture of what’s going on. Where was this shared? Why was it shared? Who saw it? When did this happen? How did this start? How long has this been going on? These questions and more need answers.
2) The Pastoral Response
As a parent you probably want to wring your kid’s neck, scream, or ground them for the rest of their lives. Really, those are understandable emotions for a parent to experience.
But this is also a time to minister to your child in their brokenness, with a goal of restoration (Tweet This!). They are likely highly embarrassed, ashamed, and terrified that now you love them less or that God doesn’t love them at all. Resist the temptation to shame them and instead offer forgiveness. While this may seem like an insurmountable obstacle to overcome, remember that most people will experience sexual sin in their lives.
3) The Legal Response
Lastly, let’s not wash past the truly scary part of this discovery: Legal issues.
If your child has exchanged sexually explicit images or video with another minor, they have broken the law. Even if they used an app like Snapchat, Kik, or one of the myriad new apps that claims to delete a message after it’s sent, they have technically participated in the creation, possession, and distribution of child pornography – and that’s a felony in every state.
If you’ve discovered your child is creating porn because it’s been reported to you by their school or the local police department, you’re dealing with something very serious and are going to need to hire a lawyer to help you navigate whatever that might happen next.
But if you’ve discovered this on your own or maybe because another parent reported it to you, don’t freak out. The reality is: mobile devices have made the creation and exchange of sexually explicit media so prevalent that law enforcement and the legal system simply can’t keep up. Even if you were to make an appointment with the local prosecutors office and explained everything that happened, it’s unlikely they’d pursue charges.
At the same time, if your child was coerced into this you need to talk to an attorney and the local police. Likewise, if they engaged in this behavior with other people (like there were multiple people involved or this happened at a party where people were abusing drugs or alcohol), you need to contact the proper authorities.
So those are the three responses you as a parent need to have. And in the end, you still have a child to raise and love. So yes, deal with the ramifications of your child’s actions. But also help them see a clear pathway where they can earn your trust again, where you can help them experience tangible forgiveness. As believers, we’re not people defined by judgment; we’re people defined by the grace given to us through Jesus (Tweet This!). How can you show that to your teenager?
Want to know more about what your kids may be up to? For more incredibly helpful resources check out iparent.tv today!
My Teenager Is Making Porn… Uh, Now What? by Adam McLane is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://xxxchurch.com.