Parents - Questions
I have a son who is 11 1/2 with whom I have been having open discussion about sex and all things related with for awhile now. I am not sure how to approach the issue of masturbation and how this can affect his sexual purity and why it is even important. Knowing this is going to be an issue sooner rather then later, I would really like advice to know how to discuss this in an effective way.
Thank you very much for your question, and I am so glad to hear that (up to this point) you have been engaging in an open dialogue about sex and related issues--this has surely set a firm foundation for your conversations about masturbation. Overall, opinions about masturbation vary widely in Christian circles, but it's our perspective at XXXchurch.com that masturbation isn't God's best. While this may sound extreme to some, we just don't see how masturbation can honor God since God calls us to purity and holiness. Why do we believe this to be the case? Well, masturbation often involves fantasy and lust, it can distance us from God, it's often used as an escape, it teaches us to have selfish sex and it can often intensify sexual desires and lead to a life-shaping pattern.
This being said, it's important not to condemn or try to "scare" your son away from this and other sexual struggles. Coming from a Christian perspective, it's important to help our kids seek self-discipline and purity. Help your son consider that the pattern he establishes in his life as a tween and teenager (with sex, masturbation, what he watches, etc.) will often carry through the rest of his life.
Your son will probably stumble at some point in this area, and it's important to help him understand that he isnot gross, weird or perverted for engaging in masturbation. As you have probably talked to him before about, his human desires are natural and God-given, we just need to target those desires for God's best context.
The best approach to take is to talk through sexual purity. Have your son think through what he's taking in/watching on TV/listening to online/watching on the Internet/where he is letting his mind dwell and ask him to think about whether those things honor God. Help your son make wise choices so he has some safeguards up to protect him. I would also talk to him about accountability--as he approaches his teenage years, having a male role model or a friend that he can confide in and who can encourage him in all areas of sexual purity and sin will be an important component to helping him in his walk.
You may also want to let him know about our Operation Save the Kittens, which is a humorous take on masturbation prevention, and you should also check out some recent blogs that address this issue in a helpful way, including:
My son is almost 12. We discovered he had been exposed to pornography at a friends house about a year ago. Since then, I don't even know what all he's viewed on our computer. We finially got covenent eye installed. and the computer is no longer accessible when not in our direct view. I feel that we've finially wised up...but unable to reverse the damage. Please let me know if there is information or books that we could view/read as a family. I would like to get him in counseling...but don't know where to turn. We are a strong christian family and even though it breaks my heart to know we can't reverse this from his mind...we want to do everything we can to get him help to be able to live a normal future adult life.
Thank you for sharing your struggle. It is my hope that as other parents read about your family's experience, that they will be motivated to place parental controls (like Safe Eyes) on their computers and Internet-connected devices before their own son or daughter has been exposed to pornography. In terms of resources, we have a number of resources that would be great for your son and your family to read in the reousrces section of our site. I would also encourage you to check out some of the videos from our "Voices" effort as good launch-pads for family discussion. Another good resource is the Internet Safety 101 program, which covers Internet safety more broadly, but Pornography more specifically... it has a number of testimonials from teens that have struggled with pornography addictions and exposure that may be appropriate for you to watch with your son. And depending on what level of exposure your son has had, then yes, it may be waise to talk to a Christian counselor, but you and your husband should assess the level of his exposure and any continued use before taking that extra step. If your son is struggling to make sense of what he has seen or is continuing to find ways to look at pornography on a regular basis, then you should consider talking to your youth pastor or pastoral care team to learn of a good, local counselor that can help.
Hi, My son of 12 was taught to masturbate by an older friend when he was only 7 years old, and it is now a regular habit. He has shared this with me and we have tried to work on it together. We are leaving doors open and avoiding private moments. He is really wanting to stop, but fails continuously. My husbands says I must not make an issue of it because I will make it worse, but I really feel I need not neglect his request for help. How else can I help him, besides praying for him?
It sounds like your son has been very brave as he has shared this struggle with you and your husband. Since he has been engaging in this behavior for five years now, he very much could feel dependant or addicted to the release and pleasure he experiences from masturbation. Keeping the doors open and keeping the lines of communication open is a great first step in your household, and I do believe that your prayers will bring forth fruit. If you aren’t using filters on your home computers and all mobile and other Internet-enabled devices, I would also encourage you to do so to make sure that your son is not also struggling with pornography use or viewing content that could be feeding his need/desire for sexual release (our X3watch PRO or SafeEyes are both great resources). Talk with him and consider his media diet… the shows he watches, the movies he sees, the music he listens to… when the content we take in is sexual, it often lowers our ability to say no to giving into a sexual impulse. You might also consider getting him some books that can help, like Every Young Man’s Battle or Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About Sex, or any of the others listed in our teen area of the site that can help him in his pursuit of freedom from this issue. Enlisting an older Christian peer—someone that can disciple him and help him stay accountable can also go a long way in helping him walk in freedom. At times, the encouragement we can provide as parents can only go so far—in my life, having peers and leaders I could confide in and be challenged by was key to my personal ability to walk in freedom from sexual sin, and I know that this has been key to many of the children, teens and adults that we have worked with. You may also talk with your son to see whether he would be open to going to a Christian counselor to talk about his experience and struggle with masturbation—the deeper levels of conversation and professional intervention can be a wonderful resource and help for those who struggle with addictive patterns of behavior. We believe that if your son sincerely wants true freedom from his masturbation, that with the appropriate steps, he will reach a place where he will have the desire, discipline, accountability and encouragement to walk away from his pattern of masturbation and walk towards true purity in Christ. Thank you for having the grace and patience to help your son as he struggles!
I found my 13 year old son masturbating in front of the computer while watching a women fondle her own breasts. I did not scream or yell but waited until we both calmed down a bit. when i walked back in the room he hugged me and said he was sorry and he "doesn't know what's wrong with me(him). I told him there was nothing wrong with him. we had just been to a retreat where the speaker spoke about porn addiction and I found out about your website from him. I have installed the accountability report and find that he searches for porn videos and sites some days none, some days less that 2 some days less than 5 and weekends 25 +. what is our next step? does he need more help?
First, let me commend you for taking a deep breath and waiting a moment to collect yourself and your thoughts before talking with your son. That can be a pretty traumatic experience for both parent and child, and so it seems as if you took the right first step to keep the lines of communication open as you continue to discern what to do next. I hope that this story reminds parents to use a filter and parental controls on their computers and their child’s mobile devices to prevent exposure to pornography as much as possible at home. I’ve known so many parents that don’t use a filter or install accountability software until their child is already very deep into their use of pornography—so parents that are reading this, it’s important to understand that I’ve counseled parents that have learned that their sons (and daughters) encountered pornography at a very, very young age (4, 5, 6 years old), which opened the door for their use of the content. As you have learned, pornography can be very enticing to a young mind, and kids like your son are naturally very curious about sex, and it’s only natural for boys at this age to be experimenting with masturbation. I would encourage you even now to consider installing a filter (like our X3watch PRO) on your computer to help your son stay away from his regular use of pornography. Also, consider enlisting someone else from his youth group or another more mature Christian male to engage with him in conversations about purity and his use of pornography. This could be a great time to help your son understand the need for male accountability and to experience the freedom that comes from confessing our sins and finding encouragement and strength from those around him. It might also be worthwhile to get him a few books, like Every Young Man’s Battle and Questions You Can’t Ask Your Mama About SEX to help him grasp the real repercussions of porn use and why accountability and discipline are key to experiencing sex the way God designed us to. And if your son finds that he is still really struggling with ending his use of pornography, I would consider talking to him about enlisting a counselor to help him get to the root of his issues. Is he just curious about sex or is he using pornography to fill a deeper need or distract or numb himself from something else he is going through in life? Prayers that your son finds freedom, and grateful again to hear that you extended so much grace to your son!
I found my 20 yr old had been viewing very graphic porn by checking the history on his laptop. He said I invaded his privacy and said he can handle it himself, He can pray about it. My husband and I each talked to him individually and told him the ramifications from viewing porn. He didn't seem real remorseful, and more defensive. "I'm not going to turn into a child molester". Any suggestions? I remember you coming to Eastide Christian Church about 10 years ago and I never thought I would be in need of your help.
First let me say how sorry I am that you and your husband discovered that your son is viewing graphic pornography. I know this can be quite a shock to many parents, and we do so often hear that many parents think that their own kids will never get caught up in a pornography addiction. Unfortunately, it sounds as if your son has probably been using pornography for quite some time. Most individuals who use pornography and develop a dependency or addiction on pornography begin to justify their use of pornography while also becoming rather desensitized to the content that they see. When a young person first views pornography or first begins to use pornography, they often feel upset, ashamed, remorseful, etc., but with increased use and exposure, it can become more difficult for the user to distinguish between right and wrong. They find many justifications for their use of pornography and become more entrenched in their use. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t become free from their addiction to pornography. As you may recall from our time at ECC 10 years ago, one of the benefits of our ministry is that we so often hear and experience stories of freedom and recovery, so I do believe that your son can experience freedom from his addiction and use of Internet porn, but he can only experience this freedom if he is the one who wants to change. While I am thankful that you and your husband spent time talking candidly with him, remember, it’s not our place to condemn. Continue to let him know that you are concerned for him—ask him why he is looking at pornography, and give him the space to explain. Many use pornography as a form of escape, sexual release or as a way to experience sex without losing their technical virginity. Also, consider enlisting another young adult to talk with him about pornography and sexual purity. As parents, it can be challenging to talk candidly and get to the real heart of the issue with our own kids sometimes—so see if he would be willing to talk to someone in your church’s college ministry, a counselor or peer about these issues. Another strong Christian man would be a key asset to help him stay accountable if he ends up deciding that he wants freedom. As I’ve mentioned, it’s up to every man and woman to decide if they want to live a life of freedom and purity in this area. Ultimately, if your son doesn’t want to change, then you may be just able to support him and pray for him along his journey. At some point, with the Lord’s grace, he will get fed up with his addictive behavior and begin to seek the Lord’s healing and freedom. In the meantime, consider checking out some of the resources we have here—like Every Man’s Battle that can help cast light on this issue for your son, and remember to always use a filter (like our X3watchPRO) on your home computers.
My son is struggling with porn and is now acting on it by accessing texting sites that offer communities that support porn. I was able to find some of the text and read the requests and saw some of the pictures girls have sent and that he sent of himself and I feel that my son has become someone I don't even know. I feel he needs some professinal help because he is 16 and I can install all the filters and control many areas, but once he hits 18, he will have to be the one who has to have the will and strength not to give into his temptation. The problem is he doesn't think he is doing anything wrong. We've seen a psychologist before and therapist and they say he is acting out because of issues with his father and divorce 6 years ago, but he now uses those as excuses or crutches for everything. He's even rationalizing things by quoting these professionals. It's like he was given an excuse or free pass. He suffers from anxiety, OCD, and ADD and lacks social skills and thinks these girls that sext him "love" him and since he has been rejected by girls at school, he thinks these girls are paying attention to him. I'm at my wits end because I don't know how to help him. He needs professional help, but someone that can get to the root of the problem. He is manipulative and can say the right thing to get the pro's think he is getting better, but obiously that's not happening. His sessions become a social visit to him, it's like hanging out with a friend for an hour. Unfortunately, I have no support from his father in this matter. He's told him it's normal just don't do it often and it's a stage, you'll grow out of it. What kind of professional do I need to seek for him to get help? I'm worried about what his future will be like if he doesn't get help soon. Thanks, L
Protecting and helping your son with this issue is especially challenging without your ex-husband’s support, and I am sorry it feels like you are fighting this battle alone. Ultimately, it’s important that you try not to blame or shame your son for his access to pornography, sex chats and sexting and porn community sites and apps. His initial exposure to pornography and continued access to pornographic sites, although harmful to him in the long-term, is an unfortunately common experience. And as you know, it is possible that his access to his sites is his form of “coping” or “numbing” himself to the fallout of the divorce and any continues stress and anxiety he faces. That isn’t to say that it justifies his use of pornography and access to these sites, and you are right to confront him and question therapists who essentially give him a pass to continue in his behavior.
That being said, It’s key that you keep the lines of communication open and try not to push him away. Continue to let your son know that you are concerned about him. Continue to try to explain to him that pornography and sex chatrooms are not healthy escapes from whatever he is going through, and, although he may not be aware of the consequences now, at some point, most individuals who consistently use pornography will struggle in their real, face-to-face relationships, will struggle to connect sexually with a future spouse and often find their porn and sex chat use impacting their finances, careers and offline life. If there is any way for you to help your son connect with a strong Christian man—someone a bit older than him—who can challenge him as a mentor about these issues and try to help him make mature choices, that could be a help since his father is not filling that role (if you are involved in a church or faith-based community, a youth group leader may be of help).
Overall though, it’s up to every individual, to decide whether they really want to live free and pure. Ultimately, if your son does not want to change, you are right, when he is out of your home, he won’t. You will just need to be available for him to talk to and be prepared to support him when he does realize that his behaviors are harmful and wants to change. At some point, almost all people who struggle with some form of sex addiction get fed up with their addictive and harmful behavior. You may also want to consider having him read some of our books to try and show him that pornography can be extremely harmful.
Also, if you are paying for your son’s phone, then it may be worthwhile to disconnect his access to the Internet and place some protections in his mobile phone (like a filter) so he can’t access apps and other programs that could be harmful (check our or partner, Safe Eyes, that has resources for mobile devices).
My son asked for help with his porn usage online. He is 12. He is looking for other kids he can talk to who are struggling with the same issues so that he knows he is not the only boy in the world who is struggling with this. There is no SA for kids. There is SA-teen, but it is for family members of addicts and they don't have a group here. What do you recommend?
Thank you for reaching out to us! In our work, we have found that many of the teen-level sex addiction groups will begin with kids as young as 12-years old (Pure Life Ministries has a strong database of counselors and programs that may help you, and a group called House of Hope treats and works with kids 12+ for a variety of issues including SA, both individually and in group settings). If you are involved with a church or a faith-based community, talking with a youth leader or an on-staff pastoral care member should also be able to help you find local support groups and resources.
The “tweens” that we have worked with generally get plugged in to an accountability group through their youth group, where they can build friendships and share their struggles in a safe environment. In some instances, a younger tween has been paired with a mentor teen—someone that has been through the same struggle, but who had been able to walk away from their SA and can encourage their mentee down a similar path… so, in the event you cannot find someone your son’s age, this may be a beneficial approach.
Additionally, many of the books that we have on the site could also be helpful for your son—encouraging him that he is not alone or weird for struggling with pornography, while also providing some helpful steps to try to break his cycle of pornography use. I am so proud of your son—that he was willing to come to you and let you know that he is struggling. You are probably already aware of parental control software (like Safe Eyes, and accountability software like X3watch PRO), but that can also provide some protection for him while he is in your home. Unfortunately, as you have found, although SA resources and community groups are exploding across the nation, the burden, especially for younger kids, or protecting and guiding rests often on the parents, alone. We are going to be offering an online group meeting (X3Groups) for teenagers this February that would provide some support for your son for you to consider. Blessings to you and prayers for recovery and continued strength for your son.
Hi, We have a 10-year-old who I bought an ipod touch for (BIG mistake) and who I caught looking at hard core porn about a year ago. So we had a talk with him and disconnected it from our wifi network. We have passcodes on all computers and do not have cable TV. He recently got back on the internet on the ipod and looked at more. So we had to get rid of the ipod. I am horrified about him seeing the things he has seen at such a young age. Is there anything else I can do to keep him off the porn? When he originally got on to it, he was searching for innocent things. I am not concerned that there are other issues, but now that he has seen it he is drawn to it. Thanks
I am so sorry to hear about your son's early exposure to pornography! I know that for any parents, it can be very troubling to realize that their son or daughter saw such graphic content at such a young age. It can also be difficult to process the reality that their children are drawn to the pornographic content that they encounter online, but you and all parents with this experience should realize that this story is all too common. Whenever we allow our children to have unrestricted Internet access, we are placing them at risk to encounter pornography, and it's only natural for them to feel a combination of interest, fear and excitement when they encounter sexual content. Boys (and many girls too) are naturally attracted to naked bodies, but, unfortuntately, at a young age, they do not have the mental maturity to be able to distinguish between fantasy, healthy sexuality, pornography and real sex. Since kids have such easy access to pornography and sexual content through the Internet, cable and their mobile devices, parents have to be vigilant.
We recommend that parents:
- Use parental controls on all Internet-connected devices (their home computer, laptops, gaming devices, mobile phones, smartphone, iPads, etc... and we recommend SafeEyes). Passcodes are often not enough, we need to have a strong filter turned on to prevent accidental and intentional exposure.
- Have regular conversations about healthy sexuality, and use everyday opportunities to reinforce your values and standards regarding sex. So take the extra step to continue to process and address this topic with your son (beyond the initial talk you had when he first was encountering pornography).
- Talk about why pornography isn't healthy or good, and address the harms of pornography in an age-appropriate fashion.
- Engage with other parents. So often, even when parents have set up appropriate restrictions and parental controls at their home, their children encounter pornography at a friend's home. Find out what safeguards other parents have established before allowing your son or daughter to spend the night or hang out at someone else's home. Debrief with them when they come home and watch for warning signs that they are encountering pornography or using pornography.
- Consider reading a book together with your son when he reaches his teenage years (such as Every Young Man's Battle).
- If he continues to struggle with addictive access to pornography, it may be useful to talk with a local counselor regarding how to help your son appropriately process the content that he has seen.
- Check out our resources and information on the site... more will be coming soon!
I have young boys and the oldest is getting to an age where he is extremely curious about the female body. With internet accessible in so many different places I'm concerned he might try to look at images that are inappropriate. We have our computer in a public place and there is a net filter etc.
However, I don't want him to just be without access. I want him to understand why it is wrong and why these things are bad for him and for the people who are producing it.
Do you have any suggestions for books etc for kids under 13?
I never thought I'd have to think about this but I want to be proactive and not see my own children in a trap I found myself in.
I would check out the resources section in the site. I have provided the link here as well.
I am wondering how you get through to someone who even after hearing Craig speak, even after reading Every Young Man's battle, even knowing that porn stars can be victims of sex trafficking still thinks that viewing porn online really isn't that big of a deal. We've installed accountability software, fliters etc, but the heart issues remain. Any tips?
I am sorry to hear about your son… yes, it seems that the heart issues remain. Our kids are receiving an alarming rate of sexualized media messages and the cross-marketing in mass media and the pornography industry is very troubling—kids are learning from media that pornography is no big deal. Those that have early exposure grow desensitized to its use. In one study of the first generation to grow up with Internet pornography, we found that both young women and men thought that porn use was acceptable, and yet, those who used pornography had a higher number of sexual partners, higher divorce rate, higher likelihood of substance abuse and depression.
I would definitely continue the conversation with your son. Continue to speak gently to him, with compassion, and take the time to really hear his words so you can continue to best instruct him and share your ongoing concerns. This is why it is so important for any parents reading this post to do everything they can to prevent their kids from having exposure to pornography. Many of the parents I work with don’t install filters, accountability software and parental controls on all of their connected devices until after they recognize their son or daughter has a problem, and at that point, the lure of pornography has already captivated them. Prevention is key!
With your son, I am glad to know that you have installed software, filters, and encouraged him to read books and hear Craig speak. As a parent, you can only do so much to protect him and set up clear rules for Internet use in your home. Ultimately, it’s up to every individual to decide whether he or she really wants to live free and pure. Continue to ask those hard questions—would you want someone you care about to be a porn star? If you had a daughter some day, would you want her to be a porn star? Do you want to have to rely on pornography sexually? How do you think your future wife or your girlfriend will feel about your use of pornography? Share how having a spouse addicted to pornography feels. Ultimately, if your son does not want to change, then you can continue the conversation and to pray for him and support him. In our work, we find that at some point, people who use pornography get fed up with their addictions and become aware of the harmful side effects. I would also encourage you to try to find a mentor or someone who could encourage and share information with your son about the downside of pornography use.