Our Supreme Court ruled recently that “virtual” child pornography is protected under the First Amendment. In this Internet age, and with the tools commonly available to manipulate images, it’s now possible—and totally legal—to digitally doctor photos so that it looks like children are engaged in lewd activities. It was a significant ruling, the latest in an ongoing battle over the sexual perversion invading homes and ruining lives . . . sometimes very young lives.
Youth leaders have enough challenges discussing normal sexual relationships between young men and women. Nevertheless, the overarching issue of pornography needs to be addressed by responsible adults willing to stand in the gap. Keep in mind that discussing pornography with a youth group presents unique challenges. Here are some points to consider:
1. Make sure the parents of your teens and preteens are fully informed—and in agreement—with your approach. This is an extremely sensitive issue and one that must be handled very carefully so as not to violate parents’ right to direct the moral upbringing of their children. Some moms and dads may wish to shield their children altogether from such a discussion. Get their support before going any further.
2. Use general terms. Avoid dealing in the specifics of what pornographic images display. You don’t want to create a desire for pornography in a teen where none existed before. You may want to have separate classes, one led by a male for boys, the other by a female for girls.
3. Gauge your youth group’s familiarity with the subject. Start out by asking how many teens in the room have been exposed to pornography at some point—either deliberately or accidentally. Once you know this, you can better understand the extent of your group’s prior knowledge.
4. Begin by contrasting the Old Testament stories of Joseph and King David. Both men faced sexual temptation. Joseph fled from it and kept his moral purity (Gen. 39). David yielded to his lusts, and he and his nation suffered dire consequences because of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11-12). Continue your biblical discussion using other verses that describe the dangers of lust, adultery and fornication (Eph. 5:3, Matt. 15:19, Prov. 6:25, Col. 3:5, 1 Jn. 2:16, 1 Pet. 4:3).
5. Emphasize the addictive nature of pornography. These days, even “family” sitcoms on prime-time TV casually joke about dabbling in porn. But it’s no laughing matter. And there’s nothing casual about it. A person who gradually exposes himself to porn is at risk of moving through several stages. Dr. Victor Cline, one of the world’s foremost experts on this addiction, lists the steps as addiction, escalation, desensitization, and “acting out” sexually. Each leads a person to depend more deeply on pornography to fill what is ultimately a spiritual void in his life. Once a person reaches the last stage, he becomes a serious threat to others.
6. Explain the body’s chemical reaction to porn. Teens must understand that pornography not only destroys relationships between men and women, but actually changes brain chemistry, creating a dependency as powerful as an addiction to cocaine. At the moment of orgasm, a chemical called an opioid gets released, producing extreme pleasure. A pornographic image can serve as a stimulant. Consequently, the person engaging in such behavior seeks to repeat and even escalate this feeling, eventually creating an addiction that is difficult to overcome.
Don’t let the teens in your youth group get hooked. Odds are, they already know the risks of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and premarital sex, because someone took the time to warn them. But porn is different. It’s a tricky, uncomfortable subject that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should from adults shaping young lives. And there’s a sleazy, multi billion-dollar industry just waiting to prey on their naiveté.