RESOURCES HERE ON THIS WEBSITE:
Pornography Prevention – A Basic Guide for Children and Parents (download the 8 page pdf, or see below) contains kid-friendly language for young children and older children, plus other gospel teaching resources for creating comfortable discussions about these topics. Here are two quick-start handouts:
- Fast Facts, Conversation Starters, Age-Appropriate Teaching (a 1 page handout)
- Pornography Prevention resources (a 1 page handout)
RELATED BLOG POSTS:
For the backstory of these materials, see Pornography Prevention – for children?
SELECTED ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:
Video for children by the Church: “What Should I do When I See Pornography?” (5:45 minutes, featured above)
Videos for parents about how to teach their children about healthy sexuality and pornography prevention: “Family Conversations: Talking About Healthy Sexuality,” a series of 16 short (3-5 minute) videos with transcripts by Dr. Jill Manning and Dr. Jason Carroll, both BYU professors.
PARENT GUIDE to PORNOGRAPHY PREVENTION
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- For Young Children
- For Older Children
- For Parents: Teaching Children About Bodies
- Additional materials:
- Scriptures for family scripture study
FOR YOUNG CHILDREN:
Your body is a gift from Heavenly Father. You’ve lived in your body ever since you were born. You can use your body to run fast, climb a tree, ride a bike, or hug a friend.
Because your body is such a wonderful gift, and because your body can do such special things, you take good care of it. You eat healthy food, brush your teeth, wash your hands often, exercise, and get enough sleep. All these things help your body stay healthy and strong. You also respect your body, which means you treat it like the sacred and special gift that it is. You use your body to do good things, always trying to obey Heavenly Father in all the choices you make. Heavenly Father wants you to respect your body and other people’s bodies.
Some people do not treat other people’s bodies with respect. They make bad choices and look at pictures of other people with little or no clothes on, even though it’s wrong. Choosing to look at these pictures hurts their own spirits too, because they’re disobeying Heavenly Father.
Pictures of people with little or no clothes on are called pornography. Pornography can be in a magazine, on TV, in a movie, on a phone, or on a computer. Some people say that seeing pornography is fun. It may seem like fun, but it may also make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. It may not feel right, because it isn’t right. That uncomfortable feeling is the Holy Ghost reminding you that Heavenly Father wants you to treat your body and others’ bodies with respect, because bodies are such special gifts from God.
If you see pornography on a phone or computer, here’s what you can do. Just turn it off or walk away. Then tell a parent or other adult. If ever someone asks you to look at pornography, just say “No thanks!” and walk away. Always tell a parent or other adult.
It may be hard to tell a grownup. You may feel uneasy, or maybe someone told you not to tell. But be brave and tell a grownup anyway. You’ll feel better – a lot better – when you do.
Pornography is bad, but bodies are not bad. Pornography is bad because disrespecting bodies is bad. Bodies are wonderful, special gifts from Heavenly Father. Bodies are given to us to use in the right way.
Take good care of your body. Run with it, climb with it, ride with it, hug with it. Treat your body and others’ bodies with respect. Heavenly Father is happy when you obey Him and treat bodies with respect.
FOR OLDER CHILDREN
Do you have any babies in your life? Maybe a younger sister, a nephew, or a baby in your neighborhood? Being around babies makes you realize how much you’ve grown. It’s hard to imagine that you were ever that little. Now your body is bigger, stronger, and can do many more things. Your body will continue to grow until you’re an adult, without you even telling it to grow. Your body just grows.
Your body is a wonderful gift from Heavenly Father. He made everyone’s body just a little bit different. Some are tall, some are short. Some bodies have curly hair and some have straight hair, in many different colors. God made your body special, just for you. He gave you your body so you can learn how to use it well. He wants you to use your wonderful body to do good things, so you can come back to live with Him.
Take good care of your body by keeping it clean, eating right, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep. You’ll want to treat your body with respect, which means to treat it like the special gift that it is. Taking care of your body and treating it with respect shows Heavenly Father that you appreciate the wonderful body that He has given you. You use your body to do good things, always trying to obey Heavenly Father in all the choices you make. Heavenly Father wants you to respect your body and other people’s bodies.
Some make bad choices and look at pictures of other people with little or no clothes on, even though it’s wrong. Choosing to look at these pictures hurts their own spirits too, because they’re disobeying Heavenly Father. They are not treating other people’s bodies with respect.
Pictures of people with little or no clothes on are called pornography. Pornography can be in a magazine, on TV, in a movie, on a phone, or on a computer. Some people say that seeing pornography is fun. It may seem like fun, but it may also make you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable. It may not feel right, because it isn’t right. That uncomfortable feeling is the Holy Ghost, reminding you that Heavenly Father wants you to treat your body and others’ bodies with respect, because bodies are such special gifts from Him.
It’s like going fishing. Have you ever put bait on a hook and thrown it into the water, hoping to catch a fish? The fish are too smart to bite the hook if they can see it, but the juicy bait hides the hook. After the fish take the bait, sometimes they can swim around for quite a while without realizing that they’re trapped.
Pornography is like the bait: it may seem like fun, but there’s a hook in it. Some people start looking at pornography and then find they want to do it more and more, until they’re thinking about those pictures all the time and thinking less about God or anything else. That’s what addiction means: when people want something with an appetite that grows and grows, and they can’t stop without help, even if they want to. What they thought was fun at first turns awful and isn’t fun at all any more, but they can’t make themselves stop without help. Addiction is very harmful to a person’s body, mind, spirit. It is also harmful to their relationships with family, friends and God.
God can help someone break an addiction to pornography if they truly want to stop, but it’s very, very hard. It’s so hard that some people give up hope and quit trying – even though nothing is too hard for God if someone truly tries as hard as they can with God’s help. It’s just a lot easier to never start looking at pornography and avoid the hook in the first place.
If you see people looking like they’re having fun doing something you know is wrong like looking at pornography, just remember: that juicy bait may look delicious, but there’s a dangerous, sharp hook in it that you want to avoid. That’s why the Holy Ghost gives you an uncomfortable feeling about pornography. The Holy Ghost knows that there’s a hook in it, and He’s trying to warn you.
If ever someone asks you to look at pornography, just say “No thanks!” and walk away. Tell a parent or trusted adult right away. If you see pornography on TV, a computer or phone, turn it off or walk away. Always tell a parent or trusted adult. Make sure you know how to turn off the computer, so you’ll be ready if ever you need to. Then do something else fun – something that’s lots more fun that doesn’t have a hook in it. Read a good book, listen to music you like, or do a fun activity. That kind of fun feels good afterwards too.
If you’ve already seen pornography, be sure you talk to a parent or trusted adult about it. Even if someone else told you not to tell, or if you feel uneasy, or you’re afraid you’ll get in trouble – be brave and do it anyway. The Holy Ghost can help you have courage. An adult may understand more than you think, and you’ll feel better – lots better – when you talk to them about it. It really helps to think it through with a grownup.
Pornography is bad, but bodies are not bad. Pornography is bad because disrespecting bodies is bad. Bodies are wonderful, special gifts from Heavenly Father. Bodies are given to us to use in the right way.
Deciding to treat your body and other’s bodies with respect is one of the very best choices you can make. Avoid pornography. You will always, always be glad you did. Heavenly Father will be glad too, and will send wonderful blessings to you throughout your life for making good choices – starting when you’re young.
Protecting children from pornography is only one part of several conversations in your child’s growing up years. Other vital topics include healthy sexuality, protection from inappropriate touching by strangers and others, and keeping the Word of Wisdom. All such conversations help to protect children from physical and spiritual harm. These discussions also establish trust and openness between children and parents that will be a tremendous asset, especially in teenage and young adult years. Letting children know that it’s OK to talk with their parents even about tough topics will pay off throughout their lives.
What’s wrong with looking at pictures? Among many reasons, one important one is this: it’s not just that pornography cheapens sacred sex; it has the potential to completely derail it. Partly because of the strength and power of normal, God-given sex drive, pornography can be highly addictive. When pornography interest becomes pornography addiction, it can become difficult for the person to function in normal marriage relationships.
If your child asks this question, you can talk in age-appropriate terms about how powerful the gift of the sex drive is, and how much God wants us to use it in the right way within marriage, not with a phone or a picture.
Dr. Jill Manning, a Latter-day Saint therapist, tells the following story: “One father noticed his son studying a magazine cover at the checkout counter in the grocery store – not a pornographic magazine, just a ‘regular’ women’s magazine. He put his arm around his son’s shoulder and said to his son, ‘I don’t know why that woman has chosen to be on that magazine cover half-dressed, but why don’t you and I together turn our heads and give her [some] privacy?’”
Start young, and build “line upon line” According to Dr. Manning, a child’s average age of exposure to pornography is between the ages of 7 and 13, with the average age of pornography addition being age 11. Ideally a child will be adequately prepared before their first exposure, which means having age-appropriate conversations starting as early as preschool years. Children need consistent reinforcement through multiple conversations over several years, each time teaching principles they are ready to learn. “Precept must be upon precept . . . line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” Isaiah said.  The Family Home Evening Resource Book adds, “If a child holds out his small cup of inquiry, we should not try to pour an ocean of explanation into it.” You can answer a child’s question or give them the bit of information they need, then see if they pursue the topic with more questions or comments. If not, you can drop the subject for the moment. “A child’s own pace is usually the best indicator of how and when to proceed.”
Dr. Manning recommends that children learn the meaning of pornography and internet safety before they learn to use the internet, internet-enabled cell phones, and video games. Just as parents teach appropriate sidewalk safety before they allow children to cross the street, parents need to teach, coach, and perhaps even co-pilot at first when children are on the internet.
These conversations may be uncomfortable for both parent and child to initiate. But when the Spirit is present, you may be surprised at how much closer you and your child may feel by tackling these hard topics together, learning together about keeping the commandments and staying close to the Lord.
Forget the common myth “silence is golden” Dr. Jason Carroll, professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University, explains, “Occasionally we hold back in this type of teaching because we are concerned that directness will encourage the improper behavior. That is a belief we can no longer afford to hold onto. In our day and age, it is not a matter of if, it is a matter of who will do this teaching. If not us, then Wikipedia. If not Wikipedia, the kid on the bus. We can rest assured that it will not be tied to the values, the understanding, the example of healthy sexuality that we desire. We must be open and direct, of course with proper tone and content and developmental appropriateness. There is great error in waiting too long, believing somehow that we are too early.”
Jill Manning agrees. “We must do everything we can to get to our children first and to frame human sexuality within the context of the gospel when they are young. Many adults are hesitant to communicate openly and clearly about pornography for fear that it will spark curiosities and backfire on them. But we know from various social science studies that when parents openly discuss sexual topics in age-appropriate ways and share their values about what is right and wrong, that youth are less likely to experiment, and are more likely to adhere to a parent’s value set, and remain abstinent in adolescence. Part of taking a stand with pornography is deciding whose voice will get to our loved ones first. Our children want us to be the ones to give them straight facts on tough topics.”
If you haven’t begun yet, skip the guilt. Go easy on yourself. The world is far different from the one you grew up in. Now that you’re a parent, it can be tough keeping up with the challenges, new and old. Just get going. “It’s best to start early but it’s never too late.”
Do no harm It’s tempting to avoid the issue altogether or beat around the bush. On the other hand, it might also be tempting to be so afraid of the dangers of pornography that you dwell on it with your children by talking too much or too often. Neither extreme is helpful. With divine discernment, you’ll be able to meet the needs of your child at each life stage, with the right words at the right time. Dwell on the positive – the healthy uses of one’s body – instead of the problem.
Speak plainly, using real words By teaching children the word “pornography,” you’ll help them understand what church leaders are talking about when they speak about it in General Conference. Children will gradually grow to greater understanding of the messages they hear as they mature. Likewise, in talking about sex and anatomy, speak plainly and use real words (as children are ready for them), so that they are better able to understand other information as they grow.
Be prepared It can help to mentally and spiritually prepare for an unexpected question or statement from your child. You can even think through with your spouse or a friend what you might say in various situations.
LDS family therapist and addiction recovery expert Jeffrey J. Ford writes, “One way to begin fostering an environment of safety is to stay calm when your son or daughter begins to ask questions about sex or pornography or share their experience about learning about sex or pornography. [Children] are attuned to their parents’ non-verbal cues and will avoid talking about things or asking questions if they sense that mom or dad is anxious or upset. Pornography has very little influence on a [child] who has a safe place to talk about it.”  (italics added)
Never dodge questions If children ask questions, don’t brush them off. If you’re in the middle of the grocery store when a question comes up that can’t be answered right that minute, say “Let’s talk about that tonight, OK?” and then do it.
If your child already has an interest in pornography Don’t overreact. In early years, children sometimes sin or goof in childish foolishness. Childhood encounters with pornography often start out innocently, sometimes out of curiosity, often unawares. Children who are just learning about their own bodies and others’ bodies have no conception of the massive evil of the pornography industry and all its destructive implications for individuals and families. This isn’t to excuse pornography viewing among children, but to say that parents need not overreact to childish naïve error. Nevertheless, it is important to take gentle but clear and firm steps to course-correct early, without being angry or shocked, or shaming the child. Appropriate measures at the right time will help keep childish curiosity from becoming a bad habit and perhaps even an addiction.
If your child does mention having viewed pornography, it may be tempting to start talking, but you might be more helpful to them if you listen and give the child space to talk. Listening also helps you find out exactly what the child needs to know. Then, at the right moment, you might explain that pornography can make you think about inappropriate things. The more you do, the more you want, until your life is out of balance. Encourage the child to substitute another wholesome pleasurable activity: a good book, favorite TV show, fun activity, or listen to good music. More suggestions are found at addressingpornography.org.
Teach the stages of addiction It’s a hard fact of life that temptation usually feels good, otherwise it wouldn’t be tempting. When warning children about pornography or other addictions, some well-meaning conversations focus on the end stage of addiction and its devastating effects. But sometimes kids may try it, and, unfortunately, enjoy it. Then they think their parents just don’t know how good this is. The disconnect makes parents’ advice lose credibility in the child’s eyes. They think their friends know more than their parents.
To avoid this, children need to know about the three stages of addiction. This three-stage model is used by the Church Welfare Department to train missionaries assigned to certain parts of the world with a high rate of addiction. Stage 1 is pleasure, Stage 2 is sometimes pleasure and sometimes pain, and Stage 3 is nothing but pain – but the addict can’t stop. Children may see their friends at Stage 1 of addiction (pleasure), but their parents teach about Stage 3 of addiction (destruction). Not knowing that addiction occurs in stages, children may assume their parents don’t know what they’re talking about. The book Hold On To Hope explains further:
“For the most part, sin is pleasurable. Life’s battle is a struggle between discipline and indulgence – indulgences like food, sex, vices, and pornography which bring pleasure and momentary satisfaction. . . . Youth and those enslaved by addiction need to hear and understand not just the final consequence of indulgence, but the deceptive . . . snares that trap them. They need to know that their leaders understand temptation and sin are pleasurable in the beginning.”
It may seem backwards to acknowledge the pleasure of sin as part of your conversations with children, but doing so can actually increase your credibility. Of course, the larger message is that despite the pleasure of sin, the pleasure doesn’t last – it’s just bait, hiding the deadly hook. Jesus taught this principle to the Nephites in this way: “Verily I say unto you they have joy in their works for a season, and by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire. . . .”
Fight the problem with a variety of tools Working to reduce pornography in your community, installing internet filters, limiting computer and television time, and putting your computer in public places in your home are all part of the solution. Early and frequent age-appropriate conversations prepare your children for encounters with pornography. Keeping the conversation open will let children know that it’s OK to talk about these things with you. Ultimately, we must instruct our children sufficiently to “know good from evil” and empower them as agents to make righteous decisions for themselves, starting in childhood.
SONGS: Music has tremendous power to teach gospel principles in a way that sticks in a child’s mind for life. Sing or play these songs often and teach about their application to these principles of protection.
- “Carry On” Hymns 255
- “Choose the Right” Hymns 239
- “Choose the Right Way” Children’s Songbook (CS) 160
- “Dare to Do Right” CS 158
- “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus” CS 78
- “I Need My Heavenly Father” CS 18
- “I Want to Live the Gospel” CS 148
- “I Will Be Valiant” CS 162
- “I Will Follow God’s Plan” CS 164
- “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” CS 60
- “Keep the Commandments” CS 146
- “Listen, Listen” CS 107
- “Stand for the Right” CS 159
- “Teach Me to Walk in the Light” CS 177
- “The Lord Gave Me a Temple” CS 153
- “The Still Small Voice” CS 106
- “Thirteenth Article of Faith” CS 132
- “True to the Faith” Hymns 254
- “When I Am Baptized,” CS 103
For parents and leaders:
- “How Dear to God are Little Children” CS 180
- “How Will They Know?” CS 182
- A Parent’s Guide, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985. Excellent resource for teaching children of all ages about relationships and intimacy.
- Family Home Evening Resource Book, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1987. Chastity lesson ideas p. 177-178. “Teaching about Procreation and Chastity,” p. 253-260.
- “Good Pictures Bad Pictures” (ages 7-11) and “Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.” (ages 3-6), by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, PhD.
- God Gave You a Body by Jocelyn B. Christensen, free picture book download in English and German from beinglds.blogspot.com/ under “Love”
- Where Do Babies Come From? by Brad Wilcox, Deseret Book, 2004. Picture book, with helps for parents and additional resources for older children.
- Other Friend and Ensign articles, including: “Crash and Tell”, by Danielle Kennington, Friend, June 2011, 8-10, and “You Can’t Pet a Rattlesnake” by Elder David E. Sorensen, ENSIGN, May 2001, 41-2.
ONLINE RESOURCES: Note: These resources and products are simply suggestions from many available resources. With the exception of the first one, none of these products are endorsed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These resources may not be completely compatible with the standards of the Church. Nor are they completely foolproof at screening, blocking, or teaching.
- addressingpornography.org website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Resources for pornography addicts, spouses, and parents of teens, with suggestions for further reading.
- Kidshealth.org – activities for kids and information for parents about healthy body attitudes and development, sponsored by The Nemours Foundation’s Center for Children’s Health Media. Winner of the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, the Teacher’s Choice Award for Family, the International Pirelli Award for best educational media for students, and four Webby Awards, including Best Family/Parenting Site and Best Health Site on the Web.
- Netsmartzkids.org – computer games, activities and videos for children to teach internet safety, with resources for parents. This website is an interactive, educational program of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a private organization created by the US Congress. Includes internet safety pledges with language that a family might use to set standards and make individual and family commitments to internet safety. netsmartz.org/Resources/Pledges (basic, intermediate, and middle/high school versions).
- Enough.org – resources for parents, including research-based information about the harms of children being exposed to pornography, and articles such as “When is my child ready to go online?” and “Bridging the technogeneration gap.” Sponsored by Enough is Enough, a nonprofit organization in collaboration with the US Dept. of Justice.
- “Safeguarding Teens and Children from Pornography,” 33-minute video by Brigham Young University professor Jason Carroll, of the Department of Family Life. Talk includes an analysis of the effectiveness of various metaphors for teaching about chastity, including fear-based, abstinence-based, and “finish line” metaphors.
- Clearplay.com, which seamlessly skips and mutes objectionable content without interrupting the plot. About $100 plus $8 per month for membership for new filters for new films (generally downloadable the same day as new releases).
- Internet filter reviews. A site that lists ratings, reviews, and prices of various internet filter products, including Net Nanny, PureSight, and Safe Eyes. Internet filter products generally cost $40-70.
- Read more at Family Safety by LDS Tech.
SELECTING FAMILY-FRIENDLY MEDIA:
- CommonSenseMedia.org, a nonprofit organization which reviews video games, movies, TV shows, music, software apps and books, and rates them according to their own rating system (such as “7+”, 16+”, etc.), providing more detail about specific content. Suitable products are suggested year by year for ages 0-17.
- Kids First: Coalition for Quality Children’s Media. This nonprofit organization evaluates, rates and endorses children’s films, DVDs, CDs, TV shows and games using volunteer, community-based juries of adults and children from diverse backgrounds.
- Read more at Family Safety by LDS Tech.
This guide was written by Marci McPhee , who assumes all responsibility for errors. Comments welcome at marcimcpheewriter (at) gmail (dot) com. This document is available at PrimaryinZion.wordpress.com along with additional information.