Parenting the Porn Generation

April 14, 2013 | 1 comment

For the past several years I have worked with those affected by pornography.

Allow me, then, from my experience, to offer three strategies that you as a parent can implement in parenting the porn generation.

1. Affirm the goodness of their sexuality.

Sometimes Catholic parents, especially when they themselves were brought up with a standard of chastity that focused on a list of sins and temptations to be avoided, may feel unprepared to provide their kids with an affirmative view of sex and the body.

But raising them to value their sexuality as something good and holy is essential to protecting them from exposure to porn and to inculcating in them a positive desire for purity generally.

They will be trained to see clearly the great difference between the lies of porn and unchastity and the great truths of God’s plan for human sexuality.

It is also useful when it comes to teaching modesty and self-control, even at a young age. It is precisely because your child’s body is good and wonderful that he is not to treat it like a toy; it is precisely because your child’s body is sacred that she should veil what demands the reverence.

Even when our children are very young, my wife and I make it a priority to affirm their sexuality daily—teaching them that God created them male or female so that they can become a gift in self-donating love.

Each night before bed I lay my hands on them and offer this prayer:

Dear heavenly Father, I thank you that you have created [name] to be a strong boy/ beautiful girl. I ask that he/she would grow up to be a strong man/beautiful and strong woman to give his/her life away as a priest or a husband/nun or a wife. 

2. Be a parent, not a buddy.

I know that you know this—or that you think you know this, but it bears repeating. Your child needs you to parent him. And a large part of parenting means saying no. In fact, if your child hasn’t gotten angry at you over the past week because you would not let him have his way, you’re probably not doing a very good job parenting him.

In the sphere of chastity, saying no is the flip side of affirming your children’s sexuality. It doesn’t mean to shelter kids from every possible bad influence in the world; rather, it’s about exercising prudent vigilance.

There never was a teenager who couldn’t survive without a smart phone, but there are countless thousands whose Internet-connected phones become personal porn terminals. Laptops behind locked bedroom doors might help a little with homework, but they’re also inviters of temptation. Your child was invited to a sleepover: Do you know what kind of supervision the host family exercises over the computer or cable box? If you’re not prepared to say no, you might find all your vigilance undone by another family’s carelessness.

3. Use filters and accountability software.

We have talked first about giving kids a foundation that affirms God’s gift of their bodies, then about circumstances in which we must be prepared to say no in order to protect that gift.

As a supplement to rather than a replacement for our work of forming and parenting our kids, Internet filters and other content-blocking tools can be useful, especially when your children are young. As they grow older, however, it’s important that you not simply block them but continue to teach them.

This is how accountability software differs from filtering. Instead of blocking websites, it monitors all the sites that your child visits and then sends a report to an accountability partner (you). This changes the mentality of the child surfing the Internet. Rather than him wondering how he could get around a filter to visit some forbidden-fruit website, he will know that he could visit the website but that he will have to answer for it.

When you think about it, isn’t this how the heavenly Father acts toward us? He could “block” us from turning our backs on him and from the pain our sins bring, but he does not. Rather he teaches us right from wrong, and implores us to do what’s right (while giving us the grace necessary to do it). He does not censor our every thought and action because he desires us to grow up to be responsible moral agents: sons and daughters who freely choose what is good. We parents ought to follow his example.

In my opinion, the best accountability software can be found at  www.covenanteyes.org.

We as parents have a grave responsibility to protect the purity of our children.

We will be answerable to almighty God if we fail to protect and guide them, particularly in the face of the unprecedented evils that porn poses to their minds, hearts, and souls. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,” Jesus said, “it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt. 18:6). As Peter Kreeft once noted, there are no Styrofoam millstones.


Matt Fradd is Australian by birth and Catholic by choice. After experiencing a profound conversion at World Youth Day in Rome in 2000, Matt committed himself to inviting others to know Jesus Christ and the Church He founded. As a missionary in Canada and Ireland, Matt proclaimed the Gospel to over ten...

Comments by Catholic.com Members

#1  Brenda Hascall - Bloomfield HIlls, Michigan

I loved your article, since my kids were young I have talked to them about the dignity of men/women, about marriage, purity, chastity vs. public school teaching. As years go by I lose ground and my family has become totally numb about all that is important. My 17 yr. old daughter just announced me that she is taking "human sexuality" as a class in the senior year of public H.S. She didn't choose that class but was "recommended" by her counselor. With that, came a phrase "I'm old enough to take it, everybody is taking it". I need to think what my next step is. From my husband I have no support, he thinks I overreact and think too religious. She will be going to college next year to one I wouldn't have chosen, my husband & her have. I am a Catholic, pro-life and we've had many conversations until she entered HS. Since then she listens to Dad more than me. Any suggestions?

February 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm PST

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