A new video to show children how to deal with exposure to pornography has been released by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The video has been posted onYouTube and the Church’s OvercomingPornography.org website as part of a family home evening lesson titled “What Should I Do If I See Pornography?” Links to the video are also included in the October issue of the Church’s Ensign magazine.
While the advent of the Internet has enhanced communication, sociologists also argue it has had a negative impact on the sexual and social wellness of many of its young users. Many children are exposed to online pornography while using a computer or digital device such as a smartphone.
One of the most comprehensive studies conducted on this issue found 42 percent of children aged 10 to 17 years were exposed to online pornography in a single year. The study, cited in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, further reported that the majority were unintentional exposures.
“Pornography is a destructive force in our society,” said Ben Erwin, counseling manager of LDS Family Services. “We are bombarded with explicit images that not only provide a warped sense of what healthy sexual intimacy is, but create long term compulsive and addictive tendencies to seek out more intense levels of stimulation. The most tragic victims of this modern-day plague are our children.”
“Pornography is more than a social issue; it is a widespread public health issue inseparably linked to all other forms of sexual exploitation,” said author Jill Manning, who has a doctorate in marital and family therapy.
Manning continued, “Pornography is fueling one of the fastest growing areas of addiction, jeopardizing the healthy development of our youth, and undermining both the formation and sustainability of successful, stable marriages. When pornography consumption is present, we see decreased mental and physical well-being and increased safety risks.”
“Hopefully this video can be a tool for helping inoculate children by giving them an understanding of pornography before they encounter it,” said Lee Gibbons, manager of family-focused products for the Church who was involved with the video production. “We think it’s something that’s fairly inevitable for children these days.”
“It’s not sufficient to teach our children what our parents taught us,” said Matthew Hamby, manager of the Church’s family-focused products. “As soon as children are old enough to talk and understand, it’s time to start giving them the tools they need.”
Gibbons also cautions parents to be vigilant against the types of TV programs, music and cell phone use that could expose their children to inappropriate images and content.
Hamby and Gibbons say adding filters to the Internet-enabled devices is a vital step for parents to help protect their families, but parents now need to do more to protect their families. They say that includes teaching children that God-given feelings of attraction and love should be directed toward real people for the purpose of forming strong families, not warped into the counterfeit of love that you find in harmful engagement with pornography.
The Church-produced video is narrated by children and was filmed in Hawaii and Utah.
“My amazing body is a gift from Heavenly Father,” said a girl narrating the video. “And the most important thing He wants me to do with my body is take care of it,” added a boy in the production. “One of those dangers [in the world] is pornography. Pornography means bad pictures of people with little or no clothes on,” he continued.
Producers used a simplified definition of pornography in the video for children, hoping parents will follow up with more detailed conversations with their families.
Gibbons explained the video targets children between the ages of 8 and 11, which is when, according to a study published 2008 in CyberPschology & Behavior, many children generally have their first exposure to pornography. “Certainly therapists are seeing addicts that are that young. It’s really quite rare, but it is occurring.”
“Our hope above all other hopes is that parents will take this as a cue to begin a longer, ongoing conversation about healthy sexuality,” said Gibbons.
“What may begin as an unexpected exposure or a curious exploration can become a destructive habit,” states the online lesson. “When an accidental exposure occurs, or even if you have viewed pornography more than once, your reaction will determine its future effect on you.”
“Heavenly Father gave us strong feelings of love and attraction that draw us to others,” says the narration in the video. “These feelings have a powerful effect on the feeling part of our brains. Feelings of love help us build strong families. That’s good. But pornography grabs those feelings and points them in the wrong direction. That hurts families. Pornography is dangerous, but here are some things that you can do to keep safe.”
The video encourages kids to call pornography, immodesty or sexualized media what it is when they see it. They are also encouraged to turn it off or turn away and talk to their parents or a trusted adult about their experience.
Gibbons said the video is the beginning of a larger campaign to help parents and their children. It runs more than five minutes in length and will soon be translated into 10 languages.
“There’s just a need for parents to understand that the world their children live requires their efforts to not just be about shielding them from pornography; it’s about pre-arming them and inoculating them such that they’re prepared for it,” concluded Gibbons.