By LDS Family Services
There are many things we can do to safeguard our homes and protect our loved ones—particularly our innocent children—from the harmful effects of pornography. Church leaders have emphasized our responsibility as parents to teach our children to recognize and avoid pornography and other destructive influences. Elder M. Russell Ballard reminded us:
“As our children grow, they need information taught by parents more directly and plainly about what is and is not appropriate. Parents need to teach children to avoid any pornographic photographs or stories. Children and youth need to know from parents that pornography of any kind is a tool of the devil; and if anyone flirts with it, it has the power to addict, dull, and even destroy the human spirit. They need to be taught not to use vulgar language and never to use the Lord’s name in vain. Crude jokes overheard should never be repeated. Teach family members not to listen to music that celebrates the sensual. Talk to them plainly about sex and the teaching of the gospel regarding chastity. Let this information come from parents in the home in an appropriate way. All family members need to know the rules and be fortified spiritually so they can keep them. And when mistakes are made, the wondrous Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ must be understood and accepted so that through the complete and sometimes difficult process of repentance, forgiveness and continued hope for the future can be obtained. We must never give up our individual and family quest for eternal life” (“Like a Flame Unquenchable,” Ensign, May 1999, 86).
Preventing the Problem
The First Presidency clarified the standard of conduct expected of Church members and how problems such as pornography can be prevented: “We call upon members to renew their commitment to live the Lord’s standard of moral conduct. Parents should teach their children the sacred nature of procreative powers and instill in them a desire to be chaste in thought and deed. A correct understanding of the divinely appointed roles of men and women will fortify all against sinful practices. Our only real safety, physically and spiritually, lies in keeping the Lord’s commandments” (First Presidency letter, Nov. 14, 1991).
Suggestive images abound in the world in which we live. It is almost impossible to avoid some contact with pictures, articles, advertisements, and other media that are designed to stimulate sexual interest. The greatest preventive measure that can be taken is a commitment to immediately turn away from temptation when it comes. It involves putting off the natural man (see Mosiah 3:19). Each person has different areas of vulnerability. Listening to the Spirit and submitting ourselves to the will of God will help us find additional preventive measures, which may include turning off the television, avoiding the magazine section of a store, or using the Internet only when someone else is in the room.
Safeguarding the Home
As parents, we can lay the foundation in the family for self-control, proper regard for sexuality, and healthy emotional development by providing a secure environment in which healthy attitudes will grow. Love, kindness, good communication, and appropriate expressions of affection are vital. Each of our children needs the security that comes from spending individual quality time with us as well as with their friends and appropriate role models. Within the context of a warm and loving relationship, we will have our greatest influence as we teach our children to have a proper attitude about sexuality, warn them against unhealthy and immoral practices, and instill in them the desire to remain chaste and virtuous.
Responsible societies minimize negative influences that affect young children. Unfortunately, social and moral constraints are diminishing, and children are exposed to images and entertainment that were once socially unacceptable. Television cartoons include characters designed to stimulate sexual interest and storylines that involve adult themes. Animated video games show scantily clad women and men who engage in violent and sometimes sexual acts. Pornographers target computer game sites, sending sexually explicit images to children when they accidentally misspell search terms.
As parents, we must eliminate any conditions in the home that would encourage the use of pornography. Elder M. Russell Ballard identified “seven things that every parent can do to minimize the negative effect media can have on our families:
- We need to hold family councils and decide what our media standards are going to be.
- We need to spend enough quality time with our children that we are consistently the main influence in their lives, not the media or any peer group.
- We need to make good media choices ourselves and set good examples for our children.
- We need to limit the amount of time our children watch TV or play video games or use the Internet each day. Virtual reality must not become their reality.
- We need to use Internet filters and TV programming locks to prevent our children from ‘chancing upon’ things they should not see. If a child accidentally views pornography or is encouraged by someone online to view it, the child should immediately turn off the monitor or computer and tell an adult. We need to let children know that trying to get out of a pornographic site may lead them deeper into it.
- We need to have TVs and computers in a much-used common room in the home, not in a bedroom or a private place.
- We need to take time to watch appropriate media with our children and discuss with them how to make choices that will uplift and build rather than degrade and destroy” (“Let Our Voices Be Heard,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 18–19).
We should monitor what our children are watching and doing, but perhaps even more importantly, strive to keep the lines of communication open so that our children will talk to us when they are exposed to inappropriate material. This sometimes requires a delicate balance between giving our children enough information to be aware of potential problems and not giving them so much information that they are curious or unduly alarmed.
Teaching Proper Values
Safeguarding our homes and teaching our children proper values is our first priority in preventing involvement with pornography. However, our children may be exposed to pornography when away from home—with friends, at school, in libraries, at bookstores, and in other locations. Children entering school gain access to computers that are sometimes inadequately protected against pornographic material. Health classes sometimes give information about sexuality that conflicts with parental values and standards. Hallway conversations sometimes extol sexual experimentation and conquest. Public libraries offer computer centers that frequently lack filtering devices.
We must teach our children the values and standards they will need to regulate their lives successfully in all settings (see D&C 93:40–43). We should include guidelines for computer and television use when our children are away from home. These guidelines, which can be introduced and discussed during family home evenings, could include the following:
- Children do not participate in using the television, Internet, or computer games unless a responsible parent or other adult is there to supervise.
- Accidental access to pornographic sites should be immediately reported to an adult who is present and who can appropriately deal with the problem; children should report back to parents if no adult is present.
- Children are informed that computer software has been installed to allow parents to monitor the use of Web sites.
Helping Family Members Invite and Recognize the Spirit
Family members who invite and recognize the presence of the Spirit in their lives are more likely to do what they know is right. The Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith, “Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to talk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit” (D&C 11:12). Among other ways, we can teach our children to invite the Spirit into their lives by:
- Keeping the commandments and setting a good example for others.
- Engaging them in activities that invite the Spirit, such as listening to good music and holding regular family home evening, family prayer, and family scripture study.
- Properly exercising the priesthood (see D&C 121:41–42) and dedicating our homes as a haven safe from the adversary.
We can help our children recognize the presence of the Spirit and the feelings of love, joy, and peace that the Spirit brings (see Galatians 5:22). We can also help our children recognize the Spirit as He bears testimony of truth in their lives. The sons of Helaman fought courageously without loss of life because they had been taught at home that God would deliver them if “they did not doubt” (Alma 56:47). These young men never doubted, knowing the truthfulness of their mothers’ teachings (see Alma 56:48). In contrast, family members who do not listen to the Spirit and who numb themselves against spiritual influences lose the ability to recognize and receive spiritual guidance. They become easy targets for Satan.
As we lovingly teach our children to be virtuous and pure and as we teach them to seek and recognize the Spirit in their lives, we will help them withstand the onslaught of pornography that will confront them.
Help for the Individual
Regardless of our family circumstances, many of the principles of prevention identified above can be applied on an individual basis. Establishing healthy, positive relationships with others is one of the most important things we can do to remain clean and pure. Extended family members, fellow Church members, and trusted friends can often serve as a support network in helping us live worthy of the Spirit. The best safeguard against pornography is to live in such a way that the desire to use it does not have a chance to take root in our hearts and minds.