With the world not taking the pornography problem seriously (or in many cases, even acknowledging it as a problem), it is imperative that LDS families take matters into their own homes.
“We need to be empowered to teach our children and families about this toxic topic,” Garbett says. “We all need to become more educated on prevention rather than merely worrying about it after the fact.”
Here are seven ways to maximize prevention in your home.
1. Look at your media access points.
“You have to look at all the media access in your home—Internet, mobile devices, television, magazines, books, etc.,” Manning says. “Examine those access points carefully and do what you can to filter or stop it.”
And while having the computer in an open area isn’t enough, it is still a crucial component.
“A child should never have a computer in his or her bedroom,” Atkinson says. “It opens them up to all kinds of dangers.”
2. Look at your spiritual/emotional access.
“Having internal filters is far more effective than running any sort of program on your computer,” Manning says. “Be honest with what makes your family vulnerable and what temptations you struggle with—and then cater your family media guidelines to those vulnerabilities.”
3. Establish a formal family media pledge.
“It’s important to not just think about guidelines for your family—write them down, print it out, and have each member of your family sign it,” Manning says. “Make an FHE out of it!”
4. Practice what you pledge.
“Example is one of the most powerful tools we have for our kids,” Manning says. “And if it means our own media intake is more wholesome because of it? All the better.”
5. Have open and honest discussions with your kids about sexual matters.
“We need to teach our kids about healthy sexuality, and it starts with our infants and toddlers,” Manning says. “A lot of parents are reluctant to talk to their kids because the subject matter makes them uncomfortable. But we live in a world where we don’t have a choice. If they don’t hear it from us, they’re going to hear it skewed and distorted from somewhere else.”
Manning and Steurer both highly recommend “A Parent’s Guide,” which is an official LDS Church booklet (and free download on lds.org) to teach your kids about intimacy.
“It’s actually old—written in 1985—and it’s one of the best out there without question,” Steurer says. “It’s so interesting, because so often the Church gets accused of being a little prudish when it comes to these areas. But it’s documents like these that give us the perfect foundation and language to teach our families. It’s so much easier to explain pornography to our kids—and why to avoid it—if they have a healthy foundation from a young age.”
6. Teach your teens about the serious penalties of engaging in pornography.
“Children need to be alerted to the potentially tragic consequences of their actions,” Atkinson says. “When they engage in activities like sexting, which is so popular with kids today, they are opening themselves up to potential issues with the law. They need to know that if there is a question in their mind, the content shouldn’t be sent.”
7. Have a plan.
Discuss a game plan with your children of what to do if they come across pornographic material. Ideally, they would turn it off, come to you, and discuss what they saw and how they felt.
“We have all kinds of drills at school—fire drills, earthquake drills—but we really need to have spiritual drills where we know what to do when we’re confronted with damaging content,” Manning says.
“We need to leverage our relationships with our kids,” Garbett adds. “We need to teach them in a way they will listen. We can’t frighten, offend them, or overreact. We need to calmly tell them how glad we are they came to us, and then talk about the problem and how to avoid it in the future.”
If pornography has already plagued your family, the battle isn’t lost. Here are five steps to getting the help you need.
Come out of hiding.
“Tell somebody your story, which is one of the hardest things to do,” Steurer says. “Tell someone you trust—a spouse, a counselor, a bishop. You can’t [overcome] it in isolation.”
Seek professional help.
“Most people need a combination of counseling, group support, and ecclesiastical assistance,” Steurer says. “People who utilize all of these areas will have infinitely more success, and people who tippy-toe around the problem will continue to struggle. You can’t do this halfway.”
Learn about healthy sexuality.
“Understand the clear and distinct difference between pornography and healthy sexuality—way too many people aren’t clear on that,” Manning says. “If we are going to be responsible sexual beings, it behooves us to express our sexuality in ways that do no harm. We have not been put on this planet and blessed with the power of procreation to have it do harm.”
Challenge your brain.
“Part of getting help is learning how to discipline your mind,” Manning says. “Take up a hobby, find a new passion in your life, enroll in a class, challenge yourself.”
Find spiritual healing.
“Pornography is deadening to one’s spirit. There is nothing godly or of virtue to be found,” Manning says. “When we become addicted to anything, we become a slave to it, which takes us away from our divine center. That spiritual focus is crucial to healing.”
And in the unfortunate cases where our kids struggle with pornography, embrace them, help them, and guide them— without judgment.
“Parents have to create a safe environment to talk about the problem,” Steurer says. “Let your child know that he or she is not bad or evil. Teach them that what they are feeling is normal—pornography simply hijacked it. They got a false start, and now you’re concerned with protecting them and getting them help.”
Get Your Hopes Up
Pornography is a dark and heavy subject—there’s no getting around it. But we can’t be defeated by the filth.
In fact, Manning sees a clean sweep, even if it is years away.
“I compare it to what we’ve seen in the tobacco and cigarette industry. There was a tipping point with a large body of research that started to shift the culture tide,” Manning says. “A similar thing will happen with pornography. There will be a body of medical evidence that will show the harmful effects pornography has on the brain and on relationships—and our culture tide will start to shift. We are a long way from that, but the research gives me hope.”
Steurer is equally optimistic.
“Don’t be afraid of this,” he says. “People that confront pornography and get help become better people through the challenge. Stop running from the problem. Stop living in hiding. There is hope.”
And in the meantime? Fight, fight, fight.
“I was at a women’s conference where general Relief Society president Julie Beck made a rallying cry and told us women that we need to fight against the pornography infiltrating our society. It stirred my soul and made me want to say, ‘Hey, Julie, I’m there!’” Garbett says. “I don’t have all the time in the world, but I have a minute. We have to be courageous. We have to fear God more than man. We’re on the battle lines, and I’m ready to fight.”
And nothing irritates Satan more than a good, clean fight.
“When we feel apprehensive or hesitant to discuss these kinds of topics, we need to remind ourselves that the adversary would love nothing more than for it to be shoved under the rug,” Manning says. “But we can’t let that happen. There is too much to live for and too much to hope for.”
You can also learn more about the Church's Addiction Recovery Programs by clicking here.
This article was originally published in the March/April 2012 issue of LDS Living. Click here to learn more.