Why You Need To Talk To Your Middle Schooler About Porn

This is part three of a series about how to talk to your kids about sex. I’d recommend reading part one and part two before reading this post.

I’ll never forget teaching leadership to guys in their late teens and early 20s while I was in college. Part of the leadership curriculum involved talking about the value of sexual purity in a leader’s life. Many of those young men shared how they were currently dealing with the fallout of a pornography struggle. They were godly young men, leaders in their own right, most of whom grew up in wonderful households—these were “good Christian kids.”

Photo courtesy of Dollar Photo Club/UMB-O

Almost all of them said they were first exposed to porn sometime immediately before or during middle school. I was heartbroken as I imagined them stumbling upon porn as young, curious, relatively idealistic middle schoolers who had no idea what they were doing or what they were dealing with. And here they were, five or ten years later, dealing with shame, frustration, and disappointment as they entered adulthood.

No parent wants that to be the story of their middle school son. I hate to admit it, but there’s nothing you can do to guarantee your son won’t struggle with porn in middle school or high school. However, there are tangible steps you can take to help protect him.

I think the most important step you can take is to have a proactive conversation with him about pornography.

I understand there’s the ever-present fear that an early conversation about porn will inadvertently introduce him to ideas that aren’t currently in his mind, which may pique his curiosity and lead him down a dangerous path of “exploration.” I think that’s a risk you have to be willing to take. The greater risk is not having this conversation and leaving your son unprepared to deal with porn.

When you think of your 5th or 6th grader, you may also think he is too young for a porn talk to beneficial for him. You tell yourself, “He doesn’t seem to be close to puberty and shows no interest in girls so he wouldn’t be interested in porn, right?” I’d say he doesn’t need to hit puberty or express interest in girls to look at porn. The male mind is hard-wired to be curious about the female body. Plus, even if your son is developmentally lagging behind his peers you can’t totally control what his developmentally mature friends can introduce to him.

I admit you might have the porn talk with your son and he’ll spend a lot of time giggling and red-faced. Or maybe he’ll say, “Ew!” and get squirmy when you even mention the concept of looking at pictures or videos of naked people. Even if that’s the case, I’d err on the side of being proactive rather than having to have a reactive conversation after discovering your son has been exposed to porn.

Don’t tell yourself, “Not my son! He’s different from other boys. Pornography might be a struggle for lots of pre-teenage and teenage boys, but not him!” You should hope for and expect the best from your son, but in my experience no boy is immune from this temptation.

I’m always amazed at pornography’s ability to infect the lives of exceptional young men. And yes, it’s just as much of an issue for church kids. Churches often struggle with how to handle pornography and can easily overplay or underplay porn’s influence. I know it’s a complicated issue so I don’t want to “get caught in the weeds” of arguments and counter-arguments related to how churches should address porn. All I know is I can’t stand the thought of the young men in my ministry being hindered by porn.

Still can’t work up the courage to have this conversation with your son? Still not convinced this is important?

Try this: Imagine your middle schooler as an 18 or 20 year-old. I know you want him to enter young adulthood with confidence and wholeness, not having to deal with the shame of sexual brokenness caused by a porn struggle. Sexual brokenness affects us deeply because our sexuality hits so close to our core identity.

Talk to your pre-teenage or young teenage son about porn. It could pay dividends for years to come. It won’t be a cure-all for all the sexual temptations he’ll face, but it could go a long way in helping him live a life of purity.

[…Stay tuned! My next post will provide some guidelines for WHAT TO SAY when you talk to your middle schooler about porn…]