July 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A couple of years ago, I wrote a column in this space titled “The Horror Stories Are Real—Don’t Give Your Children A Smartphone.” I explained how smartphones are transforming the world teenagers live in, creating a virtual universe impervious to parents and guardians—a universe created and accessed by the smartphones that are now present in the hands of nearly every girl and boy, at a younger and younger age. I noted that Nancy Jo Sales had recently written a book called American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers, which revealed that the teens themselves know social media is destroying their lives. Sales had been asked by the editor of Vanity Fair to begin researching the topic because he wanted to know why so many teen girls were killing themselves.
But for some reason, time and again, I find that many parents just don’t seem to get it. They can attend conferences where the brutal reality of sexting is laid out, replete with heartbreaking stories of nude selfies from girls sent to boys in a moment of bad judgement being passed around the school—resulting in humiliation, self-harm, and sometimes, horribly, suicide. They can hear that so many of these pictures are being passed around that Sales actually found that every high school she studied had a page where the boys could conglomerate the pictures they got or extorted from the girls onto what they call a “slut-page,” a personalized porn site featuring their female classmates. These pictures are often online, forever. Many of them constitute child pornography.
And many parents will respond: But my daughter or my son won’t get involved in that sort of thing. I’ve had parents say this to me when I know, because I talked to their son or daughter, that their children have been involved in this sort of thing. Parents often do not understand the massive pressures teenagers are under to engage in this sort of behavior, using a device that gives them access to a world that simply did not exist when their parents were young—and a world where horrible things can happen. I can think of one instance where a girl from a Christian school was blackmailed into having sex with a boy because some time before, she had made the awful mistake of sending him an explicit photo. Sleep with me, he demanded, or I’ll send this to your dad and everyone else. And so she did—and her parents had no idea.
Many parents also seem convinced, despite all statistical evidence to the contrary, that their children will not look at pornography as long as they have a good talk with them once or twice. But if they have a smartphone, what do you think the likelihood of kids deciding to look up porn really is? Thirty years ago, would anyone have believed that a teenage boy could grow up in a house filled with unlocked closets crammed with porn magazines, and not open a door to take a peek even once, out of curiosity or in a moment of temptation? Of course they wouldn’t have, because that runs contrary to what we know about human nature. And even the boys who can successfully resist such things—why would parents be cruel enough to permit them the omnipresent temptation of endless sexual imagery as they go through puberty, knowing that the porn companies have literally re-digitized their content so that teens can access their product on smartphones—where millions view it long into the night?
And then there is the ugly fact that porn companies are actively attempting reach teens where-ever they are, to secure their customers when they are young and impressionable and easily hooked. They tag hardcore porn videos with phrases like “Dora the Explorer” so children will stumble on porn early—the average age of first exposure to pornography is nine years old, and children even much younger than that have often been robbed of their innocence online. The porn companies create pop-up ads that leap onto the screen while teens are playing popular online games—I know one teen who clicked on only one, and spent years afterwards struggling with porn addiction as a result. The porn companies are trying to reach children and teenagers, and they are using the very smartphones that parents buy for their children to do it.
I’ve heard parents say that it is simply too hard to tell their child no when they ask for the smartphone that all of their friends have, even though they do not have their driver’s license and have no genuine need for any kind of phone at all. But stop to consider the cost. Think of what exposure to hardcore pornography does to a child’s developing brain, to a child’s view of sexuality, of men and women, of love itself. Think of how thoroughly this poison can seep into their lives. I can’t count the number of young couples who have contacted me to talk about how porn has ravaged their relationships—and in many cases, it was a smartphone that first let porn in. Saying no might be a hard thing to do. But for children, it is the right thing to do.