Porn: How the Church needs to opt in.

A week after David Cameron’s announcement that he would be tackling internet porn by ensuring that all new internet users would have to effectively choose to be able to view porn online; it is fair to say that responses have been mixed.

On the face of it it’s good news for parents all over the UK who are concerned about what their kids are viewing online. Parents can now choose to block all porn sites and relax knowing that their kids will not be able to view porn.

Kids viewing porn is never a good thing. It can lead to years of shame and self esteem issues if let to spiral out of control into their teenage and then adult years. It’s is easier than ever to view porn and if you care at all about what your kids are looking at then you shouldn’t let the internet babysit your kids.

And this is where I think the best intentions of Cameron’s plan may fall down.

First off kids are smart. They are smarter than we may think and they are often more tech saavy than we give them credit for. Just because we may not have had the technology afforded to us when we were younger it doesn’t mean kids today don’t either. The opt in service is a good first step but more is required if we want to protect children.

The second potential problem with the opt in plans is that it assumes that parents won’t be looking at porn. What about the parent who is addicted to porn and is torn between sheltering their kids from porn and feeding their own habit? It would be naïve of us to assume that the power porn can hold over us would be less than the desire to see our children protected. It reminds me of a story from xxxchurch where a husband who wanted to view porn was required to fill in a password each time he logged onto the internet. His password? “I love…” followed by his wife’s name. Yet he continued to view porn.

The size of the internet is vast. Much bigger than I think we could imagine. It is nuanced too which means that when it comes to porn it is never a simple case of black and white. Social media as a tool can be used in wonderful ways that connect people and inspire whole communities in ways that were not possible years ago. It can however like all of the internet be used in less healthy ways. Extreme hardcore porn may be banned from sites such as facebook but that is not to say milder forms are too. Images can be found on these sites that for many young people may be the beginning of a journey into the desire to view more and an increasingly graphic nature of porn.

An opt in service will not pick up on these. The best filters available to us today do not pick up on these. We may protect our kids from images that are harmful to any adult, never mind a child; but they can still view quite readily images which may be classified as ‘training porn’.

Essentially all porn sites may be blocked but this doesn’t mean all porn will be blocked.

Adding in the idea that things which are suggestive or which contain an air of mystery to them are intriguing, we may find ourselves in a place where kids become curious about what lies behind those warning messages that appear when we type ‘xxx’ into our browsers.

As a Christian who struggled with porn from around the age of 11 I am well aware of how easy it is to access porn. There were times that I would be unable to see porn online but this did not stop me finding ways. I literally went old school and bought magazines. I knew all the tricks to get around filters. There is a thought that preventing the access of porn will stop the desire to look at it. And although this is true in the sense that you can not become addicted to something unless you are exposed to it, porn is a much more tricky character than that.

The answer with how we keep our children protected then is not entirely in the hands of filters or opt in procedures but in how we talk about it.

I grew up never hearing the mention of sex in Church never mind porn. I knew deep down that porn was unhealthy and I felt incredible guilt and shame anytime I viewed it. Yet, maybe not the next day or even in the same week, but sooner or later I would come back to it.

The breakthrough for me came when I finally told my friend what I had been doing. And in this, lies the heart of how we should approach the issue of porn with young people in the Church and elsewhere.

A willingness to talk openly about porn, sex and all the issues that arise from them is required. Body image, self esteem, love for ourselves and family and respect for the opposite sex. I don’t believe that we have even touched the surface of how porn has effected the church in Northern Ireland and in the UK. We are scared of talking about it, probably because a lot of the people who should be starting the conversation are likely struggling themselves.

It is a cycle. Take away the guilt and shame porn elicits in us, because we don’t talk about it in the pew, by talking about it with grace and a lack of judgement and we will see men and women who fight a daily battle become free. This then will allow us to safely and honestly talk about it with our young people.

This is why Cameron’s promises are a good step but simply just that. A step.

The time has come for us to stop hiding behind filters and legislation. They have a crucial role to play. In fact, it could be said that unless these things are in place then Christians who are addicted to porn won’t be able to stop. But they are not the most important thing.

Talking about porn is. Having safe places where people can talk about it is. Having a community who can support you and help you make the right choices is. Stripping away the shame is.

Only then will we be able to fully and holistically protect young people from porn.

This is where the Church has failed.

Yet it’s where we can succeed too.

We just need to opt in.

3 thoughts on “Porn: How the Church needs to opt in.

    • Thanks for popping by Brian. It’s a big topic here at the moment since David Cameron’s plans were introduced. The church here is slowly beginning to talk about it more but there is still a lot of fear.

      • I hear ya. Sometimes the church is last to address an issue. I’m glad you two are getting the conversation started!

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