Preparing for internet porn and sex in the social network

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Return to the Table of Contents – 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly

Photo: Rega Photography via Flickr

Photo: Rega Photography via Flickr

Internet porn and sexting is about power and control in the realm of hearts and minds; it is about human exploitation which is glorified on and off line in popular culture and in cyber-powered peer communities. These are adult issues because they evoke primal emotion that can be challenging to tame at any age, and our job as the primary teachers is to help children learn how to discipline their own thinking so they can overcome responses to such worldly images and experiences that can make us feel powerless.

Moreover, historically, parenting is viewed as a prevention only exercise. Conventional wisdom of popular parenting culture suggests that if we are good parents our children will become model citizens beyond reproach. And yet, the physical and cyber realms of our world introduce the pressure to surrender personal power (i.e, the free will to choose what to believe and then how to respond) with very seductive, convincing, addictive and exploitative agendas of others that disturb the peace and can disrupt our capacity to think with the mind of our greater selves -the divinity within.

 

Clarifying sex and love

There is much confusion between sex and love. The act of having sex itself does not necessarily involve love – which I translate as commitment and respect. Without love, sex dehumanizes. Making love, on the other hand, involves engaging in sexual intercourse with a mutual devotion that bonds two people spiritually, emotionally and physiologically. It provides a foundation for creating a family.

Popular culture blurs this distinction to focus on the primal physiological attraction of sex which is a powerful way to captivate attention. Hence sex sells. And since both boys and girls can easily believe that in order to be loved and accepted sex acts are required, let us consider that the consequences of not understanding the difference between sex and love are legal, social, emotional and spiritual/long term.

Legal consequences. For parents of boys, consider that if you have not communicated your own expectations about how to treat the opposite sex, then the chances are greater that he will be dealing with legal consequences of child porn trafficking for sharing or keeping on his device a nude picture of one of his peers.  Every law enforcement officer with whom I have spoken says that sexting is common – wherein the girls send sexually explicit photos of themselves to love interests, and the boys wind up circulating them. This is felony child pornography because it involves minors, and there is a risk that your son, as a minor, could wind up being registered as a sex offender.

Social consequences. Girls have a challenge to hold the line on their inherent value as beloved daughters in a world that can easily convince them that their value is only tied to their sexual appeal and prowess. Sometimes it can feel like there is no winning. You are darned if you do become sexually promiscuous and explicit because then society labels you a “slut”, and darned if you do not – feeling inadequate and not validated in a popular culture that glorifies sex appeal.  Boys and girls may feel the pressure to be sexually active and to be explicit about it in order to make their relationship appear legitimate.

In his book, The Wonder of Girls, Michael Gurian describes how girls are wired to seek long term relationships early, but wind up capitulating to the rules of popular culture leaving them vulnerable to the whims of her peers. This is why the relationship with her Dad is so crucial – for when girls believe they are valued by their fathers, they have a greater resiliency to the temptation to seek validation in ways that objectify her sexuality.

Emotional consequences.  For both boys and girls there are emotional consequences from promiscuous and cavalier sex and exploitation of sexuality. Our sexuality is a gift that is our power to experience intimacy and trust that is also characterized by extreme vulnerability – especially when children are involved. The people exploiting and being exploited are experiencing harm because this exploitation dehumanizes the whole person (perpetrator and victim) in the process. And the cyber-powered sharing of photos amplifies the shame and guilt that for girls can be extremely difficult to survive; literally suicide has been one of the emotional consequences of sexting that leads to cyberbullying and the power of the humiliation experience obscures perspective for a future without agony of rejection and isolation.

Jenny Williamson, founder of Courage World Wide, a non-profit devoted to education, prevention and rescue of girls from sex trafficking, encourages parents to share their vision of their child's sexual identity as magnificent sons, daughters, and future spouses and parents.

Jenny Williamson, founder of Courage World Wide, a non-profit devoted to education, prevention and rescue of girls from sex trafficking, encourages parents to share their vision of their child’s sexual identity as magnificent sons, daughters, and future spouses and parents.

Spiritual/Exploitation. And the long term risk is that sexual exploitation experiences can become the lie with the potential to murder the truth about a child’s sexuality identity as a precious son or daughter to seek a relationship rooted in love.  When the individuals become involved exploitative sexual encounters, it can become a pattern for life. It is a form of abuse of self and others that will repeat itself until the initial wounds are confronted and healed.

Jenny Williamson is a mom of four boys in Northern California, who founded Courage World Wide, a non-profit dedicated to education and prevention of sex trafficking and the rescue of girls trapped into a life of slavery. “We must speak to our children about the true vision of their identities,” she said. “Let your children trust you for truth. When they make statements like ‘that is sexy’, ask them what they know about what sexy means. Get them talking so you can guide them. Give your description of their identity – who they are. Focus on their strengths because the world is telling them something different.”

It is the simple truths that get lost in the world. Do not underestimate the power of a parent to speak life into the hearts and minds of their children.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.Psalm 9:9

Parenting is more than prevention

When we choose to embrace the mustard seed of faith that makes a free society possible as an app for the heart and mind (i.e., God is sovereign and grants us free will), we are in a position to govern our own responses as parents about what happens when our children are exposed to too much too soon or when they have believed something that is not true and acted on it.  We can then envision parenting as more than an exercise in prevention. Parenthood becomes a divine appointment that is actually an act of faith to express God’s love for humanity which involves prevention and recovery. It is the hope for our future to overcome the cyber and physical realms of this world.

Think about a young son captivated as he gazes upon a pornographic image, or a daughter convinced that sending a nude photo to a love interest is a private expression of affection as she is desperately seeking to love and be loved.  If your son becomes hooked on internet porn, does that make him a pervert? If your daughter engages in sexting because she believes her boyfriend would never betray her confidence, and now she is being cyberbullied with her nude photo circulating, does that make her a slut?

Well, that depends doesn’t it?

It depends on what you think. And more importantly, it depends upon what your child thinks. Depending upon your world view, suffering the consequences of traumatic events and poor choices can be a curse or a blessing. In your own mind, are you and your children victims or free agents? Do you have the power to overcome mistakes, bondage, undue influence and adversity?

In order to be secure, the modern child must first learn that feelings are real but they are not facts, and that our emotional reaction to an event or an idea or an image is not necessarily truth; and even though it is a real experience it does not define us.

My faith informs me that something is only true if you allow it to be so in your own mind and so we get to choose what to believe about life experiences. This means that we can choose to learn from the consequences of poor choices, and change the course of our own life because that power cannot be taken, but it can be surrendered. So I think it helps to consider that our children are resilient blessings,  a divine idea in the mind of God who like all of humanity are also subject to making poor choices based upon the wrong thinking in the right circumstances. By the same token they are capable of recovering and realizing greatness from the negative consequences of their life experiences – if they so choose.

Antidote to exploitation: The passion of a parent’s heart

When talking with youth about touchy subjects like sex,  sexual identity and sexual exploitation, the most important concept to get across is what it means to choose to obey the boundaries that keep us free from bondage and exploitation. You are teaching them what it means to not give up power, while the world tries to convince them that they have no power unless they agree to norms that are beneath them.  To fully convey this truth, it is important to express your passion for  their liberty along with the content of your message about what to do and not to do; children need to feel your caring heart for them as you impart wisdom.   It the expression of your confidence in their ability to use their God-given ability to think for themselves that makes it possible for children to experience a parent’s heart for them as God’s love no matter what the circumstances. It is Jesus’ model:

  • Meet our children where they are, no matter how humiliated, desperate, angry or hostile
  • Speak truth with mercy and no judging (just be present and compassionate)
  • Show the way to a better state of being and acting (correct thinking)
  • And then let them choose (repent/change course of action/turning point)

My faith informs me that it is always possible to get a fresh start because, we have the power to choose to change our thoughts and our ways no matter what consequences we are experiencing from our own choices or the actions of others. When we lead with this confidence that God’s sovereignty grants us this power of personal liberty that is a choice, this is the empowerment our children can perceive as genuine love language from our mother and father hearts.

Recommended reading about talking to your kids about sex: Touchy Subjects

Parent worksheet: Prepare your child for internet porn and sexting

Proceed to next article: How to disable the undue influence of drugs and alchol

Return to the Table of Contents – 2014 Spring/Summer Edition of Banana Moments: Family Business Quarterly

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Joanna Jullien (Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien
(Photo: Christi Benz)

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna (jullien@surewest.net) and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.

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