Raising Children in a Sensual Society

by Ted Kober

Today’s technology has opened the dangers of sexual temptation to the youngest users of the Internet and cell phones. The Internet, primetime television, movies, music videos, books and tabloids have desensitized parents and children to sexual impurity. Advertising in all media promotes products with sensual messages. Sex is used to tantalize, entertain and sell.

The result? Our biblical perspective of sexuality is undermined. Intimacy within marriage is violated. Sex before marriage is now expected. Homosexuality is portrayed as acceptable. Internet pornography appears as entertainment and useful for improving relationship between “partners.” We live in a highly sensual society that directly contradicts the Bible’s teaching on God’s intent for sexual relations.

Unless Christians proactively seek God’s direction, our views on such matters will be shaped by the world around us. When parents fail to be intentional about addressing these issues, their children develop values contrary to God’s will. When pastors and teachers fail to proactively teach God’s Word on sexuality, God’s people are influenced more by society.

Aren’t Christians minimally impacted?

Christian families are not immune from these ills. Christian institutions from elementary schools to universities wrestle with these issues. At Ambassadors of Reconciliation, our reconcilers have encountered numerous cases involving youth from Christian families.

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For example, children, teenagers and young adults of both genders have engaged in sexting, that is, sending nude photos or explicitly sexual messages through cell phones. Using personal Web pages, young people have posted naked pictures of themselves or friends. Some youth have used computer Web cameras to video stream live sexual activities. A number of these events have taken place in Christian communities including schools and universities. These cases occur in rural settings as well as urban—any place where Internet and cell phone services exist.

Consequences are severe. Some young people have forfeited their opportunities to serve in careers such as teaching school or working with youth at church or in sports. Children and parents have experienced criminal consequences and legal liability. Sadly, some cases have resulted in suicide.

These situations give rise to significant conflict and hurt, and the families involved are devastated. Many are crying for help. But the church remains mostly silent, pretending that sexual temptation in a high-tech society is not affecting us.

What makes this form of sexual temptation so dangerous?

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Luke (not his real name) started viewing Internet pornography at age 12. He progressed into live chat rooms where he engaged in cybersex (interacting with others online for sexual purposes). At 14, he told his parents that he was spending the weekend at a friend’s house. Actually, he flew to another state to meet his 45-year-old male Internet friend for his first homosexual encounter. Luke is now in his twenties, and his father cried sharing with me that Luke’s first long-term partner had just died from AIDS.

The dangers of sexual sins are addressed in Holy Scripture. However, more than any other form of sexual impurity known before, the exploding industry of Internet pornography and cybersex threatens to spark a new wave of sexual immorality and misconduct in our homes, schools, churches and businesses. What makes this form so dangerous? Sexual temptation from the Internet

    • is easily accessible to anyone regardless of age or gender;
    • offers a sense of anonymity;
    • is affordable;
    • seeks users out. A person doesn’t have to be looking for it;
    • feeds sexual lust, contributing to a deeper progression of sexual sin.

Alarming dangers for children

Today’s technology provides more access to information and social networking than any time in history. Children learn early on how to use technology without fear or reservations. Young users quickly become proficient, accessing volumes of information not previously available.

Because of the prolific expansion of sexually explicit material on the Internet, this, too, has become accessible to children with horrific effects. Sara Gaines of Guardian Unlimited reports that, in a study by the London School of Economics, 90 percent of children ages 11–16 have viewed Internet pornography, usually unintentionally at first. While some reject first encounters, curiosity often draws many in. Soon a child’s view of sexuality is shaped by what is experienced online. Sexually explicit content that was once unavailable to minors is easily accessible through computers in the bedroom, a friend’s home and even on cell phones.

While there are significant benefits to technology, dangers can include

    • spending too much time in social networking or playing games;
    • bullying or being victimized by others;
    • viewing sexually explicit sites;
    • interacting with strangers in a sexual manner;
    • being solicited by a sexual predator;
    • exchanging nude or sexually explicit material by cell phone or e-mail.

Parenting children in a high-tech world

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Fighting a sensual culture is neither easy nor simple. One must be proactive to raise godly children in a sexually impure society.

Parents who invest time developing close relationships with their children work proactively. This deliberate effort requires sacrifice but provides lifelong rewards. When parents are too busy to invest in their children’s lives, kids often fill their time with unsupervised activity that includes unrestrained use of technology.

To minimize dangers and prepare children for resisting sexual temptation in a high-tech world, try some of these options.

    • Spend time with your children, playing, working and, most important, meditating on God’s Word (devotions).
    • Teach your children about God’s design for sexuality.
    • Talk to your kids about the dangers of the Internet and sexual temptation in our society, including the Internet, television, movies, music texts and videos, magazines, cell phones and friends’ influence.
    • Build relationships through conflict. Practice confession and forgiveness in the home, including proclaiming God’s forgiveness when sin is addressed.

Provide accountability:

    • Explain that use of technology in the home is a privilege, not a right.
    • Limit use of all technology.
    • Monitor use of television and movies, music, Internet, personal Web pages and cell phone.
    • Do not allow computers to be located in a bedroom or other private space.
    • Install accountability software that reports access of inappropriate sites to the parent.
    • Install blocking software to limit what is accessed in the home.
    • Model balanced and appropriate use of technology. Children quickly learn by a parent’s example.

Some parents resist setting boundaries for their children’s use of technology. However, even non-Christian employers restrict and monitor the use of technology in the workplace. Should parents do any less for their own children? Furthermore, federal law holds the contracting person responsible (Internet service, wireless service, etc.) for possession, production or transmission of child pornography. When a minor is engaged in sharing nude photos or videos, parents may be legally responsible and charged with a felony. Responsible parents monitor their children’s use of technology.

Seize the opportunity to share God’s grace

When we realize how dangerous our world can be for our children, we can either live in fear or see an opportunity. God promises that with the power of the Gospel we can live lives worthy of our calling. Remember when teaching and or exercising discipline to proclaim God’s forgiveness. Use experiences of dealing with sinful matters as opportunities for applying both God’s Law as well as His Gospel. Monitoring and boundaries will not protect children from all dangers. They need to learn how to apply both Law and Gospel to daily temptation and sin.

No matter how threatening our sinful world can be, Christ came to conquer sin, death and the devil. We need not fear the temptations of our world but rather put our trust in Him who died for us. As the apostle Peter teaches, “He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

> Did you know? Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that, “54% of teens [are] texting daily. Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day, or 1,500 texts a month.”

> Did you know? Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that, “96% of 18-to-29-year-olds own a cell phone of some kind.”

About the Author: Ted Kober is president of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, a non-profit organization whose mission is equipping Lutherans and their churches for living, proclaiming and cultivating lifestyles of reconciliation.


ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

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CPH offers excellent resources for parents, teachers, and children in its Learning about Sex series. They provide a biblical view with a Law/Gospel approach and are available for different age groups and genders, as well as for parents (www.cph.org).

GO TO www.hisaor.org/articles

The Ambassadors of Reconciliation Bible study and DVD Responding to Sexual Temptation in a High Tech Society is designed for all teens and adults. It can be used in small groups, youth groups, Sunday mornings, youth or adult retreats and more (www.hisaor.org).

Free website information (www.hisaor.org) under “Articles.”

Video: Why a Bible Study on Responding to Sexual Temptation in a High Tech Society?

    • “Responding to Sexual Temptation in a High Tech Society,” a three-part article series
    • Sexting: A Dangerous New Temptation … and an Opportunity for Ministry
    • Announcing God’s Grace for confession and forgiveness in the family

February 2011

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