Protect Yourself and Those You Love

THE Internet can be a useful tool. But, like most tools, it can be abused. And cyberporn—pornography on-line—is an example of such abuse.

Knowing how powerful an image can be, parents should do everything they can to make objectionable Internet sites inaccessible to children. The booklet Teen Safety on the Information Highway provides helpful information on the subject. It states: “There are now services that rate web sites for content as well as filtering programs and browsers that empower parents to block the types of sites they consider to be inappropriate. These programs work in different ways. Some block sites known to contain objectionable material. Some prevent users from entering certain types of information such as their name and address. Other programs keep your kids away from chat rooms or restrict their ability to send or read E-mail. Generally these programs can be configured by the parent to block only the types of sites that the parent considers to be objectionable.”—See also the box “Protecting Children From Pornography.”

It must be acknowledged, however, that parents can go only so far in filtering out undesirable sites that their children might see. They cannot watch their children every minute. And a child or youth who has no exposure to pornography at home may be able to gain almost unlimited access to it on a computer at school or at a schoolmate’s home. So, in addition to doing what they can to block their children’s access to pornography, parents must help them develop a sensitive conscience that will move them to turn away from pornography without prompting.

It would be a mistake to conclude that adults are better equipped than children to view pornography. As we have seen in the previous article, pornography is not good for anyone!

Suppose, though, that you have been viewing pornography for some time. You realize that what you are doing does not please God, and you want to break the habit. Can it be done? Yes, it can. People break bad habits every day. If you really want to break free from pornography, you can do so.

If You Want to Break Free

The first step is to stop looking at pornography—immediately! The longer you wait, the harder it will be to stop. Quitting may be easier said than done, however. The Bible realistically points out that sin can  be temporarily enjoyable. (Hebrews 11:25) But sin can also lead to death. (Romans 6:23) At first, you might find yourself making all kinds of excuses to look at pornography one more time. Don’t listen to yourself! And don’t give in to the temptation to keep looking!

As was mentioned earlier in this series, looking at pornography can seriously affect your quality of life. Take an honest look at the way the habit is affecting your relationship with your family and friends. Are you a husband and father? Chances are that your wife and children have noticed certain changes in your behavior. Since you have begun viewing pornography, you may have become more moody, sullen, secretive, or withdrawn—perhaps without even knowing it. You may sometimes lash out at family members for no reason. If you are looking at pornographic material, your behavior is probably telling on you. Friends and family members have noticed that something is wrong. They just don’t know what it is—yet!

If you find yourself repeatedly drawn to pornography, don’t try to fight it on your own. Get help. Take an experienced friend into your confidence. True, it will take courage for you to admit that you have a problem with pornography, but a mature friend will probably admire you for taking the initiative to put a stop to it.

A strong desire to please God is certainly the most powerful reason to fight pornography. When we hold to a virtuous course, we make God’s heart rejoice. (Proverbs 27:11) When we pursue a wrong one, we make him feel “hurt at his heart.” (Genesis 6:6) If you are a Christian, no doubt you are concerned about God’s feelings. You should also be concerned about the way you use your mind and heart, which are dedicated to God and should be kept clean for his service. (Ezekiel 44:23) The Bible urges Christians to cleanse themselves of “every defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in God’s fear.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) Yes, a wholesome fear of displeasing God, who sees all things, can motivate you to break free from pornography.

Suppose, though, that while struggling to break free, you accidentally open a Web site that features pornography. Leave the site immediately! If necessary, shut down the Internet browser! If you find yourself tempted to return, turn to God in earnest prayer, begging him for help to resist temptation. “In everything,” the Bible says, “let your petitions be made known to God.” If you find yourself tormented by improper thoughts, pray until you  get relief. Then ‘the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your heart and your mental powers.’ (Philippians 4:6, 7) Of course, you will need to replace unwholesome thoughts with those that are ‘true, of serious concern, righteous, chaste, lovable, and well spoken of.’—Philippians 4:8.

You may find it helpful to commit to memory and meditate on Bible texts such as the following.

“O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.”—Psalm 97:10.

“I pummel my body and lead it as a slave, that, after I have preached to others, I myself should not become disapproved somehow.”—1 Corinthians 9:27.

“Deaden, therefore, your body members that are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite.”—Colossians 3:5.

“Each one of you should know how to get possession of his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in covetous sexual appetite.”—1 Thessalonians 4:4, 5.

“Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”—Matthew 5:28.

 “Husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.”—Ephesians 5:28.

There are many reasons for avoiding pornography. It can seriously affect your quality of life, warp your judgment, damage your relationships with others and, most important, ruin your relationship with God. If you haven’t got into the habit of viewing pornography, don’t start. If you have, stop immediately! Whether featured in a book or a magazine or on-line, pornography is not for Christians. Avoid it at all costs!

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Protecting Children From Pornography

The following suggestions may help you to protect your children from the dangers of pornography on the Internet.

● Do not allow your child to access the Internet from his bedroom. Locate any connected computers in a room that is easily accessible to all family members.

● Get to know the computer services your child uses.

● Check whether your child has created his own Web site without your knowledge. To do this, try looking for his name on search engines that scour the entire Internet. Enter his full name in quotes to avoid false hits.

● Do not allow your child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user who is unknown to you.—See the box “More Than Idle Chatter.”

● Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or threatening.

● Warn your children about accessing inappropriate materials on the Internet. Teach them to act as their own censor when you are not around. Remember that computers at school or in the home of a friend may not be childproofed against pornography.

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Material based, in part, on Child Safety on the Information Highway and an article in the Los Angeles Times, July 5, 1999.

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More Than Idle Chatter

Extreme caution must be exercised when using a computer chat room. A chat room is a medium that allows Internet users to communicate with one another. Of course, many people communicate with close friends via E-mail. Some who live far from family members are able to maintain regular contact in this way. But there is a difference between sending E-mail to someone you know and visiting with someone you don’t. Would you consider dialing a telephone number at random and then befriending whoever answered the phone? Of course not! Then why develop a relationship on-line with a perfect stranger?

One problem with communicating with a stranger is that he may not be who he appears to be. For example, he may be a pedophile hoping to take advantage of an unsuspecting child or young person.

Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in cases involving the Internet, explained how easy this can be. She observed: “Children normally enter chat rooms. Paedophiles take note of this, they follow conversations and track children who are lonely. One child may send messages like ‘My parents are getting divorced . . . I hate my mother, she never buys me the computer game I want.’ . . . The paedophile comes in and says ‘My parents are getting divorced . . . I hate my mother . . . I can never get the game I want, until Uncle Timmy got it for me. . . . All you gotta do is go to the mall and meet Uncle Timmy.’” “Uncle Timmy” is really the pedophile on the prowl.

Consequently, parents should maintain a warm, affectionate relationship with their children. Keep the lines of communication open so that the young ones will not feel the need to look in the wrong places for emotional support.

Adults who are lonely or who are unhappily married should not turn to computer chat rooms for emotional support. There is danger in turning to strangers. Some adults have left their mates for someone they “met” on-line. *

[Footnote]

^ par. 38 For additional information on computer chat rooms, please see the article “Young People Ask . . . How Can I Avoid Dangers on the Internet?” in the January 22, 2000, issue of Awake!

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Prayer can help one resist temptation