“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
- Frederick Douglass
Dads, I am reaching out to you directly. I need your help. We, as dads, need to step up big time to protect our children from exposure to online pornography. We can do this.
I speak with many people; men and women, moms and dads, grandmas, and grandpas, and lots of young people. Moms will talk about this and want the "ABCs" to open this dialogue with their young people. I have rarely met a child at a school I have spoken at or in a lecture I gave who was not cool to talk openly about online porn and its potential effects on them. The kids I speak with do NOT just sit there staring at the floor, waiting for it to be over. They want to talk about this. That was very surprising to me when I began this journey. For the most part, dads are silent, do not show up to events, or act nervously around this topic. That has to change.
The sexual media that our young people see today is not the Playboy magazine we stole from our dads when we were growing up. This pornography is dangerous to their developing minds, hurts their physical brains, disrupts the mechanisms necessary to develop relationship skills, and takes all the wonder and fun out of exploring this part of their personalities gradually. It rushes them through what should be a fun and exciting time, ripe with challenges. However, there is an ocean of explicit adult videos available at the click of a button now to act as "guidance." In short, it can suck to be a young person developing your own sexuality and growing up in the age of online porn.
Trying to navigate this sensitive time in their young lives with such a solid and ever-present outside influence "showing" them how to behave sexually is nearly impossible for a child. It's even worse when no one is talking to them about it, and maybe worse yet that their dad, their protector, defender, and guardian, is silent on the topic. From my experience, young people are down to talk about it; it's us, me, you, all the dads that pull back.
If, as an adult, you returned home from a hard day at work, kicked off your shoes, grabbed a beer from the fridge, and sat on the couch to watch the game, no one could tell you not to. You're an adult, and you are over the legal age. If, however, your 12-year-old came home from school and claimed to have had a hard day, kicked off their shoes, opened the fridge, took out a beer, and sat next to you on the couch, you would have something to say about it (or at least you should). Does that make you a hypocrite regarding beer? No! You are the grown-up, setting the rules and looking out for your child's health.
Maybe kids talk to me because I'm a stranger? Could be. In my experience, kids want to have this topic addressed, and there is no better person to do that than their parent(s). And for a boy, this should be the dad, father figure, or male guardian. My experience is that young people are scared of this content and fake it with their peers because "everyone else is doing it." Alone, they want no part, and they are OK, having a grown-up say "no way" on this topic. That may seem counterintuitive, dads, but I have found young people genuinely want your guidance here.
Parents constantly tell me how scary it is to talk about this topic with their kids, and that fear is why they don't. Grown-ups (especially dads) have a responsibility to protect their children at all costs. We owe them that obligation no matter how difficult or frightening it may be to offer it. If a lion charged our family, we would not stop, wait, or weigh the potential outcomes between teeth and claws. We would throw ourselves in between the lion and our children no matter what the cost. "I'm not good at fighting lions" or "I don't have any experience with that" would seem cold comfort as you stood beside your child in a hospital bed without a scratch on you. We would never send our children hiking in the Mojave Desert to study flora and fauna and forget to mention rattlesnakes, heatstroke, and dehydration. The internet is a wild place, a wilderness full of good and bad, and our kids will find it alone or together in a youth group, girls scout troop, or middle school class. Dads have to let their kids know that online porn and their young minds are not a good match.
So, I am reaching out to the dads here directly. I know that the authentic secret sauce of changing porn culture for our youngest people is the dads. Dads need to speak with their children about online pornography and state that it's not OK for impressionable young minds. However, it is out there and will be forever. Dads need to become guardians in this area by taking the lead role in protecting their kids from exposure and harm.
The first male person who donated to our effort did so because his son, at age 14, had been in years of therapy for his chronic porn habit he could not break. It had cost the family $28,000 and counting, not to mention the emotional harm to the child, which is paramount. Protecting your kids from this content is like guarding them against any physical injury. The only difference is that this hurt is below the surface and can be very hard to see, but don't fool yourself, dads; the damage is there. I'm fond of saying that if children turned green by watching online pornography, the CDC would put helicopters in the air. But until then, dads, you are in the best place to speak with your kids. And, you can protect them by simply talking about it. A challenge for parents trying to change the porn culture for their own family is the denial by other parents that their own children watch this content. That has to stop right now because the statistics are showing a very different reality! Dads are the best people to change that mentality. The talk can be hard to start. That is why we created the Parent's Guide.
The solution is for all parents to agree that it is socially acceptable to speak with young people about sexually explicit media to protect them from exposure and harm on the count of three. 'Ready? 1…2…3!' I know we can do this, dads, we have to. But, if you cannot have the conversation with your kids, would you please make an anonymous $5 donation? Your gift will allow The Third Talk™ to make this message resonate loudly so that many people can hear it, maybe even your little ones. I am asking you to be brave here, dads. I am asking you for your help.
"Let not any one person pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion." John Stuart Mill, 1867
DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services)
Sexual health is a state of well-being in relation to sexuality across the life span that involves physical, emotional, mental, social, and spiritual dimensions. Sexual health is an intrinsic element of human health and is based on a positive, equitable, and respectful approach to sexuality, relationships, and reproduction, that is free of coercion, fear, discrimination, stigma, shame, and violence. It includes: the ability to understand the benefits, risks, and responsibilities of sexual behavior; the prevention and care of disease and other adverse outcomes; and the possibility of fulfilling sexual relationships. Sexual health is impacted by socioeconomic and cultural context—including policies, practices, and services—that support healthy outcomes for individuals, families, and their communities.(https://www.cdc.gov/maso/facm/pdfs/CHACHSPT/20120508_CHAC.pdf)
WHO (World Health Organization)
The correlation between education level and sexual health outcomes has been well documented. One of the most effective ways to improve sexual health in the long-term is a commitment to ensuring that adolescents and young people are sufficiently educated to make healthy decisions about their sexual lives. Accurate, evidencebased, appropriate sexual health information and counselling should be available to all young people, and should be free of discrimination, gender bias and stigma. Such education can be provided via schools, workplaces, health providers and community and religious leaders.(http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/70501/WHO_RHR_HRP_10.22_eng.pdf;jsessionid=3D3A9ADA3ABE88329816097E58CB990E?sequence=1)
CDC (Center for Disease Control)
Though the evidence for SV is still developing and more research is needed, the problem of SV is too large and costly and has too many urgent consequences to wait for perfect answers. There is a compelling need for prevention now and to learn from the efforts that are undertaken. Commitment, cooperation, and leadership from numerous sectors, including public health, education, justice, health care, social services, business/labor, and government can bring about the successful implementation of this package.(https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/SV-Prevention-Technical-Package.pdf)
AASECT (American Association of Sex Educators Counselors Therapists)
Early notions for many of the kids today come through exposure to pornography, which includes dangerous ideas about using women for sexual satisfaction without regard for the needs of the woman. If the kids are to have a knowledge of healthy sexuality," he continues, "these early notions must be eliminated and replaced by ideas of appropriate touch and the joys of such touch, which is healthy sexuality."(https://www.aasect.org/how-we-interpret-and-integrate-principlessexual-health-our-work)