To dads from me.

Dads, I am reaching out to you here directly. I need your help. We as dads need to step up big time to protect our young children from exposure to online pornography. We can do this, I swear. In my work I speak with a lot of people, male and female, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas and lots of young people. Moms will simply talk about this and seem to really just want the "ABC's" of how to open up this dialog with their young people. Dads, for the most part are silent, or do not show up to events, or act nervously around this topic. I have rarely met a child in my family coaching sessions, or at a school I have visited, or in one of the lectures I provide who was not cool to talk about online porn and its effects. That was very surprising to me when I began this journey.

I understand it now. Watching this content may seem or sound like a lot of fun when they first start watching it, or talking to their friends about it, or having a friend's older brother show it to them at a sleepover. However, the pornography that our young people see today is not the Playboy magazines 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 places them in a “fast-forward” through what should be a fun and exciting time, (ripe with its own challenges to be sure) but now comes with an ocean of explicit adult videos available at the click of any button to act as 'guidance'. This content can cause depression, aggression, loneliness, and in large doses can contribute to dating violence and even assault. 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 self-navigate this sensitive time in their young lives and brain development with such a strong and ever present outside influence “showing” them how to behave in this area of their life is near impossible for a young child. It’s even worse when no one is talking to them about it, and maybe even worse yet that their protector, defender, guardian (dad) is silent on the topic. From my experience young people are definitely down to talk about it; it’s us, me, you, all the dads that are pulling back. 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 with a boy especially, it should be the dad; or father-figure or male guardian. I have found 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.

The solution to online pornography exposure to our young children? The solution is for parents, all parents, together, to agree that starting right “NOW!” it is socially acceptable (even encouraged) to speak with our young people about online pornography in order to protect them from exposure and harm. ‘Ready? 1…2…3!'

Parents tell me all the time how scary it is to talk about this topic with their kids, and that fear is the reason that they don’t. But as grown-ups (especially dads) we have a responsibility to protect our children at all costs; and 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 of claws versus teeth. We would rush to throw ourselves in between the lion and our children no matter what the cost. “I’m not really good at fighting lions,” or “I don’t have any experience with that” would seem cold consolation as you stood beside your child in a hospital bed without a scratch on you. We would never send our children hiking out into the Mojave Desert to study the flora and fauna, take pictures or write in a journal or something, and then just forget to mention rattlesnakes, heat stroke and dehydration. The internet is a wild place, a wilderness full of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and kids will find it alone, or together in a youth group, girls scout troop, or middle school class. Dads have to let them know that there are things out there not to look at; and that online porn, and their young minds, do not match.

So, I am reaching out to the dads here directly. I know the true secret sauce of changing porn culture for our youngest people is the dads. Dad’s need to speak with their children about online pornography and make sure their kids are aware, that dad is aware, that pornography is out there and it’s not ok for impressionable young minds. Dads need to become guardians in this area, sentinels, and dads need to take the lead role in protecting their kids from this exposure and harm. The first male who ever gave me a donation did so because their son had been in years of therapy at 14 for a habitual porn habit he could not break. It had cost the family $28,000 and counting, and that is not to mention the emotional harm to the child which is paramount. Protecting your kids from this content is like protecting them from any physical injury, only this hurt is below the surface and can be very hard to see; but don't fool yourself dads, the hurt is there. I'm fond of saying that if children would just turn green by watching online pornography the CDC would put helicopters in the air. Until then dads, you are the very best ones to speak with your own kids. You can protect them by simply talking about it. A huge challenge for the parents trying to change porn culture by discussing this content openly with their young children is the flat denial by other parents that their own children watch porn, even though the statistics are screaming another reality. That has to stop right now, and dads, we are the best ones to change that mentality.

The talk can be hard to start. That is why we created the Parent's Guide.    Parent's Guide

If you returned home from a long hard day at work, kicked off your shoes, grabbed a beer from the fridge, sat on the couch to watch the game and drink that beer, you’re an adult, you are over the legal age and no one can tell you differently. If, however, your 10-year-old came home from school and claimed to have a had a long hard day, kicked off his or her shoes, opened the fridge, took out a beer and came and sat next to you on the couch; you would definitely have something to say (or at least you should). Does that make you a hypocrite regarding beer? No! You are being the grown-up, setting the rules and looking out for your child's health.

I know we can do this dads; we have to. But, if you cannot have the conversation with your kids, pretty please make an anonymous $5.00 donation so that we here at The Third Talk can 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.

Thank you.