Pornography is one of the most dangerous problems in teen culture today! I have been in youth ministry for over 12 years and this is a persistent perennial problem that has continually been an issue for teens. According to PornHub’s latest report, there were 28.5 billion visits to their site last year (2018), or an average of 81 million visits per day. Pornography is an enormous problem. We can’t sweep under the rug. We have to deal with it.
During my entire time in youth ministry, I’ve always known teens who have struggled. I have been in youth ministry long enough to see teens grow up, go to college and get married. One thing research tells us along with my personal experience, you don’t grow out of pornography. If you don’t deal with it as a teen, it follows you to college and follows you into marriage. I’ve seen it time and time again. One startling statistic that makes pornography so dangerous is 27% of teens say porn is very bad and 16% somewhat bad. That means 57% are neutral; they don’t have an opinion or think might think it is good and healthy!
There is no way we can battle against pornography when almost 6 out of 10 teens don’t even think it is a big deal. You can tell a teenager not to drink the poison, but that is not helpful if they think a bottle of cyanide is a glass of water. If teens don’t think pornography is bad, they have no impetus to stop. And this trend is on the rise. In 2017, 36% of Americans thought pornography is morally acceptable compared to 43% in 2018. In just one year, there was a 7% increase in those who thought pornography was ok. This is also up from 30% in 2011.
There has been a steady increase in the level of acceptance of pornography over the past 8 years, and it seems this trend will continue. This is the first problem we have to face with pornography. We must help teenagers realize how morally, physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually harmful pornography is. Until they realize how harmful it is, they will have no reason to try to break the habit.
The implications of this are huge. When we don’t even recognize sin as sin, we can’t win. I remember the first time I played paintball, I was with my cousins. I had never played in my life and they grew up right next to an army base. They gave me a gun pointed to the woods behind their house and told me to wonder out there and we would try to shoot each other. I did not know much about paintball but I knew it hurt so I put on my thick puffy orange jacket and headed out. I wondered in the woods for a few minutes and all of a sudden I was being pelted with paintballs. They first started coming straight ahead of me but then they were coming from the sides and back. My problem was that I couldn’t see anyone. I just saw logs, trees, and bushes.
Apparently, they had put on their Ghillie suits and blended in like snipers into the landscape. It was impossible to shoot them because I could not even see them! I learned two things that day: don’t wear bright orange jackets for paintball, and you can’t hit what you can’t see. There is no possible way we can’t fight against pornography and its affects if teenagers don’t even believe it is wrong. You can’t change anything with that mindset. While all sin in bad, sexual sin holds a special place among sins because it wreaks havoc in people’s lives and leaves long term affects. 1 Corinthians 6:18 says it so well, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.”
While we mourn these stats, unfortunately they make sense given our current cultural climate. Our culture is becoming ever increasingly sexualized. More and more shows are crossing lines and pushing boundaries. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that the number of sex scenes on TV has nearly doubled from 1998 to 2005, 70% of shows contain some sexual content and those shows average 5 sexual scenes an hour.
It is hard to find TV shows that are not provocative. My wife and I really struggle to find clean shows to watch. We watch much less TV than we did 10 years ago and yet we struggle more than ever to find an appropriate show to watch. I am also shocked to find how many Christians will openly admit to watching TV shows that contain full nudity, explicit sex scenes, and depict sexual violence as the norm. Unfortunately, many teens give into the temptation to watch the latest sex-filled show. Teens struggle to find appropriate shows to watch so instead of consuming less TV, they give in and watch the inappropriate sexually explicit shows.
One of the major problems is that their parents are not monitoring what they watch, and are ignorant of the sexually explicit material allowed in shows today. With the availability of parental controls and looking at watch history, there are no reason why parents should not be able to monitor their kids viewing habits. Because of this proliferation of pornographic programs, teens are much more likely to take it a step further and seek out online pornography. Once a teens desires have been aroused and the seed has been planted, our culture continues to water that seed until is sprouts. Then that teen looks for sexual gratification on the internet or in real life.
a Barna study done in 2016 they found that 67% of males and 33% of females use
porn. This tells us some important things. Two out of every 3 men look at porn. This is not as high as some numbers I’ve seen
but it is still alarming. Also, this is
not just a male problem. One out of
every 3 females look at porn. For some
parents this is a wake-up call to realize that your daughters are not immune to
this epidemic. While pornography used to
be a solely male problem, every year the percentage of female users is
climbing. This is a problem affecting
all of our young people. Even if our
teens are not directly involved, pornography has so shaped culture, how teens
interact, and the conversations they are willing to have that it is an issue
for all of us.
 Exploring the Dimensions of Human Sexuality, Jerrold S. Greenberg, Clint E. Bruess, Sara B. Oswalt, 2016, pg 694.