Sunday, April 12, 2015

Things I Learned at an Anti-Pornography Conference

Note: I found this unfinished post from a year ago. I decided to publish it now since this Saturday, April 18, 2015 the next UCAP conference in SLC. My friend Vauna Davis is the director. My friend and author, Kristen Jenson, will be one of the speakers this year. They even have classes in Spanish and some geared for young adults. I highly recommend attending it! I'm attending too. I have a feeling I'll glean helpful things to share in my presentation about social media and internet safety at BYU Women's Conference

The LDS Church asked people in my area to send someone from each bishopric to attend a Utah Coalition Against Pornography  (UCAP) conference. So my husband and I attended together. Here are some things I learned. 

I learned that there are many wonderful people and organizations working hard to protect families and children from pornography. Very heart warming. There are also many who are offering programs to help those who have become addicted. 

I had no idea how bad pornography really is, both the amount and the awfulness of it. 
  • 1 in 5 searches on Google’s mobile search are for pornography. (Source
  • Together, porn sites get 450 million unique visitors per month – more than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined. (Source)
  • The largest porn site on the web gets 4.4 billion page views per month, which is three times the number for CNN or ESPN. (Source)
  • Eleven is the average age of exposure.  
  • 70% of men 18-34 admitted to viewing porn monthly. 

Pornography is a real addiction, and it reshapes the brain - shrinking and atrophying it. We learned this from a brain doctor, Dr. Donald Hilton, who also works as an LDS service missionary with pornography addiction programs. He was the keynote speaker. 

Kids spend seven hours a day connected to a digital device. 

We are beyond prevention and avoidance as our only defense. When is the best time to start talking with your kids about pornography?  The answer is "Sooner than you think." Not nearly enough parents are having open, ongoing dialogue with their children about the dangers of pornography and giving them an action plan if they see a bad picture. Here is a great children's book that makes it easy to open up the conversation with kids. 

For teaching kids about pornography, here is the ultimate goal: When children see sexual media, they will think and act: “This is pornography and it can hurt me. I am going to get away immediately and tell my parent.” 

The steps to help families accomplish this goal: 

  1. I will teach my children what pornography is in age-appropriate ways.
  2. I will help my kids understand what the harmful effects of pornography are.
  3. I will practice with my family what to do if they see pornography.
  4. I will set parental controls on every device and conduct a yearly media audit and upgrade.
  5. I will follow up:
• Check in regularly. Have you seen pornography since the last time we talked?
• Take opportunities to praise kids for good decisions.
• Commit to helping them get back on track when they have seen it.  

Teach your family to evaluate media (movies, music, ads, etc) by asking these three questions: 
  1. How does this present bodies? 
  2. How does this present relationships?
  3. How does this present sexuality? 

Fight the New Drug is an organization that has presented assemblies at almost 200 schools nation wide. 

They are teaching the facts about pornography addiction and get young people excited to say, "I'm a fighter!" High school kids entered the assembly expecting not to be impressed and that they would just hear, "Don't do porn. It's bad."  But the teens left feeling very convinced that porn is harmful, addictive, and ruins relationships and lives. They left wanting to be a fighter, and signing a huge "fighter pledge" banner. 

From all the feedback this organization gets from teens across the country, they've found a big knowledge gap between parents and teens. 

Here are three things teens wish their parents knew about pornography: 

1) Teens wish parents understood the harms of pornography. They want the cold, hard facts. Many teens aren't sure if they agree with their parents' value system yet, so just saying it's wrong or immoral isn't enough for them. What convinces these teens is to understand the why and the consequences: 
  • Porn is addictive. It's like a drug. Over time an addict gets less and less pleasure from the things he used to enjoy, like eating, sports, friends, family, doing well in school. Addictions actually put little "corks" in the places where the pleasure chemicals are supposed to be received in the brain, so the person gets less and less pleasure from things he used to. This also means the person has to use more porn, and more severe porn, in order to get the same thrill he used to get. 
  • Porn kills love. It ruins relationships. It makes the addict see others as objects instead of human beings. A scientist created some cardboard female butterflies, using the same wing patterns as real butterflies, but making the colors more intense. Guess what?  The male butterflies went right to the cardboard fakes and completely ignored the real female butterflies!  This is the same thing with people. When they're addicted to porn, they prefer fantasy to reality.  
  • Porn harms society. Note: Sorry I didn't finish typing my notes here. But you can get the whole talk by Fight the New Drug here.

There are good filters on the market. This awesome talk about filters is here. 

They need to be installed on every device. There are also filters that work on your home wi-fi system. These will only protect your family if they're using their devices on your wi-fi. No filter is 100% perfect. The best ones are content filters, which block certain categories of sites.

Note: Linda Reeves, who attended this conference, gave a powerful General Conference talk saying that the best protection from pornography is a Christ-centered home. Filters and rules are important, but the armor of the Holy Spirit is vital. 

Years ago an anti-pornography expert said to give a child internet in their bedroom was asking for the child to become a porn addict. Now parents are giving them even more privacy and availability with internet hand-held devices. These must be given filters and limits. It's easier to set limits and start checking history of devices when young people first get a device, but it's better to start older than never. 

Here is a great source for keeping up to date on the tech side of things with filters and blocks and such. The director of UCAP said this is the best site she has found about internet safety. 

Here are a few specific ways to use filters. 

For Android phones, Net Nanny installs a safe browser, locks out other browsers, blocks access to settings other than the parent (with a password the parent sets), and gives parental control of apps. 

For computers, turn on Google Safe Search in search engines. Here's how you do it. Go to Google, then preferences, then enable safe search. This is very effective for blocking inappropriate image searches. This must be done on each computer. 

You can turn on Youtube safety mode on every Android phone and every browser on each computer. It's not available on apps. Go to Youtube, then settings, then safety mode. You create a password and then lock it so your kids can't turn off the safety mode. Of course, write down your password!  Some people just block Youtube altogether to avoid the danger. 

Keep in mind, filters and blocks are not 100% reliable, and if someone is addicted they can find a way around them, and to cover the history of websites and apps used. Again, as Linda Reeves said, the best filter is a Christ-centered home with open conversation and the Holy Spirit. 

Go here to see how an LDS Bishop and lawyer answers the question, "How can parents protect their children from pornography?" 


Trace said...

Based on your recommendation a while back (on your blog), I purchased that book and read it with my 8yo son. VERY helpful book! I recommend it now to my friends.

I do have a question - you mention performing a yearly media audit. Can you explain the particulars about this? Or direct me to someplace that will show me how to perform a media audit?

Thanks in advance!

Becky Edwards said...

Hi Trace,

Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you liked the Good Pictures Bad Pictures book and have recommended it to your friends.

About your question. Because I wrote this post so long ago, I regret to say that I don't remember exactly what a yearly media audit means. But I'll give you my best guess. It would be to reevaluate your media plan - your rules, standards, time and content limits, your filters and blocks to see if you need to make any changes.

Trace said...

Thanks Becky! That was my guess too... just wanted to double check! I'm going to schedule this into my planner before I forget.

Love the content on your blog!


Ellisa said...

I love your site! I have been very concerned about the internet availability to children and the lack of filters. I have tried doing the safe mode on google, but I can still go to sites that are inappropriate. I want to protect my kids but don't know how. I teach my kids to have an internal filter but I would prefer them not to see any bad pictures. I need a resource with concrete ideas to help. Thanks!