Tuesday, May 5, 2015

"O Be Wise: Using Social Media" The talk I gave last week in Provo

Note: I gave this presentation in Provo, Utah on April 30, 2015. It is about using media for good, not letting it take time from important things, and internet safety for families.(I'm adding more detail than I had time to present that day.) The views and opinions expressed in this talk are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BYU, Women's Conference, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

Click here for a printable copy of this presentation. 

May I invite you to say a silent prayer that the Holy Ghost will teach each of us how to act on what we learn here, and I hope you'll write that down. 

Today let’s embellish a familiar children’s story as an allegory. It’s a little cheesy but it makes a point. 

Once upon a time there were three families of little pigs. 

They were each trying to raise their family in a media saturated world. Sound familiar -- are we living in a media saturated world? All three families had heard of the big bad wolf, which we will say represents dangerous media like pornography. The big bad wolf always seemed hungry and he never stopped hunting for more little pigs. 

The first little pig family quickly built a house of straw which did not afford much protection against the wolf. This family loved entertainment and lots of it, so each pig owned several electronic devices, with no limits on time or content. These pig parents wanted to be cool and didn’t want to limit their children’s freedom or fun. 

The second little pig family built a house of sticks. They wanted protection from the big bad wolf so they built a fence that we will say represents technology filters. That helped, but fences are never 100% fool proof.

The third little pig family did some research about how bad the big bad wolf really was, and they became convinced they needed several layers of protection for their pig family. 

  • So they built a fence of technology filters. 
  • They built a house out of bricks, which represents a strong home and family who openly communicates about the dangers of the big bad wolf, complete with a plan of prevention and intervention. 
  • They also built a third layer of protection inside the home, which was a fire always burning in the fireplace, representing the fire of testimony and the Spirit. 
Sure these extra layers of protection took more time and effort, but this wise little pig family stayed safe from the big bad wolf. (Pig story concept from Jill Manning, From the Inside Out audio CD.)

I used to be a little afraid of electronic media because, well, just look at this picture. The big, bad wolf is scary, and dangerous, and very real!  

But just like a hammer is a tool that can be used to build or destroy, so is the media a tool that can build or destroy. What happens when you aren’t careful with a hammer and miss hitting the nail on the head? Ouch! So we must be careful and deliberate in how we use the media.  

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that all media is bad.  

On the contrary, some media is so filled with light and goodness that it helps build that fire we need inside us every day. I cannot say enough about the infinite power of using media for good. I use good media a lot on my phone, listening to scriptures, Conference talks or devotionals, and Mormon Channel's has a huge variety of uplifting music and programs. I also blog and use Facebook to share goodness with social media, and gain support from others with similar interests like preparedness, homeschooling, or missionary moms. The power to share light and goodness through media is infinite. Here is what Elder Bednar said about this in his Education Week BYU Devotional in August 2014.

My daughter posts a weekly Happy Sunday quote with an explanation of what that quote means to her.  Some of my seminary students have re-posted a quote or video from a Church social media channel like Facebook or Instagram. These are quick, easy ways to spread light and goodness using the powerful tool of social media. 

Here is a personal example. 

A couple months ago I was pondering why some of my prayers seemed so shallow and some seemed to really connect with heaven, even filling me with tears from feeling the Spirit and writing down personal revelation I was receiving. So I decided to journal about my prayers. Journaling helped me identify the keys that made the difference for me, so I decided to post that journaling on my blog, calling it, "12 Tips for power praying rather than check-off-the-list praying." Then I shared the post on Facebook, including some groups I belong to. Some people liked it, commented, and re-shared it. In just a few days that post became the most viewed one on my blog at over 17,000 views. That’s not why I wrote it. But it’s a wonderful feeling when God can inspire you to share something that inspired you, in hopes that it can inspire others too. 

I’m going to leave it up to my friend, Michelle Torsak, to give us great ideas of ways to share goodness using social media. The thing that I felt the Spirit tell me to focus on is the big bad wolf kinds of media, why we need to understand it, and how to protect our families from it.   


Elder Joseph B. Worthlin said, “Satan has made … media among his most effective tools to destroy minds and souls” (Ensign, Nov. 1988). We know that’s true about the big bad wolf kind of dangerous media like pornography, right? What I think we don’t all know or don’t want to look at is that there are several little bad wolves that can grow into big bad wolves. 

Just look at how cute and fluffy and cuddly baby wolves look.  

Aren't they darling? I'm not even a pet person and these are so cute I want to snuggle them. These come in packages that are so enticing, and they’re often wrapped with a bow under the Christmas tree. 

But here’s the rub. Often parents allow, encourage, and pay for the little bad wolves to come right into the home. 

One person said, “I was allowed … [and] actually encouraged [to have worldly heroes] by my parents. They would allow me to spend countless hours watching super hero television programs and movies and then buy me their action figures to play with. Later, I had posters of rock stars and movie stars all over [my bedroom] walls, most of which they bought for me. In high school, they would also allow me to go to their concerts and buy their products. It seems strange to me now but I think they were shocked when I began to act like the heroes they allowed me to be exposed to” (Anonymous person quoted by Randal A. Wright, in Power Parenting in the LDS Home: Avoid the 25 Common Mistakes).

So let’s look at four of these little bad wolves that look so cute, cuddly and enticing, but can grow into big bad wolves, sometimes as quickly as with one click.  

The first little bad wolf is when we overuse electronic media. 

Smart phones and electronic devices are addicting. 

There are even rehab centers for them. A new phobia, called nomophobia (no more phone) is fear of being without one’s phone, and it ranks up there with fear of going to the dentist. One study said that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day, or every 6 ½ minutes (See Hugh Everett, “Study: People Check Their Cell Phones Every Six Minutes, 150 Times a Day,” Elite Daily, 11 February 2013). In a recent study, female college freshmen used their phones for 12 hours a day (See Rick Nauert PhD, Social Media, Facebook & Twitter Use May Harm Grades of College Freshman). When my 13-year-old son heard that he said, "Hash tag, do your homework!" 

Getting too hooked onto a device can lead a person to use it at inappropriate times and places. 

Like while driving, during school or church class, during the Lord’s holy sacrament which we heard about at General Conference more than once, during dates, family dinner, or scripture time.

Getting hooked on using media too much can lead to bad media. 

The more time a person spends on a device, especially without multiple layers of protection, the more likely they are to run into the big bad wolf, whether by accident or on purpose, because the big bad wolf never stops hunting.

Overusing mobile devices distracts us from things that matter most. 

Including scriptures and prayer, family and friends, chores and homework, sleep and exercise. And “the companionship we have with our smartphones is competing with the companionship of the Holy Ghost” (Ryan Holmes, “The Truth of All Things,” BYU Devotional, May 7, 2013).

Electronic devices can kill productivity. 

“It’s estimated that the average American spends nearly one quarter of their work day browsing social media for non-work related activities.”  For a company of 1,000 employees who spend only one hour a day “cyberloafing” that could be a loss of $35 million a year (See John Boitnott, “Social Media Addiction: The Productivity Killer”).

Ryan Holmes, director at BYU Broadcasting, explained his S-curve theory of the most productive learning or working.  There is some start-up time required to get acclimated. After a while you get into the “zone,” and the longer you can stay in the zone, the more productive you are. But if every 90 seconds you get jolted out of your focus with a notification from your phone, it jolts you out of the zone and you’re chronically in the lower productivity phase (See "The Truth of All Things," BYU Devotional, May 7, 2013).

And finally, D&C 60:13 “Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.” 

I can't think of things that make young people, and older people, idle away time more than overuse of media.  Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “We need to limit the amount of time our children (and I would say ourselves) [spend on media] each day. Virtual reality must not become their reality” (Ensign, November 2003).

The second little bad wolf is using milder forms of inappropriate media. 

This kind of media is everywhere. 

It’s at the grocery store checkout line. It’s in catalogs, television shows and movies, and songs on the radio. It pops up on ads on the internet and apps. It's in magazines and books. It’s how some people dress at school or at the mall. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture. We cannot avoid this 100%, but we should avoid it the very best we can to avoid it. If that means we rarely watch mainstream television or movies or listen to the radio, that is okay. 

In Article of Faith 13, a keyword is "if". 

“IF there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” So IF a movie or show or game doesn’t fit the Lord’s standard, then we either keep looking for another one, or we find something else to do. Over the years I’ve upgraded my own media standard at different times. When my husband was gone to Iraq and I had five young children, including nursing twins, it was the most overwhelming, sleep deprived time I've ever experienced. My only "me time" that I seemed to squeeze in was putting the kids down to bed and getting a video and some chocolate. I noticed a pattern that every time I rented a PG-13 chick flick, I would lose the Spirit. And I needed the Spirit! I needed help from above.  Once I realized that I changed my tune, because I really needed the Spirit then, and I still do now! Every one of us needs the Spirit every day, and we cannot afford to lose the Spirit because of inappropriate media choices. 

Milder forms of inappropriate media are often where a young boy becomes excited and goes looking for more. Girls often start with sexualized romance novels and then go seeking for visual pornography. 

How do we know what God's standard of media is? You can find this in several places like these: 

  • Article of Faith 13
  • Moroni chapter 7 and other scriptures 
  • Talks and quotes from Church leaders
  • For the Strength of Youth. 
My favorite place is For the Strength of Youth, because the line Heavenly Father draws is so clear. 

Let’s take a look at God's standard of media. 

There are five types of media the Lord says NO to. He says not to use any media that is vulgar, immoral, violent, or pornographic in any way. Or media that makes bad look normal, funny, exciting, or with no consequences.  

Now let’s look at the media God says YES to. Media that is uplifting, helps you keep the Spirit, have good thoughts, and make righteous choices. 

Now think of a typical evening sitcom or murder show, or the latest movie everyone is raving about, or a popular song on the radio. Give it the test. Does it meet God’s standard of media? 

  • Is it free from vulgarity, immorality, violence, and any type of pornography? 
  • Does it help you feel the Spirit and feel uplifted, make good choices and have good thoughts? 
  • Is it pro-marriage, family and children? Julie Beck taught that if something is anti-family, guess what else it is? Anti-Christ (See Julie Beck, “Teaching the Doctrine of the Family,” Ensign, March 2011). And that's everywhere, isn't it? Even subtly in family-type shows, where family is seen as a burden and not a blessing.
  • Does it teach us to respect our parents, teachers and law enforcement? 
  • Does it teach us to be kind and honest and be like Jesus, or does it teach the exact opposite? 

I would say most of the time it's the exact opposite. It takes work to find good, wholesome media. Think of how much time we spend sending our family to church and seminary, having scripture study and family home evening to teach them to be like Jesus? Then when our children turn on the TV, device, or video games, are they spending time reinforcing that teaching, or are they learning the exact opposite, to be like the world, to be like Satan wants them to be?  Media is a powerful teacher. That is true from doctrine and also from lots of solid research. 

Your child may think he or she is the only one on the planet not using a certain movie, show, book, or game. This is challenging as peer pressure can be intense. It's also a great opportunity to teach President Monson's maxim, "dare to stand alone," even if you're the only one in the ward who follows God's standard (See Ensign, Nov. 2011). George Albert Smith said, "That a thing is popular is frequently justification for the Latter-day Saints to avoid it" (Conference Report, April 1933). 

When my children have been patient through a fad like this, pretty soon the fanfare dies down about that movie or book and it's not that big of a deal any more. My son who begged for violent video games when he was younger has since thanked us many times for saying no as he was preparing for his mission, realizing the heartache it saved him. 

What if it has only one bad scene? 

One returned missionary expressed the effects of that. "I never should have attended those movies with one bad scene. Time after time, as I sat in homes giving the missionary discussions, I would have to turn the time over to my companion, because I was having flashbacks of those bad scenes that I thought I had forgotten" (Anonymous person quoted by Randal Wright, Power Parenting in the LDS Home: Avoid the 25 Most Common Mistakes, p 111). 

It's nice to have a filtering DVD player (like Clearplay) but remember, that doesn't filter out everything like a dark theme or the immorality of a couple living together before they are married, so use these with caution. 

What about cartoons? 

One study showed children’s programming had more violence per hour than prime time shows, with Cartoon Network having the most (Kristen Fyfe, “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing, A Content Analysis of Children’s Programming,” March 2, 2006, on www.parentstv.org). Violent cartoons are not realistic. A heavy piano is dropped on a character, which flattens the character and makes kids laugh.  Then the character bounces back up to his original size.  This teaches kids that real consequences don’t happen from their violent actions. 

One mother said about cartoons, “My ten-year-old boy went into a slump at school. He daydreamed. He didn’t do his work. His grades dropped so markedly he was failing. At the suggestion of an observant teacher, television cartoon watching was stopped. Within a few weeks Richard was back to his usual excellent study habits. He was reading, doing his work, and was a different boy.... Television cartoons teach violence and confusion, and waste valuable time” (“Screening Out the Garbage: How to Teach ‘Correct Principles’ about Television in the Home,” Glen C. Griffin & Victor B. Cline, Ensign, August 1976).

Becoming desensitized. 

Randal Wright, author and media researcher, had a movie recommended to him so many times by good LDS people that he thought it must be good. One teen had watched it five times at the full-price theater. She was sure there were no sex scenes, nudity, drug use, and only one four-letter swear word. After watching the movie with notebook in hand, Randal found that the movie had 101 incidents of profanity and crude language, including the Lord's name 29 times. It also had a graphic immoral scene, and seven incidents of crude sexual talk, and three of vulgar hand signs. The girl wasn't trying to lie; she was simply desensitized. She had exposed herself to these things so many times that she didn't notice them any more. Being desensitized can happen from big and little bad wolves, and we should avoid both types (See Power Parenting in the LDS Home: Avoid the 25 Most Common Mistakes, p 105-106). 

Little and big bad wolf kinds of media both affect how we see ourselves and others. 

Often young women struggle with low self esteem, obsessing about body image, and even having eating disorders. It's no wonder when they're comparing themselves with models who have starved themselves, had surgeries, and are airbrushed. They're not even real people. One male college student took a challenge to fast from television (this was before the internet) and after a semester he noticed the girls in his ward started to look pretty to him. 

The third little bad wolf is violent shows and video games. 

Pacman is a game I remember playing when I was young. But the picture on the right is the type of game many kids play today. 

Do violent video games and shows meet the Lord’s standard of media? They do not. 

Refer to For the Strength of Youth above. And the Lord said, “Thou shalt not … commit adultery, nor kill, nor do anything like unto it” (D&C 59:6). Can we keep covenants we make every Sabbath to always remember Him while we are murdering or committing adultery in our hearts, minds, and hands? 

Solid research shows that violent video games: 

Brad Bushman is a world-renowned expert in the effects of violent video games who pulled together every study done on them (381 studies!) and analyzed the results. This is very reliable research which shows that violent video games: 

Violent video games are a gateway to pornography addiction. 

I was shocked at some things I learned about this recently. Both push away the Spirit. Both are addicting and escalating, which means users need more, more often, and more intense to get the same thrill as before. Sorry if these facts are shocking, but it’s important to understand how evil the wolf is so we know how to protect our families. 

  • Many video games are “hypersexualized. Pornography is often embedded in these games, allowing kids to engage in virtual or simulated sex acts to accumulate ... points” (Online Gaming Dangers at Internet Safety 101). 
  • Games like Grand Theft Auto include using prostitutes, stealing cars, and killing policemen and prostitutes (See Brad Bushman PhD, Is Violent Media 'Just Entertainment?' BYU Lecture, Feb. 13, 2014).
  • Violent internet games and even games like Minecraft are hunting grounds for predators, who create trust by trading game tips as if they’re a 13-year-old friend, and then asking the child to send inappropriate pictures or meet up at the park. This is real and it's happening all over (See Online Video Games: Top 10 Tips to Keep Kids Safe).
  • My neighbor realized her son who was playing a Disney game for young children, was being shown an inappropriate drawing from a stranger who was playing the game with him. 
  • Young men are sending themselves home from the MTC or the mission field because of addictions to violent video games. They are hurting marriages, keeping people from education and career progress. A friend of mine on a recent home inspection was told to knock on a certain door in the basement. In there he saw a man in his late twenties, in his underwear sitting in a messy room playing violent video games. These addictions stifle people from moving forward and living real life. 
Here is one example of video game addiction ruining a life. 

“‘Shawn was consumed,’ his mother said, ‘It came to the point we could not get him out of the game [Everquest].  He moved to his own apartment, devoted his life to the online fantasy world of wizards, warriors, and elves. After a while he stopped leaving the apartment. He quit work, he even stopped buying groceries.’ His mother finally moved him into a group home for people with addictions. Finally... Shawn moved into his own apartment, bought a used computer, and his life once again spiraled out of control.  He chained the door shut. For two weeks he didn’t answer his phone. He cut himself from reality. On Thanksgiving 2001, his mother cut the chain on her son’s door. She found him dead from a...gunshot. He was lying in front of the computer.  Everquest was still on the screen.’ [There are] 430,000 subscribers to this game” (San Francisco Chronicle, quoted by John Bytheway, “Turn off the TV and Get a Life," audio CD, 2003).

Elder Kevin W. Pearson said, “To all missionaries past and present … you simply cannot return from your mission, do a swan dive back into Babylon, and spend endless hours scoring meaningless points on pointless video games without falling into a deep spiritual sleep. … If you lose the Spirit, you are lost” (Ensign, May, 2015). 

In this longitudinal study, kids whose favorite TV shows were violent ones as tweens ages 8-11 were interviewed about 15 years later. Men were about twice as likely to push, grab, or shove a spouse. Women were four times more likely to punch, beat, or choke another person. Does the media we consume affect us? Absolutely it does. It's a very, very powerful teacher. 

What if the game has killing robots or animals rather than people? That still creates an appetite for and a desensitization to killing, and with the escalating nature of addiction, youth will want more intense violence to get the same thrill. 

The fourth little bad wolf is giving a young person a smart phone or other hand-held device, especially without multiple layers of protection.

BYU Professor Charles Knutson, an expert in internet safety, said, “Teens shouldn’t have high power computing devices” (See "I Love Technology… Except When I Hate It," Talk at Utah Coalition Against Pornography conference, April 18, 2015).  Knowing that the gas part of the brain turns on during puberty, and the brakes part doesn’t fully develop until early 20’s it is very risky to give a young person an internet device, and it opens up risks that weren’t there before, like these on the slide. Rather than reading the list of risks, I’ll invite you to watch a very educational video on Youtube: “Officer Gomez Internet Safety Class.”  It’s a little shocking, and I’d recommend you watch it and decide how to teach those precautions to your kids before they ever get a phone. 

Sister Linda Reeves said, “Parents, are we aware that mobile devices with Internet capacity, not computers, are the biggest culprit? (Ensign, May, 2014. See Clay Olsen, “What Teens Wish Parents Knew,” address given at Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference, Mar. 22, 2014; utahcoalition.org).   

One LDS mom asked a Facebook group, “Should I get my 12-year-old son a smart phone?” 

I’ll read one response. “No! No! No! My friend just found that her son had an app that looked and acted like a calculator but once you punched a certain code, it opened to a porn portal. She had no idea! She had all of the safety measures, didn’t let him take his phone to his room, had a great nanny app, checked his phone all the time. Technology changes faster than we can keep up!” 

Another parent responded: "There is...no way I would hand my kid some kindling, fire starter, a match and say, 'Don't light the match near this.'"  

Do I believe a person should never buy a smart phone? No. 

My husband and I have them and use them a lot. But I believe it’s a good idea to postpone it as long as possible.I recommend praying about the readiness of each child, perhaps waiting until they are 18 and pay for it themselves. Until those brakes are developed, it's so risky. It's risky anyway. And I would recommend teaching them layers of protection when your youth is ready they get one. Of course this is a personal decision between you and your husband and the Lord, but please pray about it. 

If your young people already have internet devices, don’t despair. 

I understand I'm in the minority to have teens that don't have smart phones, rather to have a shared family basic phone. You can prayerfully choose if they are ready for them, and if you decide they are, just commit to building much more protection than they would need without the devices. It’s like going hiking where all you need is some decent shoes, compared with rock climbing up a steep cliff, where you need some serious training, specialized gear, and the support of a belayer. You just need more safety precautions because the sport is more risky. And that's how it is once your child has a device. 


Let’s look at those three layers of protection against big and little bad wolves, like the wise little pig family built.  Let’s start from the inside out, which is the order of importance and effectiveness. 

First and most important is building a fire of testimony and the Spirit inside the heart of each family member. We’ll call this an internal filter. 

Here’s what Sister Linda Reeves said about this layer: “Filters are useful tools, but the greatest filter in the world, the only one that will ultimately work, is the personal internal filter that comes from a deep and abiding testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love and our Savior’s atoning sacrifice for each one of us. … The only things that really need to be accomplished in the home are daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening” (Ensign, May, 2014). 

Are you prioritizing time each day for these holy habits that carry great power, both as a family, and as individuals? 

Are these habits helping each family member develop their own connection and conversion to Christ, and accessing His atoning power? Is the Spirit prompting you to make any changes like getting up ten minutes earlier to have a quality prayer before starting your day? Are you teaching your children what Julie Beck said is the most important skill we can acquire in this life, “the ability to qualify for, receive and act on personal revelation”?  (Ensign, May, 2015).

Our family adds studying a little bit of modern revelation each day to help build that fire, as part of our family scripture study. 

Around every January we read, discuss, and mark one standard a day in For the Strength of Youth. It's amazing how much more each child gets out of each standard from having grown one year older and being in different life situations. 

Currently we're reading a couple pages a day from Randal Wright’s Power Parenting in the LDS Home, Avoiding the 25 Common Mistakes.  Randal has been a media researcher as well as an LDS institute director, and gives lots of quotes and entertaining stories about other topics as well like dating, spending family time together, and peer pressure. Other books we have studied a little each day include 21 Principles, parts of General Conference talks, How?, and Mormons: An Open Book. This tradition of adding something small to our daily scripture blessing has been a big blessing to our family. 

The second layer of protection is to build a strong home and family with a clear media plan. We’ll call this a family filter. 

Start by teaching God’s standard of media from sources like For the Strength of Youth. 

President Packer said “Understanding true doctrine changes attitudes and behavior. ...That is why we stress so forcefully the study of the doctrines of the gospel” (Ensign, Nov. 1986).  So it’s important to teach God’s doctrine of media. When children ask "why," the deepest, most foundational "why" is because it is God's will. We also can show them lots of facts and research about why they want the results of choosing good media rather than bad media. Answering the "why" really helps kids to choose in. 

Early, ongoing conversations about dangers of the little and big bad wolves is so important, including how to avoid them, and what to do when they see them. 

How young should you start these conversations? Experts say, “Earlier than you think” (See Clay Olsen, "Preparing & Protecting Young People: Prevention Q&A," Utah Coaltion Against Pornography Conference, April 18, 2015). It's because kids are being exposed to little and big bad wolves at younger and younger ages. 

“Young people who get answers from parents at early ages are usually the ones who avoid sexual experimentation” (Brad Wilcox, “Arm Your Kids for the Battle,” BYU Magazine, Spring 2015). If parents don't teach them how to respond when they see bad pictures, they don't know what to do with the combination of excitement and shame, so they often go back for more. But if parents teach a plan ahead of time and practice it, they are empowered and more able to reject it. 

Some of my favorite resources for this are: 

This children’s book by Kristen Jensen, called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Porn-proofing Today’s Young Kids. And Kristen’s blog, Porn Proof Kids is full of great articles, tips, and research to help you protect your children. This site is clean and appropriate for kids. 

Update about LDS.org resources: Just two days after I gave this presentation, my stake president shared the importance of these types of protections, mentioned the book above, and showed us some great resources like family home evening lessons on LDS.org that can help you talk with your kids about prevention and intervention from inappropriate media. 

For teens or young adults another site is Fight the New Drug, which was highlighted in this month's BYU magazine (“Arm Your Kids for the Battle,” BYU Magazine, Spring 2015).  Clay Olsen and his team are making it “cool” to fight pornography. They do assemblies in high schools and junior highs all over the country. Even teens who used to think porn is no big deal, once they learn that it is a $97 billion industry that shrinks and damages the brain, causes addiction like drugs do, hurts relationships and real love, and harms society with sex trafficking, abuse and predators, they become sold. Once they get the facts, they think "That's not fair, let's do something about this!" They jump up on the stage to sign the big banner, joining the movement of being a porn fighter, and proudly wear a t-shirt saying, “Fight the new drug!” Isn't that cool? 

There is a video on their site that makes me cry to think of how much good Clay is doing to save this generation. This site is a little more raw, as he works to wake up and convince teens across the country that pornography harms in multiple ways, so I would recommend you check things out first before deciding how to teach your kids. 

And create a written family media plan. 

This is vital. The best time to do this is after you teach God’s standard of media, and the dangers of the little and big bad wolves. Then have a family meeting, working together to create a media plan to protect your family from all bad wolves, as well as  using media for good. I recommend doing some research and brainstorming a list of rules and standards that you bring to the meeting, but don’t share yours until your kids brainstorm their ideas first. Then work together to come up with a concrete plan. It may take several sessions to settle on it, but once it’s done, have everyone sign it like a contract. And upgrade this media plan as often as needed, maybe every six months after General Conference. 

Here are some suggestions for a family media plan: 

  • Who owns the device – child or parent? Experts recommended that parents own it. 
  • Where are computers and mobile devices allowed and not allowed? Public rooms of home when parents are home?
  • When are they allowed? When are they off? Time limitations? Turned in at bedtime? Experts recommend charging phones by parents’ bedside. Elder Ballard says use airplane mode at church (which turns off internet but you can still use LDS apps). 
  • What must be done before screen time – prayers and scriptures, chores, homework? Do kids need to earn screen time by reading first? 
  • Standards of media: Does it meet God’s standard in For the Strength of Youth? How will we de-junk our movies, games, etc. that don’t meet God’s standard? 
  • Rules for various things. What consequences do kids earn if they disobey the rules? Post the rules where everyone can see. 

The third layer of protection is to install filters and controls on all your electronic devices. We’ll call this an electronic filter. 

Technology filters include: 

  • Parental controls
  • Passwords 
  • Filter all internet devices (at computer, phones, router, and even Internet-service provider levels) including parents’ devices, because kids can get into porn on those, accidentally or on purpose. 
  • Safe search modes 
  • Two of our family’s free favorite tips: 
    • AdBlock Plus 
    • And using the space bar to search in the URL. For example, “Amazon.com [space bar] Camelbak water bottles”. That avoids immodest and violent ads on the home page and takes us directly to the page of water bottles. These both work with Google Chrome, so you can check and see if they work with your Internet browser. 

Now, what if you find out a family member has been looking at pornography? 

First, DO NOT freak out or shame them. Show extra love and concern. 

  • You’ll need to upgrade all three levels of protection: internal filter of testimony, family filter of strong relationships, conversations and a media plan; and technology filters.  
  • Call in more support from prayer, fasting, temple, priesthood leaders, an addiction recovery group, and maybe professional therapy. 
  • Above all, teach him or her the doctrine and how to use the Savior’s Atonement, which is the only power that can truly help your loved one to heal. 
  • The Church has great resources to help someone overcome pornography. 


If you think multiple layers of protection might be a bit overprotective, remember we are at war for the souls of God’s sons and daughters. Because Satan is constantly upgrading his battle plan and hastening his work like never before, and using the Internet and mobile devices in his war, we need to continually upgrade our battle plan of protection against the enemy. 

One person who understands the vital importance of building multiple layers of protection is Captain Moroni in Alma, chapters 49 and 50. 

Do you think he was overprotective? No, because he knew how evil and dangerous the enemy really was. And it was worth any price to protect his people. Look at all the layers of protection Captain Moroni built.

1. They dug deep ditches 
2. Put tall ridges of dirt around each city
3. Built tall timbers on the ridges 
4. Put a frame of pickets on top of timbers
5. And tall towers overlooking the pickets
6. Put security places with guards watching borders 
7. The people wore shields, breastplates, and head-plates
8. They drove the enemy back into their own land 
9. They fortified the line between them and the enemy 
10. They kept the commandments  
11. And they did not stop making preparations of protection

“Thus the Nephites had all power over their enemies …in a manner which never had been known among the children of Lehi. … They were prepared … after the manner of instructions of Moroni” (Alma 49:23, 8). The enemy was “astonished exceedingly, because of the wisdom of the Nephites in preparing their places of security” (Alma 49:5).

It saved the Nephites’ lives because they were wise enough to follow their leader Moroni’s counsel of protecting themselves.  And it will save our lives spiritually if we “o be wise” and follow the counsel of our Church leaders about protecting our families from evil media, and also filling our lives with the beautiful light and truth available through these miraculous devices. Because the enemy is always hunting, always hunting. 

I invite you to prayerfully study Alma 48-50, marking the verses that describe the enemy and the layers of protection Moroni built. You will learn some powerful principles you can apply in your own family. 

I pray we all feel the Spirit testify of the importance of protecting our families with multiple layers of protection: 

  • An internal filter meaning fire of testimony and the Spirit 
  • A family filter of a strong family with conversations and a clear media plan
  • A technology filter on your electronics

I invite you to take two minutes to write down what you feel the Spirit saying is your take-home message about being wise with media. What does God want you to do differently?  

May we commit to follow Captain Moroni’s example and do whatever it takes to protect our families from evil media, and fill our lives with the power of good media. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen. 

Click here for a printable copy of this presentation. 

Want to learn more? 

  • Here are quotes from Church leaders about media. 
  • Here is a post about an LDS bishop and lawyer answering the question, "How can I protect my family from pornography?" 
  • Here is a presentation from Clay Olsen called, "What Teens Wish their Parents Knew When Addressing Pornography," from Utah Coalition Against Pornography 2014.

Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts!


Keith Allred said...

Excellent article. I Thank you.

Tamara said...

Thank you so much for sharing such wonderful material all in one place! It is evident you do much more than research this topic, you live it. Your testimony shines in your words!

Cammi said...

This is empowering! Thank you for blessing us with it! I'm already preparing for our next FHE. :)

Vauna Davis said...

Such great ideas! So glad you are sharing this info, it is a major issue for families today.

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