I hope you will read very carefully what I am about to write now, because it explains why this matter is so significant. Porn and smut pose an awesome threat to your boys. A single exposure to it by some thirteen to fifteen-year-olds is all that is required to create an addiction that will hold them in bondage for a lifetime. It is more addictive than cocaine or heroine. That was one of the conclusions drawn during the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography, on which I served. It is known by those of us in the field of child development that the focal point of sexual interest is not very well established among young adolescents. It can be redirected by an early sexual experience (wanted or unwanted) or by exposure to pornography. A boy who would normally be stimulated by a "cheerleader" image of the opposite sex can learn through obscenity to find excitement in hurting someone, or in sex with animals, or in homosexual violence, or in having sex with younger children. Many men who have succumbed to these perverse sexual appetites have traced them to the dawn of their adolescence.
That is what happened to Ted Bundy, whom I interviewed just seventeen hours before he was executed for killing three girls, one of them little twelve-year-old Kimberly Leach.22 Bundy confessed two days before his death to murdering at least twenty-eight women and girls; authorities say there may have been as many as one hundred. Bundy asked to talk to me because he wanted the world to know how pornography had led to (not caused) his murderous rampage. He was thirteen years of age when he discovered pornographic materials at a dump. Among them were detective magazines that showed scantily clad women who were being assaulted. Bundy found those images extremely exciting, and so began a tragic life that ended in a Florida electric chair.
I'm not suggesting that every adolescent who reads pornographic magazines or watches obscene videos will grow up to kill people. I am saying that a few of them will, and that many more—perhaps the majority—will develop full-blown addictions to smut. It is a huge cultural problem. More than 40 percent of pastors are afflicted by it!How did they get that way? By exposure to graphic materials that set them aflame. This pattern is responsible for untold numbers of divorces and dysfunctional marriages. I know this is true because I hear almost every day from women whose husbands are heavily involved with pornography. Availability of the Internet has increased the incidence of this tragedy immeasurably.
Let's return to the danger of putting personal computers and television sets in the bedrooms of your children. According to a recent survey, children ages two through eighteen spend on average five hours and twenty-nine minutes every day watching television, listening to music, or playing computer and video games. That total increases for children over eight, who spend nearly forty hours a week engaged in some sort of media-related activity. The survey also found that 53 percent of children have televisions in their bedrooms, which includes 32 percent of two- to seven-year-olds and 65 percent of eight- to eighteen-year-olds. Seventy percent of all children have radios in their rooms, and 16 percent have computers.
What an ominous description this report provides of American children in the twenty-first century! The greasy man who knocked on the front door has taken up residence in the bedroom. It is all related, once again, to the frantic pace of living. We are too exhausted and harried to care for those we love most. We hardly know what they are doing at home, much less when we are away. What a shame! Yankelovich Partners Inc. said the image of families gathered around a single TV set in the family room is fading. Instead, many kids are off by themselves, where they can choose anything that they want to see. Ann Clurman, a partner at Yankelovich, said, "Almost everything children are seeing is essentially going into their minds in some sort of uncensored or unfiltered way."
I strongly urge you to get those devices, whether they are television sets, computers, or VCRs, out of the bedroom. Locate them in the family room, where they can be monitored and where the amount of time spent on them is regulated. How can you do less for your children?
It is also our responsibility to watch various forms of entertainment with our boys and girls when they are young. What you see together can present teaching situations that will help them make the right choices for themselves when they are older. A member of our executive team shared a related incident with me that occurred while he was watching television with his thirteen-year-old daughter. In attempting to accommodate her, they selected a drama that was popular with teenagers. The dad was shocked by what he saw and heard, but he tried hard not to turn their time of "togetherness" into a parental lecture. Finally, he could take it no more.
"Honey," he said, "I just can't sit here and let this trash come into our home. This is awful. We're going to have to watch something else."
To his surprise, his daughter said, "I wondered when you would finally turn it off, Dad. That program is terrible."
Our children may resist our efforts to screen out the filth and violence that now permeates their world, but they know it's right to do so. They will respect us for saying, "God gave us this home, and we're not going to insult Him by polluting it with foul programming." However, in order to make this judgment, you have to be watching with your children to know what requires your attention. May I suggest that you then share this Scripture with your family, written 2,600 years ago by King David? "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes" (Psalm 101:3, KJV). Also, read and discuss the following verse from the writings of the apostle Paul: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8 KJV).
If the little box simply can't be subdued, you might try unplugging it, selling it, moving it into the garage, hacking it with an ax, or sticking ashoe in its flickering blue eye. If the personal computer becomes a problem, junk it! Then gather the family around and read a great book together!
Well, dear parents, I know that what I have shared in this chapter has been upsetting. It is no wonder that many of you feel caught in the backwash of a postmodern culture whose only god is self-gratification and whose only value is radical individualism. Nevertheless, you do need to know the truth and what you can do to protect those you love. In the following chapter I will offer what I consider to be the most effective way to deal with a postmodern culture. In the meantime, here are some things to consider:
First, let's give priority to our children. In days gone by, the culture acted to shield them from harmful images and exploitation. Now it's open season for even the youngest among us. Let's put the welfare of our boys ahead of our own convenience and teach them the difference between right and wrong. They need to hear that God is the author of their rights and liberties. Let's teach them that He loves them and holds them to a high level of moral accountability.
Second, let's do everything in our power to reverse the blight of violence and lust that has become so pervasive across this land. Let's demand that the entertainment moguls stop producing moral pollutants. Let's recapture from the courts that system of self-rule that traditionally allowed Americans to debate their deepest differences openly and reach workable solutions together. Radical individualism is destroying us! Postmodernism is a cancer that rots the soul of humanity. The creed that proclaims, "If it feels good, do it!" has filled too many hospitals with drug-overdosed teenagers, too many prison cells with fatherless youth, too many caskets with slain young people, and caused too many tears for bewildered parents.
Finally, let's vow together today to set for our children the highest standards of ethics and morality and to protect them, as much as possible, from evil and death. Our families can't be perfect, but they can be better—much better.Book: Bringing Up Boys
By Dr. James Dobson