Not long ago while speaking during Spiritual Emphasis Week at a school, a student informed me that her mother was upset with her. When I asked why, she explained that her mom thought she was “too sexual”. When I asked if her mother was correct, she answered, “No”. I then asked why her mother thought she was too sexual. “Well”, she proceeded, “I only do oral. I’m not having sex.” I challenged her by saying, “It’s called oral sex.”
There are a few things that I would like to point out. This fourteen-year-old is from a good Christian home. She began participating in oral sex when she was thirteen. She attends a fantastic Christian school and does not come from an impoverished neighborhood. Increasingly, her story is considered “normal”.
This is not the only situation like this that I’ve encountered. The misconception that most people have is that kids who are sexually active come from “the bad side of town”. We must change our thinking if we are going to stem the rapidly rising sexual tide among our churched youth.
I’ve stopped calling them “Christian youth”.
There is a disturbing book and documentary I feel every parent should be aware of. Sharlene Azam, author of Oral Sex Is the New Goodnight Kiss, points out that people are shocked when they learn that eleven and twelve year old girls are having oral sex. They are not just having oral sex, but they are doing it in school bathrooms. In a television interview, Azam says, “Oral sex has become an acceptable behavior for young girls because they believe it doesn’t have any consequences…” 1 The false message about oral sex is that there is no pregnancy, no danger of losing virginity, and no lingering emotional baggage.
What is fueling all of this oral sex? The pornography industry.2
School computer systems are well filtered for unscrupulous content. The home is a very different matter. In an article on educationworld.com entitled Filtering Software: The Educators Speak Out, Linda Star writes, “Our school uses the Cybersitter Internet filter, and we have been quite pleased with it. I have to remember, though, that while a filter protects my students at school, probably more than 90 percent of them don’t have filters at home. So I have to teach them the ‘brain tools’ and not just the filter tool.” 3
While I agree that parents and teachers should teach young people to use the “brain tools”, this is clearly not enough. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans reveal that teenagers most often process information with the emotional portion of their brain (known as the amygdala). It is only after they transition into adulthood that they are more likely to process information with the more rational prefrontal lobe.4 What this means is that teenagers’ brains are, more often than not, wired to follow what is emotionally appealing. Not everything that is emotionally appealing is beneficial. That’s why parents must be involved with their children on a daily basis and be willing to say things like, “No.” and “Because I said so.” Teenagers need help using their “brain tools”.
All of this points sharply at smartphones. For years we have been correctly telling parents to move the family computer to a central location in the home where all internet activity can be seen and heard by all. This provides a measure of mutual accountability. We must now think of our smartphones as computers and apply the same wisdom by considering not allowing smartphones in private areas of our homes—or perhaps not even allowing children to have smartphones in the first place. As already mentioned, very few home computers have filtering software and in all of my global travels for the purpose of speaking about technology to thousands each year, I have only found approximately seven people who have filtering software on their smartphones.
There is a general divide between the way adults and young people view their phones. It has been my observation that adults over the age of about 45 view the phone as just that, a phone. Those under the age of 45, and especially teenagers and young adults, view their phone not as a phone, but as a 24/7 connection to their friends. Young people send and receive far more text messages and Facebook messages than they do phone calls. It is the internet portion of the phone that allows one to use such social networking sites as Facebook. If you’ve watched the behavior of young people lately, one thing has become glaringly clear—they are addicted to their phones (and therefore each other).
Because smartphones are rarely, if ever, filtered and because they are connected to the internet, it should come as no surprise that the viewing device of choice for porn among young people is the smartphone. I can find no statistical difference in the amount of immoral behavior of churched and non-churched young people. In general, Christian schools have a much better atmosphere than public schools but immoral activities, both online and offline, after school are very similar when comparing churched and non-churched teenagers.
Porn usage is alarming among youth. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft once put the estimate of teens that have been exposed to pornography at nine in ten.5 The largest demographic that view porn on the internet are those between the ages of 12 and 17.6 A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that 8-18 year-olds spend an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes in a day using entertainment media. The study also showed that because youth tend to use more than one media at a time, the “media multitasking” actually yields a whopping total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media consumption in the 7 hours and 38 minutes.7
If you think that those between the ages of 8 and 18 are consuming 7 hours and 38 minutes of Christian entertainment media, think again. I believe the average churched teenager knows far more about Lady Ga Ga than he or she knows about Jesus. Let’s let the inerrant Word of God guide us in our media consumption:
James 4:4b …don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
So, at what age should a young person be allowed to have a smartphone? Only a parent can really know the answer to that question. Every child matures and develops are different rates. My recommendation is that until a young person leaves your home, they should only be allowed to have a regular cell phone—one that only makes phone calls (yes, you can still purchase them). I realize I’m swimming upstream and very few parents will take my advice. Just remember this: God did not call you to be your child’s friend. He called you to be his or her parent. And that’s more important than ever in a world in which smartphones are anything but a good role model.
Brad Huddleston is on the Virginia Christian Alliance Board of Advisors. Brad has degrees in Computer Science and Bible. He is an author, speaker, and Evangelist. He and his wife Beth travel the globe ministering in conferences, churches, schools, and retreats. Brad often appears on radio and television. His book and DVDs can be ordered at www.bradhuddleston.com and www.darksideoftechnology.com, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2012. Brad Huddleston Ministries. All rights reserved.·
1. http://www.thenewgoodnightkiss.com/videos.html (first video listed)
4. Barry Corbin, “Unleashing the Potential of the Teenage Brain: Ten Powerful Ideas.” Victoria, Australia. Hawker Bownlow, 2008, Page 22
5. Rob Jackson. Focus on the Family.2004. “Advice for Parents of Teen Porn Addicts.” http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/sexuality/when_children_use_pornography/advice_or_parents_of_teenage_porn_addicts.aspx. July 2010
6. The Pink Cross Foundation. http://www.thepinkcross.org/porn_stat_page. July 2010
7. Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens Up Dramatically from Five Years Ago. http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia012010nr.cfm. January 20, 2010.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com