By Christine Bordelon, Clarion Herald
Parents can no longer keep their head in the sand about the real and present dangers of pornography and its effects on their children, an expert told parents at a Jan. 23 meeting at Archbishop Chapelle High School.
Matt Fradd, a native of Australia who now lives in Georgia, has studied the impact of pornography for the last 11 years. He made parents and educators aware of the dangers of pornography, how easily it can be found on the internet and gave steps to shield children from it.
“The environment in which we influence our children ought to influence how we raise them,” Fradd said. But the advent of internet, he said, has allowed “big-city” problems such as pornography to creep into every community and into “our kids’ back pockets.”
Landscape has changed
Fradd said pornography is no longer just pictures of nude women in a magazine; it is easily accessible as violent and graphic videos.
Fradd, a father of four, said parents make the mistake of having only one isolated talk about sex and/or pornography with their child; ignoring the problem, and defending their parenthood by saying “my kids are good”; and placing misguided trust in their kids and their use of the internet.
He said parents serious about helping their children survive in today’s culture must:
1. Educate themselves “about the destructive nature of pornography. Because if we’re not convinced porn is bad, then we won’t be incentivized to protect our kids from it.” Parents don’t know how bad porn is today, he said, citing a study that revealed more than 50 percent of porn is violent and involved verbal or physical abuse. “That should disturb us,” he said.
2. Realize today’s advancement of neuro-science provides a better understanding of addiction. People think only drugs or substances are addictive. Over 30 peer-reviewed studies of the brain showed how it changes with prolonged viewing of pornography. When the brain craves constant rushes of dopamine, it can result in an escalation of the behavior that causes it. “It’s as if we reset the pleasure thermostat in our brain … and create a new normal,” he said.
Fradd suggested perusing the internet site www.yourbrainonporn.com.
Watching pornography can cause the brain to be fried, he said, allowing a person to watch it longer and crave more violent, deviant porn. “That is super problematic” and results in adverse effects such as porn-induced sexual dysfunction in men and women. It can destroy human relationships.
Tips for parents
Fradd said parents must first overcome their reluctance to discuss uncomfortable topics with their children, such as pornography, and begin age-appropriate talks as early as age 6, since children are using computers regularly by this age. Pornography cannot just be addressed when parents catch their child watching porn. Parents should build on natural and ongoing conversations about sexuality.
When his 7-year-old asked what pornography was, Fradd answered that there are good pictures that make us want to do good things, and pornography is bad pictures that make us want to do something bad.
“It hurts your brain and your heart,” he said. “Pornography is pictures or videos of people that are showing parts of their bodies that their bathing suits should cover. And, if you ever see it, to always tell mommy and daddy, and we would be very proud of you.”
He recommended “The Story of Me” as a good first book to talk about sex.
Fradd said Catholic parents can emphasize that the body is good, but it is not a toy. It is sacred and should be revered, suggesting a eucharistic analogy: Why do we preserve the Eucharist in a golden tabernacle?
If a child is discovered viewing porn, Fradd suggests apologizing to them for allowing that to happen as opposed to screaming at them for doing something wrong. Realize that you probably gave them an iPhone or let them use the internet unsupervised. Say something like, “Mom and Dad are going to make some changes in this house to better protect you. … The human body is good. Sex is good. Pornography kills the heart.”
Use scientific facts
In talking about porn to older kids, he suggested explaining the damage to the brain when viewing pornography and let youth know that appropriate professional help is available. Start the conversation with scientific facts, since teens often believe science over religion.
“There are things worse than awkward conversations” with your child, Fradd said. “Kids are so afraid to talk to their parents because of their parents will think differently of them.”
Make sure “blocking pornography software” is placed on all cell phones and computers. He sees unprotected technology “as a loaded weapon around the house” and will not allow his children to visit homes without internet safeguards.
Fradd suggested getting the software from Covenant Eyes because it provides weekly reports of internet sites viewed by your child and the length of time on a site.
Fradd told them that what happens online isn’t less real than what happens offline. Children and adults don’t always see the internet as something real or something that can harm. He pointed to how sexting has caused havoc in lives.
Finally, he said we need to trust in the Lord. Christians throughout the ages have had to deal with sexual perversity.
“There is no wound the divine physician can’t heal,” Fradd said, including pornography, “and what a beautiful thing healing is. … I see the way the Lord uses our wounds for good things.”
He suggested resources for porn-proofing children: the books “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” geared to young children, available on Amazon; his Ignatius Press book “The Porn Myth”; “Love People, Use Things” and “Protecting Innocence.” Websites to view: protectyoungminds.org; integrityrestored.com (of which Fradd is content development director); bloomforwomen.com; and fightthenewdrug.org.
Help is available
“There’s a lot to despair over, but I feel like there are resources to help us help our children and heal our children,” he said.
Earlier that day, Fradd spent time with Archbishop Chapelle students, giving the talk “The Love that Satisfies,” discussing the meaning of true love, not what current culture says it is.
“He brought it from a humorous, yet profound perspective, and the girls connected to his message because of how real he was,” principal Leila Benoit said.
“He was real about the serious topics (sex and porn) in high school life,” Chapelle junior Molly Snakenberg said. “It wasn’t the basic stuff people tell you. It was a more realistic view.”
Archbishop Chapelle and Archbishop Rummel high schools co-sponsored the talk. It coincides with the current fight against pornography “that darkens the lives of many,” initiated by Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
Archbishop Aymond has declared the first Sunday in Lent (Feb. 17-18) as “Safe Haven Sunday,” when all parishes in the archdiocese will distribute material from Covenant Eyes to educate parishioners about pornography and how to protect family members.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.