Story and Photos By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald Commentary
Matt Fradd, 35, a native of Australia, has a simple proposition: Since the world has changed, parents need to recognize that and take action.
One of the world’s foremost Catholic experts on the scourge of pornography, Fradd was 12 years old when his life spiraled out of control. He spent a lot of time at the rural home of his best friend, whose mom would supply them with hard liquor and allow them to watch pornographic videos.
“So, my entire teenage years were spent in porn,” Fradd told parents during a recent 90-minute conversation about the scourge of pornography. “This was most weekends for me. My parents didn’t know about it, and I was OK with that.”
Reflecting on his exodus away from pornography, Fradd said the abuse he suffered was “a terrible thing that should never have happened.” He eventually worked up enough courage to confront his friend’s mother later in life.
“I told her, ‘I love you, and I want to forgive you, but I can’t do that until you ask me to forgive you,’” Fradd recalled. “She just said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’”
The woman eventually had a deep conversion, Fradd said, but so much damage had already been done.
The world of 30 and 40 years ago, when pornography had to be sought out at a newsstand or a corner convenience store, has become a frightening place where sexually exploitative images are ubiquitous, Fradd said.
“The point is, the environment in which we raise our children ought to influence how we raise them,” Fradd said. “The dangerous part is the way the internet is moving. Whatever benefits it has clearly given us, there are also the dangers of the big city, which has come into our communities and into our homes and, indeed, into our children’s back pockets.”
That reality leaves parents with two options, Fradd said.
“We either recognize this is different or we bury our heads in the sand,” Fradd said. “Obviously, the second option is easier in the short term, but it’s not a good idea. We need to parent differently.”
The objections Fradd hears most from parents about taking action against the sexualized environment fueled by the internet is that their son or daughter is “a good kid” worthy of the parents’ “trust.”
“I tell them, ‘The problem isn’t that you trust your kid; it’s that you’ve placed far too much trust in the internet, which has a vested interest in getting your kids hooked at an early age.’ The point of these conversations is to give our children an internal filter for an unfiltered world.”
Fradd is the author of “The Porn Myth: Exposing the Reality Behind the Fantasy of Pornography.” He offers five steps responsible parents can take immediately to protect themselves and their children.
“These are not multiple-choice answers,” Fradd said. “It’s not, choose one or two, and this will be good. If you don’t do any one of these, your children will be in significant danger.”
No. 1: Educate yourselves. “We need to educate ourselves about the destructive nature of pornography,” he said. That means understanding how the world has changed from the images of produced by Playboy magazine 40 or 50 years ago to the violent images of today, available with one click.
Fradd said there are 41 vetted studies about pornography that “support the addiction model. These are some of the top neuroscientists, sociologists and psychologists, who say porn is having serious, detrimental effects on people.”
No. 2: Talk to your kids. Talking frankly about the problem in an age-appropriate way, even if your child is as young as 6 years old, is vital.
“You might say, ‘My goodness, why on earth would I ever talk to a 6-year-old about this? There’s no need to introduce concepts that they aren’t prepared to handle. This will steal their innocence,’” Fradd said.
While he sympathizes with those parental objections, Fradd makes a parallel between parents talking to their children about pornography and parents telling their children “not to take candy from a stranger.”
“About candy, we would say, ‘Because he could be a bad man who would take you away from us,’” Fradd said. “But you don’t get into the ins and outs of abduction and human trafficking. You say what’s necessary. So you could say something like, ‘Pornography is when people show off parts of their body that should be covered by a bathing suit. And if you ever see that, if somebody ever shows you that, you should always tell Mommy and Daddy, and we would be so proud of you.’ No one ought to be scandalized by that.”
No. 3: Block the bad stuff. That goes hand-in-hand with giving children smart phones, Fradd said. He will not consider giving his children a phone until they are at least 16. “If I’m not willing to monitor it, I will not provide it,” Fradd said.
Fradd mentioned the great protection provided by internet filters, such as one from Covenant Eyes, which can send parents notifications if their children have tried to access a pornographic site and can place limits on the time children can access certain apps.
No. 4: Your children are only as safe as the environments they hang out in. “Your house might be great, but if you’re sending your kids to the house of family or friends, you need know what they are doing to protect kids,” Fradd said.
That can lead to some “awkward conversations” with other parents, Fradd admitted, “but I would rather have awkward conversations than be the reason my son is exposed to graphic pornography.”
No. 5: Remain hopeful. “Even though this can be a little depressing, we should have tremendous hope,” Fradd said. “It’s a scary time to be a parent, for sure, but it’s not a Hallmark, fake or fluffy thing to say that the Divine Physician can heal the wounds we receive. Some of our children are going to receive wounds, but we’re still about grace. Jesus tells us, ‘Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.’ As our culture becomes increasingly secularized and even anti-Christian, we’re going to have to stand out like weirdos.”
Fradd has launched “STRIVE: A 21-Day Detox from Porn” (www.strive21.com) for men. He also recommends to parents www.protectyoungminds.org. The Archdiocese of New Orleans also has a website filled with resources for those struggling with or those living with someone struggling with pornography (www.cleanheart.online/nola). Call the Office of Marriage and Family Life (861-6243) for more information.
Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.