The following comes from a dad who shares a hard conversation with his fourteen year old son.
After I left for work and my wife had taken our children to school, she opened up our family laptop to do the weekly bill paying. As she explained to me, it was going to be a perfect spring day. She had a hot cup of coffee sitting next to her and a day of reading, writing and serving at our church ahead. That’s when she noticed a minimized window on the screen, and, to her horror, when she clicked on minimized screen, a webpage filled with graphic, pornographic videos and images flooded the screen. What was worse, was that there were about ten other tabs of violent, fetish-filled, pornographic videos and user-generated pornographic pages stacked in the window. She was immediately sick and overwhelmed. She grabbed the phone to call me—hurt, angry and stunned. I was in a morning meeting, but when I listened to her message, she was crying so hard, I could barely make out what she was saying.
When I called her, she was (understandably) beyond upset and heartbroken. It had been over five years since I had struggled with pornography, but all of the pain, fear and broken trust flooded every part of her all over again. Only, this time, I hadn’t been the one looking up all of the online filth. Sadly, although we had parental controls and filters on our other three family computers and on all of our phones and gaming devices, this computer was new, and, for some reason, a month had slipped by without us taking action.
We were both sick to realize that one of our sons must have used the computer to access the content. We both wanted to go take both of our sons out of school right away and sit them down and have a firm conversation, but instead, my wife spent the afternoon updating our software and installing parental controls on the vulnerable computer. Then, we spent the evening after our kids were in bed praying and thinking through our approach.
We decided I would sit down with our oldest, fourteen at the time, and ask him for an honest answer. I told my son I wanted to take him to breakfast on Saturday, and so, three days after our discovery, at 8am, I took him, bleary-eyed, to a quiet diner we both enjoyed from time to time. As we started eating breakfast, I broke the silence and told him that his mother and I had come across some upsetting content on the new family computer. I asked him if he knew what I might be talking about, and his face flushed, and he looked down at his short stack.
His first words were surprising: “I’m sorry, dad.”
I can’t tell you how relieved I was to hear those words. I was still heartbroken that he had broken our trust and looked at all of that horrible content, but I was so proud that he didn’t immediately try to lie. I knew he was ashamed, and I could sense that he knew how he had let me down, but we were able to have an honest conversation about what he was going through and what led him to look at porn. I knew that I had let him and my family down by not installing the proper safety measures to help prevent him from accessing the content in his moment of weakness.
My wife and I believe that if we had taken the emotional approach—if we had immediately yelled, shamed and punished, things would have gone far differently for our son. He still faced new some penalties and had additional limits placed on his screen time, but we took the opportunity to do the best we could to encourage our son towards Christ and to exhibit Christ’s forgiveness to him. It’s been a year, and we’ve had some bumps in the road, but through it, our son has come to us and confessed and shared and has allowed us to walk with him as he tries to honor the Lord the best he can.
For more about leading an open and accountable life, be sure to check out XXXchurch.com founder Craig Gross’ new book: “Open”, available here.