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Churches Should Avoid ‘Purity Conversations’ When Warning Kids about Porn, Consultant Advises

An expert who works to equip churches and organizations in the fight against pornography advised church leaders Saturday to avoid preaching about purity when addressing porn addiction among teens in their congregations. 

Rob Stoddard, a church consultant for the pornography screen accountability company Covenant Eyes, spoke with church leaders on day two of the “Porn, Shame & the Christian Teen” summit hosted by Axis and Covenant Eyes that began last week and ran through Tuesday. 

“The majority of children and teens have already been exposed to pornography or are addicted to pornography,” Stoddard, former church lay leader and missionary to Asia, said. 

Talking with teens about not viewing porn when they have potentially already been exposed to it could be harmful, he added. 

Taking a purity-based narrative with youth, he said, assumes they have not been exposed to pornography, and this can potentially lead kids to hide their pornography addictions. 

 “When we have that purity conversation, we really are just pushing those children who have struggled or are struggling with [porn addictions] further away or probably deeper and deeper into secrecy because they will possibly feel like they are unworthy or they have already blown it and that they can’t now measure up to that level of purity,” Stoddard detailed.

“Having those conversations that are real … talking about that exposure, that’s certainly where transparency and honesty can go a long way. … It’s a good thing to tell [youth] we understand that struggle, and we’ve been through that struggle because probably a lot of us went through it as teenagers.”

Although most statistics state the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is around 11 years old, research from the security technology company Bitdefender has reported children under the age of 10 account for 22% of online porn consumption under 18.

Stoddard advised that it might be helpful for church leaders to start the conversation about exposure to pornography, but they should also allow teens and children to talk and share their experiences with peers. 

“Accountability and peer-to-peer conversations can lead to them opening up so much more,” he said. “This allows for them to get in the habit of being transparent and open and honest with an accountability partner.”  

For many churches, preaching about pornography addictions in the pulpit typically only involves pastors addressing the issue as if it’s only a “male issue,” Stoddard added. However, he said isolation and loneliness because of porn has multiplied for women. 

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