About 10 years ago I stopped by another attorney’s office to talk to him about a case we were working on together. After we were finished discussing the case, I asked him how his two sons were doing. He responded by telling me that he had recently caught his 18 year old son viewing pornography on the internet. I asked him how he handled the situation and he said he told his son it was “silly” for him to be looking at pornographic pictures and videos on the internet.
I told him I thought his approach was too cavalier and that he needed to be more assertive about the dangers of pornography. He wasn’t interested in hearing my opinion. His attitude was that it was simply a phase his son was going through. I had anticipated that he would not be open to my suggestions. He grew up in the Catholic faith, but had been out of the Church for several years. A year or so prior to our conversation, he had divorced his wife so he could marry another woman.
When I was a teenager (in the 1970’s), my dad happened to stumble upon a magazine I had that contained some inappropriate content. After asking me where it came from (a friend) and whether I had any other similar magazines in the house, he proceeded to give me a firm lecture that referenced the teachings of the Church and the importance of maintaining purity at all times. There was nothing said about how “silly” I was for having the magazine in my possession.
After my dad was done talking, he told me: “Now I want you to go out into the field and burn it.” I was thrown off by his command and replied, “You want me to burn it?” Without hesitation, he responded, “Yes, I want you to burn it, so go get some matches and do it now.”
So there I was 5 minutes later in the field (next to the side of the house) tearing the magazine apart and burning it. It was starting to get dark, so I was concerned my mom or some of the neighbors would see me and wander: “What’s Harry doing? Why is he burning that magazine?” (I had asked my dad not to say anything about the magazine to my mom.) It was an extremely humiliating experience for me.
Now I want you to consider the impact that my dad’s attitude and comments had on me, compared to the impact the lawyer’s attitude and comments may have had on his son. At one extreme, there was my dad who was a devout Catholic who accepted his God-given responsibility to do all he could to raise his sons to become pure and chaste Catholic men. At the other extreme, there was the lawyer who rejected the teachings of the Church, which resulted in harm not only to his soul, but also to the soul of his son.
About four years ago a friend and I were talking to a Catholic couple and the topic of computers and connecting to the internet through a wireless network came up. The woman complained about how her laptop computer somehow became “infected” by a “virus” which caused the internet browser on the computer to continuously open up with pornographic websites. Her conclusion was that her computer must have somehow become infected by her neighbor who most likely utilized her wireless network and infected her computer through the network.
Her theory about how her computer became infected didn’t make any sense to me, so I asked, “Does your (teenage) son have access to your laptop?” She immediately responded, “Yes he uses it all the time, but he would never go to any of those types of websites.” At that point, the friend who was with me chimed in and said, “I wouldn’t be so sure about that if I were you.” She again immediately ruled out the possibility that her son had anything to do with the problem and then changed the subject.
During the conversation, the woman’s husband sat there silently, not saying anything at all. Had she previously told him about the problem? If so, did he point out to her that the problem could very well have been caused by their son? I didn’t expect him to challenge his wife right then and there, but I certainly would have expected him to take the matter into his own hands and get to the bottom of the problem.
When I was in high school in the early 1970’s, the only media available was the print media (newspapers, magazines, books, etc.), three network television stations, and movies that were shown only in theatres. By the late 1970’s, cable television stations started to gain traction. In the 1980’s, as sales volumes increased, the prices of video players became more affordable, so most people were able to buy the players to hook up to their televisions. At the same time, video rental stores started popping up all over the place. Cellular phones were also introduced into the marketplace in the 1980’s.
During that time, computers continued to become smaller, more powerful, and capable of storing large quantities of data. Then, of course, came the invention and widespread use of the internet, digital cameras and video iPods. Now we have smartphones, iPads, and cell phones that can access the internet any time of the day or night.
The first time I ever became aware that there was a magazine by the name of Playboy was in 1966, when I was in fourth grade. I was nine years old at the time. One morning on the playground at the Catholic grade school I attended, word spread quickly that one of the boys had a Playboy magazine. Within minutes there was a large crowd of boys gathered around to get a peak at the magazine. The boy was holding up the magazine showing the “centerfold” picture of a naked woman, referred to in the magazine as the “Playmate of the Month.” Before long, one of the nuns from the school came charging through the crowd of boys and snatched the magazine away from the boy who had it in his hands.
Fast forward to 2010. Now, if a boy wants to show his friends a picture of a naked woman all he needs to do is pull out his cell phone, press a couple of buttons, and the picture appears. He can then email the picture to his friend or send the picture to his friend’s cell phone. If he wants to show his friend a pornographic video, he can do it from his iPod or iPhone. Or he can open up his laptop and he’s only 2 or 3 clicks away from viewing countless images and videos.
In the 1960’s when the sexual revolution was in fool bloom, there was a demand from certain segments of the population for “sexual freedom” and “free love,” which encouraged the throwing-off of all restraints. There can be no real freedom without restraints, so instead of freedom, the sexual revolution ushered in a cultural shift that resulted in a meteoric rise in divorces, abortions, venereal diseases, broken homes, shattered lives, and all manner of perversion.
Every boy who is drawn into the world of pornography is eventually reconditioned to view girls and women as nothing more than sexual toys and playthings. When that happens, it becomes impossible to truly love and respect a woman for who she is. Certain boys (and men) who have addictive tendencies can easily end up being consumed by pornography, which eventually destroys their ability to develop and/or maintain a healthy relationship with a member of the opposite sex.
It is a father’s duty to protect his son from being lured into the traps that have been set to ensnare his soul. But we are not living in the same world our fathers lived in. We are not going to stumble upon some magazine that was carelessly left out in the open.
While we would never keep the doors to our home unlocked at night, there are doors that lead into our homes (through electronic devices) that are always unlocked – doors that are left wide open, where prowlers and predators can enter into our homes and plunder our children.
We must be willing to prepare our sons for the onslaught of prowlers and predators that are attempting to capture and enslave them. It is our responsibility to make it clear to our sons that as long as they are living in our homes, we will exercise parental control over their use of electronic devices. Just as school officials have the right to conduct surprise inspections of our children’s school lockers, parents have the right (and obligation) to conduct surprise inspections of their children’s iPods, cell phones, computers, and any other devices they have access to (which may require, at times, the disclosure of login ID’s and passwords to the devices and online accounts).
We have a moral obligation and responsibility to do everything in our power to keep prowlers and predators out of our homes and away from our sons (and daughters). Are you willing to accept this responsibility? I know it’s a lot to ask, but it must be done in order to protect the hearts, minds and souls of your children.