Avoiding the pornography trap

by Richard Mathews

North Texas Catholic


The Safe Environment program of the Diocese of Fort Worth is, rightfully, focused on protecting children and the vulnerable from sexual abuse. One means is the Protecting God’s Children® program, which increases awareness about adult predators who interact with children online to manipulate, groom, and ultimately victimize them through sexual exploitation or sexual abuse.

We know that sexual predators often attempt to groom children by showing them pornography, thereby desensitizing them.  But this exposure to pornography does not only come from adult predators. Another, much more prevalent source, where a far greater number of children are exposed to “adult” pornography, most of which is “hardcore” — is the internet.

According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center of the University of New Hampshire, the percentage of children ages 10 to 17 who said they had an unwanted exposure to sexual material within the past year rose from 25 percent in 2000 to 34 percent in 2005.

Recent data indicates that 90 percent of young men and 60 percent of young women have been exposed to pornography (much of which involves violence and overtly explicit imagery) by the age of 18. Of those 90 percent, the average age of exposure to pornography was between 8 and 11 years old. According to some sources, 80 percent of this exposure — which isn’t always voluntary — happens in the perceived safety of their homes.

The impact of viewing pornography on children is significant and damaging to child development. It can lead to sexual addiction, unplanned pregnancies, increased risk of being victims or perpetrators of sexual violence, a devaluation towards human life, and objectification of others.


According to ProtectYoungMinds.org, parents often overlook these signs that a child may be viewing pornography:

  1. Spending extensive amounts of time online, especially at night — and particularly “after bedtime.”
  2. Regularly taking a device into the bathroom or other rooms with inherent privacy (e.g., with locked doors).
  3. Quickly changing the screen when you enter the room.
  4. Sudden changes in behavior — particularly the use of vulgar and demeaning language towards the opposite gender or acting out sexually.
  5. Withdrawing from regular social activities — no longer being happy or finding enjoyment or excitement in hobbies, sports, or playing with friends.
  6. Being sad, moody, or depressed.


  1. Don’t be afraid to look over your child’s shoulder to see what he or she is viewing.
  2. Use filters and/or monitors on all electronic devices that children could use to access the internet.
  3. Talk to your children about how pornography harms people of all ages.


BreakTheCycle.org recommends parents have a two-way conversation that does not involve judgment or blame. Acknowledge that the subject is difficult but necessary to discuss and that pornography is not representative of true love and healthy relationships.

In his article, “Pornography’s Effects on Adults and Children,” Victor B. Cline stated people are affected by what they see. The licensed clinical psychologist has observed that most “sexual deviations are learned behaviors, typically through inadvertent or accidental conditioning.”

Awareness, vigilance, and action are necessary; particularly for parents, since most sexual and pornographic addictions begin in middle childhood or adolescence — “most of the time without the parents’ awareness” or due to children having an insufficient understanding of the risks involved.

The Safe Environment program of the Diocese of Fort Worth is, rightfully, focused on protecting children and the vulnerable from sexual abuse.