One night I was in the kitchen making small talk with one of my sons when he was in junior high. For some reason I looked him in the eye and asked, “Have you recently been looking at anything that you should not be looking at recently—pornography or anything like that at school?”

He looked up at me with a stunned look that said, How do parents know these things?

“Well, as a matter of fact,” he said, “guess what happened at school today? I got my sack lunch out and was sitting at the back of the room. The rest of the guys were up front by the teacher’s desk, and they had a pornographic magazine out and were flipping through it and reading it. One of them yelled at me and said, ‘Hey, come on up and look at this!’”

At that point I moved closer to my son and said, “Well, what did you do?”

“I put my sandwich in my sack, said no thanks, and walked out the door.”

It was time for a pep rally, a standing ovation. “Way to go!” I said. “Do you realize what you did? You were courageous in the midst of peer pressure.” I slapped him on the back and gave him a big hug and kiss. It was like he had scored a touchdown at a major championship game.

Questions like the one I asked are a great way to test your child’s convictions on pornography. I fear that some parents are afraid to ask because they are afraid of what they will find out. Stay involved by asking.

Following are a few other ways to test convictions.

Play the “Decide in Advance” game.

Create the following role-play situations to teach your child how to respond in the following types of situations.

  • Your son finds a pornographic magazine in the trash at a neighbor’s house.
  • Your daughter’s friends are all reading a popular novel that would be rated R if it were a movie. They are all pressuring her to read it.
  • A friend of your son takes him to a hideout in the woods (or to his dad’s closet when no adults are around) and shows him a stack of porn magazines.
  • While using the computer, your child stumbles onto a Web site with nude pictures of women.
  • Your child is communicating with someone in an Internet chat room and someone begins initiating sexually explicit discussions.
  • Someone on the Internet asks your child to meet him after school is out.
  • At a friend’s house your son finds himself in front of a video screen playing a computer game that is sexual in nature. Or the friend pops an X-rated video in the VCR that came from his father’s cache hidden in the closet upstairs.

Keep your eyes open.

Discreetly patrol your child’s room. If you become suspicious that the child might be hiding pornography, do some serious looking. If you fear that your child has been looking at sexually explicit Web sites, learn how you can search his computer and find out.

Observe how your child looks at the opposite sex.

Is the gaze too long and lustful?

Ask him what his convictions are on issues he’ll face as he leaves home.

Help him think through what he’s going to do when he’s on his own and the pressure to conform and go with the flow is powerful.

Take opportunities on a day-to-day basis to point out how sex is used in the media to sell products and create inappropriate sexual excitement.

Use questions to help your child critique advertisements. Help him to develop his own judgment in seeing what is really being communicated.

The pornography trap is a very dangerous trap. Keep your ears and eyes open and in tune to what’s going on in your child’s life, and to all that he is exposed to. Keep the lines of communication open. And of course, never stop praying.

Adapted from Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years. Copyright 1998 by Dennis and Barbara Rainey. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson, Inc., Publishers