Author Emily Olivia discusses the access children have to pornography — and why her new book Put A Lid On It: Exposing the Pornography Trap aims to assist parents in navigating the challenging online landscape, with their kids.
Are your kids looking at pornography? Maybe. Conservative estimates suggest 140 million people are online right now, looking at pornography. Many of them would be children; the average age of exposure to porn is 11 and, startlingly, 90 per cent of 8-16 year olds are believed to have encountered pornography online.
Insights was provided with such shocking statistics by Melbourne mum Emily Olivia. A psychology student and mother of three boys, Emily doesn’t claim to be an expert about how pornography affects children (or how parents could encourage their kids to not view it). But the reason we are tackling such a disturbing topic with Emily is because she was so disturbed by the potential impacts of pornography on children, she decided to do something about it.
“As parents, I think we often want to address the issue – but we don’t know how and we need some support,” explains Emily, who wrote Put a Lid On It: Exposing the Pornography Trap as a resource for parents and their children to use, to sensitively discuss pornography. “I hope my book would be able to do that for parents, because that’s what I needed but just couldn’t find.”
Emily was surprised to discover few other resources out there which intended to assist family units with confronting the live issue of pornography. She began researching the extent of the porn problem with children, and thinking through a biblical response to it. Also driving the illustrated Put a Lid On It — suitable for children aged six and up — was a personal desire to not repeat what Emily’s husband experienced when his mate showed him pornography. It was the 1980s, he was 11 and his Christian family didn’t really discuss such prickly matters. “He didn’t know what it was,” says Emily.
“He didn’t know how to deal with it or what to do with it.
“What we wanted for our kids was for them to be able to talk to us, about stuff that came up. And we knew pornography is an issue more so now than it was back then.”
Put a Lid On It is not just notable for striving to help parents speak openly, comfortably and appropriately with their children about pornography. Emily’s book also is grounded in an ethical approach to relationships and sex that comes from the creator of relationships and sex. “I couldn’t have written the book without a biblical foundation. I couldn’t have written it without God because, especially with these sorts of topics, God has to be a foundation in why we do what we do.”
Why would God be the answer when trying to encourage children – and adults, of course – to flee from pornography? “I think there is a real spiritual element to sex, to pornography, to relationships,” says Emily about the deeper connections which God has infused within personal intimacy. Books in the Bible, such as Ephesians, helped Emily to understand God’s design for sex in relationships. In the fifth chapter of Ephesians, God’s design is framed in light of Jesus’s bond with the Christian church.
In contrast with such a positive, meaningful model for intimacy, Emily has been disturbed by links between pornography use by men, and domestic violence that some of them commit. Emily has investigated research into this connection and concludes such men have a “distorted”, dangerous view of what is at the foundation of marital relationships. “I think it’s that spiritual nature that is being played with,” confirms Emily, before pointing out the sad future of a society that normalises pornography.
“We can look around and see where we are headed because, at this stage, we are not really applying a biblical filter or foundation to the issue of pornography.”
“We’re finding in this research about violence against women that we’re not treating women with respect. A lot of pornography is quite violent and abusive and damaging. If that is left unchecked, that’s where we are headed.
“And not just women… Husbands, families, relationships in general – how are we treating people?”
How are we treating people? Great question. Here’s another one: How are we treating our kids when it comes to this confronting area of sexuality? Emily believes we should be treating our kids to a wide range of support, scrutiny and sensitive discussion. Because there is no one solution. Instead, from internet filters to having transparent conversations and reading Put a Lid on It together, Emily suggests using as many tools as you can (all under the umbrella of God’s word). “Yes, filtering is great and, yes, this book is great, but we need to use them all together.”