Kids’ unsupervised online use likened to sending them to adult bookstore

| Tom Tracy | March 14, 2016 | 0 Comments
Clinical and family therapist Peter Kleponis of the Philadelphia area poses for a photograph with his cellphone during his workshop on Internet pornography and addictions March 7 at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. CNS photo/Tom Tracy

Clinical and family therapist Peter Kleponis of the Philadelphia area poses for a photograph with his cellphone during his workshop on Internet pornography and addictions March 7 at St. Gregory the Great Parish in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. CNS photo/Tom Tracy

Parents who don’t supervise their children’s online activity and mobile device usage might as well be dropping off their kids at an adult bookstore filled with dangerous strangers.

That was the gist of a frank and wide-ranging conversation on Internet pornography and addiction that licensed clinical therapist and family therapist Peter Kleponis led for some 70 parents and young adult men and teens March 7 in the Miami Archdiocese.

The group gathered at St. Gregory the Great Church in Fort Lauderdale.

“Keep the computer use in a public area of the home — you never leave a child alone with the Internet; if you leave a child alone with the Internet you might as well be leaving them alone with a perfect stranger — that is how serious this is,” said Kleponis, who is a licensed clinical therapist and assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Kleponis specializes in marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling, resolving anger, men’s issues, and pornography addiction recovery through the nationally recognized Integrity Restored program.

He is certified in the diagnosis and treatment of sexual addictions by the American Association of Christian Counselors’ Light University and Freedom Begins Here program founded by Mark Laaser, who has a doctorate in religion and psychology.

Research shows that age 8 is now the average age at which youngsters first encounter online pornography, according to Kleponis. Parents with young children and teens at home need to install parental filtering controls on youngsters’ cellphones and Internet services at home.

“Even with that, if your child is on the Internet and using any technology a parent needs to be standing behind them watching everything they are doing,” Kleponis said, adding that parents need to be aware that gaming systems with online connections and even public libraries and public access devices have also been widely used for viewing pornography without parental awareness.

“Up to the age of 11, we need to protect kids and they don’t even need to know this stuff exists, and for children 11 years and older we need to educate them about the dangers of pornography so they can reject it and say ‘No’ to it,” he said.

“I also don’t believe young children need to have smartphones, get them ‘flip phones’ or the ‘Cricket’ brand phone which is only used to call Mom and Dad.”

Kleponis’ presentation was in the context of widespread sexual addictions and research that shows pervasive pornography use even among religious-affiliated people including Christians. Before meeting with the lay group of men and teens, Kleponis first led a four-hour session for local priests and deacons who report that they increasingly address the spiritual dimensions of parishioners dealing with pornography issues.

He led them through a presentation of how porn addiction works and how it can be addressed, and he shared a number of statistics:

  • Every 39 minutes, a new pornographic video is being produced in the United States, and increasingly they are videos made by amateurs.
  • The pornography industry earns over $97 billion worldwide every year; $13 billion comes from the United States.
  • There are 4.2 million pornographic websites.
  • Forty-seven percent of Christians say pornography is a major problem in the home; 20 percent of men admit to accessing pornography at work.
  • The percentages of male/female visitors to pornographic websites: 71 percent are male and 28 percent are female, with a steadily growing ratio of young female viewers.

“Nobody is immune to this,” Kleponis said, “We are so concerned about the kids who are the number one users of Internet pornographers but adults have to be protected too, and we need to educate ourselves on the dangers of porn and new technology and all technology use,” he said, adding that he recommends the Covenant Eyes website — — for tools for staying abreast of Internet porn trends and Internet filtering tools.

Parents must have open communications with each other and a willingness to seek help if one adult member of the family is having a problem with porn, he said, adding that the deeper emotional and family problems underlying the porn use need to be addressed through counseling and support groups and 12-step programs.

“We need to do everything possible to protect our kids from this stuff because it is poison,” said Kleponis. He added that if young children are exposed to online porn there are good books and materials to help parents properly discuss the experience with kids.

“For teens, again we limit the screen time, and I suggest no more than two to three hours a day including school work online, and monitor all social media. And you never allow a teenager to isolate with the internet,” Kleponis said.

“The (Internet) access has to be done on the kitchen table where everybody can see that, and we need an online accountability service for computers, tablets and cellphones,” he added.

He advises parents to remind youngsters that they are simply trying to protect children from sexual predators and profit-seeking pornography merchants and that they have a right to supervise all communications devices and social media usage.

Increasingly, he added, there is a growing amount of homemade or amateur-produced pornography, adding yet another layer of worry and complexity for parents and educators.

It’s time for marriage prep to address porn addiction, says speaker

Licensed clinical therapist and family therapist Peter Kleponis believes it’s time for church-based marriage preparation programs to address pornography addiction and to urge assistance for addicted individuals before proceeding with marriage.

“Given the severe harm caused by pornography in marriage, pre-marriage programs have to address this issue,” said Kleponis during a talk in the Miami Archdiocese. He recently spoke to Catholics gathered at St. Gregory the Great Church in Fort Lauderdale.

Typically, young couples in marriage preparation programs will hear about the dangers of drug and alcohol addictions in marriages, but little about pornography.

“We need to talk about this in marriage prep programs because a lot of guys are going into marriage addicted to this stuff,” he said. “If a man is unwilling to address and resolve this conflict, a woman should really reconsider marrying him.

“We wouldn’t want a woman marrying an active alcoholic or drug active, why would we want her marrying an active sex addict? We have to take this seriously,” he added.

The messages embedded in pornography include a plethora of false messages that pollute the user’s perspective of the opposite sex, according to Kleponis, who noted the absurdity of some couples thinking that viewing pornography could help spice up their romantic life.

“This is not about healthy relationships; the damage is an involvement in a fantasy world that undermines your ability to communicate and relate to women in a healthy manner, it interferes with the development of a healthy personality because it fosters selfishness, and it harms your ability to understand and want to make a loving commitment in marriage,” said Kleponis, who is from the Philadelphia area.

Studies show that young adults who are regular consumers of pornography don’t want to get married, and it fosters the “‘hook up’ culture in which porn consumers use other people for your sexual pleasure,” he said.

“Pornography does not make you a man, if anything it takes away your manhood,” Kleponis said, noting that the effect of pornography on women is equally damaging and hurtful to a woman’s self-image.

He noted alarming statistics showing that today’s young adult women increasingly admit to being regular consumers of pornographic imagery, whereas older women have favored using online tools and social media for anonymous, often dangerous relationships.

Tracy is a correspondent for the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami.

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Category: Faith and Culture