Pornography | Focus on the Family Australia
How to quit watching porn: 7 strategies for your teens
By Danny Huerta
Whats in this Article

Even though pornography is everywhere, you can help your teen learn how to quit watching porn with these strategies.

In This Series:
1. Effects of Porn Addiction on a Teen Brain
2. How Do You Respond to Your Child’s Suspected Porn Use?
3. How Porn Affects Your Child’s Future
4. How to Quit Watching Porn: 7 Strategies for Your Teens

Pornography is pervasive, but avoidable with the right skills. Even though pornography is everywhere, you can help your teen learn how to quit watching porn with these strategies.

There are seven things you can do to help your teen begin to limit their access pornography. Then, you can help them learn how to quit watching porn as a habit.

If your teen does not know how to quit watching porn, you might need to access some professional help for you and your teen. Alongside professional help, you can implement the following seven strategies to help your teen successfully avoid using pornography:

1. Teach Your Teen How to Manage Stress

People turn to destructive outlets to handle their stress. And teens are no different.

Without guidance, teens don’t have the skills to manage the onslaught of stresses they encounter. For teens, stress can quickly cause distraction, desperation, and exhaustion.

Consider answering these questions to help grow your understanding of stress.

  • As a parent, ask yourself how you’re modelling stress management.
  • Do you have good self-care relative to balancing relationships, renewal and work?
  • Do you leave enough margin in your life for some down time?
  • Do you spend time with your Heavenly Father? (Is. 26:3-4 and Ps. 56:3).

For your teen, try these exercises—even if he rolls his eyes.

  • List and prioritise the things that renew him (i.e. biking, reading, music).
  • List relationships important to him.
  • Help him learn when to say “no” and when to say “yes” to demands on his time.

One thing is certain. Life will be stressful, and a teen who learns how to manage stress in healthy ways actually grows from the experience. What a gift you can offer your child.

2. Place Limits on Technology

Technology itself isn’t bad, but unrestricted use has real consequences. As you’re making decisions, keep this in mind: any time you allow a new technology in your home, you add to your list of parenting responsibilities.

Technology is here to stay. Who knows how it grows and expands from here, but it will. Filters, limits and boundaries are crucial for it to go well with technology in your home. As you place limits on technology as these three questions:

  • What limits? Be clear.
  • Why those limits? Be open to discussion.
  • How will we consistently enforce the limits? Be steadfast.

Homes need to have limits for computer time, videos games, television, movies, music and phones. There is a lot to keep up with, so choose wisely and carefully when you allow a new technology or device to be a part of your child’s life. Normal and common does NOT mean good. It just means others have chosen that particular choice. Enforcing limits can be tiring, divisive, but essential. Just because there is conflict toward the limits, does not mean you need to budge. It means there will need to be grace, communication and consistency.

Research consistently reinforces the fact that technology can be addictive and can have an ongoing influential messaging into people’s perceptions. Remember that our brains love to go for the “low hanging fruit” and technology certainly represents a very tempting “low hanging fruit” that helps our brains go into auto pilot.

Let’s face it, many of us are having a difficult time putting limits on ourselves. I see grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, teachers, you name it having a difficult time placing limits on themselves. Model healthy limits toward technology and media.

Some things to consider:

  • Technology opens the door to a wide, wide world and some kids can manage that freedom. Others can’t.
  • There’s no rush. They grow up fast enough.
  • Make decisions based on what’s best for your family, not what the neighbours are doing.

Setting up a good offence will help your kids move forward with their life goals. And internet filtering software can be a good tool. Although not the ultimate answer, filters play a role in helping keep tabs on the family’s online activities. Some to consider:

  • Net Nanny
  • Covenant Eyes
  • Bsecure Online
  • rTribe
  • True Vine Online

Teach them trustworthiness and accountability are good things. And make it challenging to access devices when alone. Teach them how to use the devices wisely, including putting them away with a lock and key in a filing cabinet, for instance, to make it more difficult to access when there is temptation.

3. Create an Open Device Policy

As parents, our job isn’t to make our kids happy, it’s to raise them—to guide, direct, love, respect, provide and to teach them good decision-making skills (Deuteronomy 6, 11 and Psalm 78). That’s best done in an environment of openness and accountability.

With their best future in mind, consider a household rule that all electronic devices be open and available to parents at all times. Many parents also find it helpful to draw up an “Internet Use Contract” outlining:

  • Sites your children are allowed to visit - include websites, chatrooms, IM, etc.
  • Times of day they can access the Web
  • Length of time they’re allowed to be online
  • Appropriate consequences for breaking the rules (i.e., losing phone privilege)
  • Privileges for following the rules (i.e., extended time with friends or other increased freedoms)

When the document is complete, sign it and post it in a common area. Many kids want to explore beyond the “fences,” but the agreed-upon contract will help eliminate confusion.

4. Teach the Difference Between Wants and Needs

Work with your teen to identify and discern the difference between needs and wants. Needs are actually the basics of survival: air, food, water, shelter, clothing and relationships with God and people. Everything else belongs on the wants list, including sexual gratification.

Notice how the things you want shift throughout the day depending upon your feelings. For instance, if I feel hungry, I want food and it monopolises my thoughts until I eat. When I’m not hungry, I don’t even think about food and I can focus on other important things.

Pornography causes a sexual hunger that creates feelings of anxiety until quenched. It monopolises a person’s thoughts so they can’t think of things that once were important to them—things like relationships, hobbies and extracurricular activities. The trouble is, pornography will never satisfy.

Part of teaching your son or daughter to manage desires, or wants, is to help cast a vision of the payoff. For example, when you’re training for a sport, it’s hard work. It’s often tempting to throw in the towel. But there’s a payoff in persevering, and that’s the desire to do well in the sport. It’s about learning to want the payoff more than the immediate comfort.

Likewise, the vision of a future healthy romantic and sexual relationship can help give purpose to saying no to immediate sexual gratification.

My teenage son and I recently had a conversation on this very topic.

One day, he requested we go on a walk, during which he admitted thinking a lot about girls sexually when he wished he could think about other things.

It led to a rich discussion about his future and how effectively managing his feelings, desires and temptations will have a great payoff in the end. We talked about the purpose of sexual attraction—why it’s beautiful, important and excellent. We discussed recognising and avoiding tempting situations and what to do if he found himself in one. And I acknowledged how these new strong feelings made his “wants” seem more like “needs.” He wants freedom and so do I, for him. Managing wants is about true connection and freedom and not about perfection.

A basketball coach once told me to ask myself each day, “What’s at least one thing I can do today to make today a better day for my spouse?” It involves shifting my wants toward connection. Pornography destroys connectedness. It creates a selfishness that leaves us blind to others and obsessed with pleasure.

5. Talk About Sex, Oxytocin and Mindset

What is sexual health and why would a teen want it? Researcher J. Dennis Fortenberry identifies four areas of sexuality you can use to guide conversations with your kids. I’ve added the effects of pornography on each of those areas:

  • Sexual desire (Pornography consumes it)
  • Sexual arousal (Pornography distorts it)
  • Sexual behaviours (Pornography controls it)
  • Sexual functioning (Pornography creates dysfunction)

God designed sex to be the glue in a committed and steadfast loving relationship. He designed a progression that goes from friendship to exclusivity, to commitment and finally covenant. To seal the deal, He created a bonding chemical, oxytocin, that’s released during sexual experiences. Sex truly renews the steadfastness in a relationship biochemically.

Pornography distorts the power of the oxytocin “glue”, because the brain literally thinks that it is there and provides the experience necessary to feel what should be felt in the moment. It releases chemicals in response to what is being seen to create an experience. If that experience happens over and over again with random people, there is less and less attachment over time.

Think of it this way…imagine sticking a post-it note on one surface after another after another. Finally, it won’t stick anymore. That is what is happening to a man or woman as they continually access pornography and have sexual experiences in their mind. The chemicals act as if they are bonding, attaching and sexually experiencing the moment.

Because pornography allows an oxytocin release in the brain, porn users get “stuck” to the illusion. They attach to an illusion, not an actual person. So while pornography feels exciting in the moment, eventually it robs its users of the ability to bond with a live person. Help your teen understand the emptiness and thirst this creates.

Remember and Teach:

  • Pornography leads sexual desire towards an illusion rather than a person. The user develops a consumer mindset, consuming images and people rather than developing relationships.

  • Pornography forms a consumer mindset rather than a loving mindset. With a consumer mindset, sexual behaviours become self-focused rather than sacrificial. It’s the difference between “What can I get out of it?” vs. “How can I give a gift to another person?”

  • Pornography mentally and physically enslaves. Sexual arousal easily becomes dependent on explicit or pornographic images, conversations or fantasies. In absence of such material, young men addicted to pornography become dependent on medication to reach arousal and society is grappling with how to restore women’s arousal. Sexual functioning becomes frustrating and broken.

Most teens have no idea how much pornography messes with natural sexual functioning and satisfaction in relationships. And few make the connection between porn and a decrease in faithfulness. But there’s endless research on the topic. (See a few studies cited at the end of this article.) Even before the research, the writer of Proverbs warned that the seduction of sexual immorality leaves no survivors in Proverbs 2.

Many men I’ve counselled share the pervasive attitude that “viewing porn is just part of being a man.” But that’s a lie. Similarly, women believe the adventure and excitement of pornography are safe ways to fulfil secret fantasies they carry, which is also a lie.

Healthy sexual functioning requires healthy thinking and truth. Help your teen think about pornography and sex using the template offered through Philippians 4:8. This is a great way to establish a foundation to sexual health. It begins in the mind. Song of Solomon helps us get a glimpse of what God wants for us in our sexual relationship with our spouse.

They need the mindset that limits are freeing Psalm 119. Some teen boys and girls believe sex and pornography symbolises their freedom of choice. It actually symbolises an enslaving and stunting of maturity. Teens entangled in its perversion and games have difficulty thinking for themselves and become enslaved to its allure and deception.

6. Help Your Teen Cultivate Wise Risk-taking and Decision-making

Teens are naturally more prone to risk-taking and impulsive decision-making. It is how they are wired. Now, this doesn’t mean it is good or bad, it just means that teens need guidance on how to wisely manage this season of life. Look at David, he took a risk as a teen stepping into the ring with Goliath. In that moment as a teen, he channeled his risk-taking.

Risk-taking can take us many different places – some dangerous, some exciting and some new. Regardless, it takes us somewhere, but we get to decide what risks we pursue. Pornography can be an exciting risk, because it can create novelty, excitement and an illusion of feeling grown up or pursued. For some teens, the excitement of looking at or doing something they are not supposed to do can be exciting in itself, much less the thrill of fantasy and intense arousal.

During the teen years, risk-taking is a very normal part of development, but remember that normal does not make it good. When kids are aroused, lonely, angry, bored or upset, decision-making can take a wrong turn fast and risk-taking can become damaging.

Teach your teen to pause, stop and think as they begin to feel emotions run rampant. Help them formulate an emergency exit plan when their defences are down. In regard to poor sexual choices, ask them to contemplate how God and a future spouse fit into those choices. Wouldn’t it be great to help facilitate the risk of showing up for the wedding night without any sexual experience? While it is a risk, it is a risk worth pursuing.

The guardrails you put in place aren’t about forbidding some temporary pleasures but rather setting him or her up for a lifetime of sexual satisfaction and wise decision-making. It may be helpful to think about placing stop signs—either figurative or literal—to help your teen remember to pause and think as he or she pursues the true victory of showing up with their mind and body as a gift to his or her spouse. It is a gift that money can’t buy. It is a gift that only wisdom and self-control can provide.

I recommend making a list with your teen of healthy risks and unhealthy risks. Encourage and support the pursuit of the healthy risks. Keep in mind that there are some teens that love risk taking more than others. Healthy risk taking can be fun and risks aren’t necessarily bad, it just depends on which risks a person chooses to pursue. Risk-taking can actually channel passion and alleviate boredom.

Help your teen understand that knowledge can be gained from others, but that wisdom is up to them and their decision-making. God tells us that wisdom is to be pursued and desired more than riches and Proverbs 31 is about the honour found through wisdom. Help them take smart risks.

7. Encourage a Close and Authentic Relationship with God, You and Others

Teens with a strong faith and a solid relationship with their parents are less likely to pursue pornography. Teens who typically use the internet in private are much more vulnerable to being drawn toward the temporary strong feelings of pornography.

As you apply these seven strategies, know that it won’t go perfectly. Remember, if necessary, seek out a well-trained Christian counsellor to help you and your teen work through the issues that come from the intoxicating and deadening effects of pornography.


If your teen has viewed pornography, first of all DON’T PANIC. Life is about the journey, moulding and transformation along the way. Once you’re calm, move toward these steps:

  • Understand what led to pursuing the pornography in the first place

  • Help your child learn how to manage stress, strong emotions and feelings

  • Be intentional, persistent and consistent in teaching your child about sex and character traits related to managing sex well

  • Implement filters, software and limits on technology to help your child be successful in pursuing freedom

  • Discuss and provide instruction on how to be a wise risk-taker and decision-maker—help them see and love personal stop signs

  • Encourage genuine relationships with God, with others and with you

This process is about loving, teaching, modelling and guiding. It is not about punishing, fearful defences and shaming.

Read and apply 2 Peter 1:5-8. Teach your children how to guard their hearts and pursue moral excellence.

Read Philippians 4:8 again and apply it as a template to healthy sexuality. What is true… about sex? What is excellent?

If your child continues to struggle, don’t hesitate to call upon a mental health professional to help facilitate victory over the entangling mess of pornography.

Research articles on how pornography negatively impacts normal sexual functioning:

Maddox, Amanda, Galena K, Rhoades, and Howard J. Markman,” Viewing Sexually-Explicit Materials Alone and Together: Associations with Relationship Quality,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (April 2011), 40, no. 2, 441-448.

Lambert, Nathaniel M. and Sesen Negash, Tyler F. Stillman, Spencer B. Olmstead, and Frank M. Fincham, “A Love That Doesn’t Last: Pornography Consumption and Weakened Commitment to One’s Romantic Partner,” Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology (2012), vol.31, no.4, 410-438.

Olmstead, Spenser B., Sesen N Negash, Kay Pasley, and Frank D. Fincham, “Emerging Adults’ Expectations for Pornography Use in the Context of Future Committed Relationships: A Qualitative Study,” Archives of Sexual Behavior (2013), 42, 625-635.

Research published in the North American Journal of Psychology on December of 2017 confirms that a strong relationship with God and a strong relationship with parents help children make better choices as they use the internet.

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