Islam is distinguished by its commitment to wholesomeness and purity, but sadly Muslims are not immune to the dangers of pornography. Our children, in particular, are at risk of falling into its trap. If we have a computer in our home, and especially if our child has a smartphone, an almost limitless supply of sexually explicit material is merely a click away.
We Muslim parents must not bury our heads in the sand about this issue. Although it might make us uncomfortable to talk about pornography with our kids, we absolutely should. In addition, we need to take proactive measures so that pornography stays out of our children’s hearts and minds. It is as addictive as a drug, and our children most likely will be exposed to it, whether by accident or by choice. Studies show that most young people are exposed to porn by age 13, and according to a survey of U.S. teens, “84.4% of 14-18 year-old males, and 57% of 14-18 year-old females have viewed pornography.”
Muslim parents might think their children are safe because of their careful upbringing and religious values, but even children from good families can easily come across inappropriate images. Sometimes one accidental glimpse is enough to ignite curiosity that eventually leads to addiction. According to an article in Medium, “Statistically, a Muslim teen is far more likely to be addicted to pornography than to alcohol.”
I remember many years ago, my friend’s young son needed to write a report about the White House (the home of U.S. presidents). He innocently googled “white house,” and it led him to a pornography website. Because he had a positive relationship with his parents and was not afraid of being blamed or punished for his mistake, he went right to his mother and explained what happened.
ProtectKidsOnlineCa explains, “Most often children are accidentally exposed to explicit material by incorrectly typing in a web address or words into a search engine and they unexpectedly find they are on a site they did not intend to visit. Nonetheless, research suggests that early exposure to sexually graphic material is likely to have a negative influence and a potentially harmful impact on children.” These days, pornography is frighteningly commonplace and accessible. According to an article on the website Fight the New Drug, “Today, porn sites receive more website traffic in the U.S. than Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, Pinterest, and LinkedIn combined.”
In addition to violating Islamic principles, consuming porn has numerous negative effects on our health. According to Fight the New Drug, “A number of peer-reviewed studies have found a link between pornography consumption and mental health outcomes like depression, anxiety, loneliness, lower life satisfaction, and poorer self-esteem and overall mental health. These studies have found that these links are particularly strong when pornography is consumed to try to escape negative emotions, and also when pornography consumption becomes heavy and compulsive.”
Here are some steps we can take to protect our kids from pornography:
- Talk about it openly and calmly. If kids don’t find out about it from their parents, they will likely hear about it – or even receive links to it — from friends. It is much better that they learn about porn from a mature, informed, Islamic standpoint.
Even if you hate the very idea of sexually explicit material, don’t turn your discussion into an angry, disgust-filled lecture. The key is to be calm and factual and to connect with your child, letting them know that you care about them and want to protect them from harm.
If kids feel that porn is a topic that will enrage you or cause you to shame them for even asking about it, they will likely never approach you with questions, or admit that they’ve come across it. So, make sure you approach this topic with gentleness and wisdom, mixed with the firm resolve it deserves.
- Be clear on the Islamic stance. Kids might get the impression from their peers or society that porn is normal and fine. Nowadays, in many circles, watching porn is considered a natural part of adolescent exploration. It is our duty to tell our children that Allah has made it haraam (forbidden) to look at the awrah (private parts) of other people, or to watch any lewd or explicit content. Under no circumstances is watching porn acceptable for a Muslim, and we know that repeating sins can actually do terrible damage to our faith:
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Verily, when the servant commits a sin, a black mark appears upon his heart. If he abandons the sin, seeks forgiveness, and repents, then his heart will be polished. If he returns to the sin, the blackness will be increased until it overcomes his heart” (Sunan al-Tirmidhi).
- Remind our kids that Allah is always watching. We won’t always be there to see what they’re doing, but our kids should know that Allah is All-Seeing and All-Knowing. This is an awareness that they should carry throughout their entire lives. We must remind our children that none of us can hide our actions from Him, no matter how secretive we try to be.
But also make sure to tell your kids that Allah sees and appreciates our self-control, as well. He knows when we are tempted to do something, and He rewards us if we avoid it for His sake. When we give up something for the sake of Allah, He will always give us something much better in return.
- Take extra precautions with smartphones. The number-one time kids deliberately look at porn is on their smartphones when they are alone in their room at night. What is the solution? We can break this down into a few steps:
- First of all, evaluate whether or not your child should even own a smartphone. Many experts advise waiting until a child is at least fourteen years old. Depending on your child’s maturity level and general behavior, fourteen might be too young. Even if “all their friends” have a phone, it is not necessary to give in to a child’s begging or nagging. We are the parents, and we must do what we think is best for their mental and physical health.
- Second, impose a nighttime ban on electronics. After a certain hour (based on your child’s schedule and your parental judgment), all technology should be removed from the child’s room and placed out of their reach. This will reduce the chance of inappropriate internet use as well as helping your child get enough sleep.
- Third, take steps to block inappropriate websites from your child’s devices. This article offers some suggestions on “How to Block Pornography on your Children’s Devices.”
- Model responsible behavior. While most parents certainly don’t watch porn in front of their children, they sometimes do watch TV shows or movies with inappropriate themes and images. Almost all of the most popular programs in recent years contain a great deal of sexual content. In fact, most of the shows that are considered “normal” nowadays would have been considered “soft porn” when we were children.
If your child sees you watching content with sexual intimacy or partial nudity, they will get the impression that this behavior is acceptable. Some adults might say, “I’m a married adult, not a child. I can watch ‘mature’ content.”
But is that the correct Islamic standpoint? Modern society has normalized many things that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would never have sanctioned. Modesty is the hallmark of a Muslim, and all of us —no matter how old, no matter our marital status — should be lowering our gaze and avoiding inappropriate images.
Sincere Muslims and caring parents must acknowledge that online pornography is one of the most difficult challenges we are facing in the digital age. We cannot ignore this risk and should be as forward-thinking, responsible, and cautious as possible to protect our children from a sin that could do irreparable damage to their souls.