By Barry Peters

      It's like crack cocaine on the coffee table.

      It sits comfortably in the homes of millions of conscientious men and women. It's easily and nearly universally available. It is cheap. It is dangerously addictive. It destroys the lives of untold numbers of people each year. It breaks up marriages and families. It brings unemployment to the lives of legions. It controls and destroys the lives of women and children, as well as men.

      It is internet pornography.

      By some accounts, half of all Christian men struggle with an addiction to internet pornography. And a growing number of women do also. That's half of the men with whom you attend church every Sunday. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported that 9 out of 10 children have been exposed to online pornography. Yet, because it is such an easily hidden vice, we assume it's not a problem at our church. Or in our home. We believe that our family and our church are somehow immune. They are not.

      Most of us know of a growing number of people whose lives have been ruined or nearly ruined by the addiction. Pastors. Sunday school teachers. Family members. Co-workers. Whether or not we know who they are, all of us have many people of our acquaintance who are silently trapped by the addiction.

      But there are steps that can be taken to decrease the risk and to protect your family and your marriage. If you are not motivated to take them for your own benefit, at least take them to preserve your family and your marriage.

      First, get rid of all internet access. Without internet access, your computer cannot so easily bring the cocaine into your living room. Even if you know or believe that the members of your own family are not hooked, ridding your home of internet access will do one of two things. It will either eliminate your or your family's hidden addiction or make it much harder for you or your family members to fall prey to this addiction.

      Second, if you cannot or will not get rid of your internet access, obtain a good filtering service. Some products are better than others. Some are easier than others for tech-savy family members to circumvent. One set of products that are widely regarded as thorough and impossible to bypass are those available from Bsafe Online Internet Filters. You can find their products (including a 10 day free trial) online at www.bsafehome.com. Although you may hesitate to spend money on a product for which competitors are available at little or no charge, if a member of your family is entrapped by this temptation, those savings will later look like the worst possible waste of money.

      Third, consider various reporting programs that automatically email to a chosen friend a list of all the internet addresses that have been visited from your computer. Just knowing that a friend will be reviewing the list will do wonders to cause a person to clean up his or her act. Choose a friend to receive the reports who will not be shy about confronting you if evidence of a problem surfaces. Several of these programs can, ironically, be downloaded free of charge off the internet. Or, if you purchase the filtering services of Bsafe Online Internet Filters, for less than a total of $5 per month, you can obtain both an effective filtering program and a tamperproof reporting program.

      Fourth, your children should never have internet access in the privacy of the bedroom. They should also not have password protected internet accounts or computer files. If they complain that you don't trust them when you put these policies into effect, just smile and say "That's right. I don't." That is part of doing your job as a responsible parent.

      Fifth, if your computer still has internet access, from time to time click on the "View" icon while you are connected to the internet. Then click on the "History" icon to see a list of all the internet sites visited by that computer in the last few days or weeks. You can click on any address shown on the list to check out the site yourself for suitability of content.

      Finally, to make it nearly impossible for internet pornography to gain a toehold in your home, you could actually get rid of the computer. You should particularly consider this option if you know that you or someone in your home has already fallen prey to this temptation. If the computer is gone, the risk of seduction via internet temptation goes with it. To put a modern spin on ancient truths, "If your computer causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it into the sea with a millstone tied about its neck."

      The scriptures teach in many places and in many ways that we are to "flee immorality." As Solomon once said, a prudent man sees evil and hides himself. The naïve proceed and pay the penalty. If we do not take steps to hide ourselves and our family from the evil that can be displayed on our computers, we are naïve and we will pay that penalty. Keeping the instrument of overwhelming temptation in the home and simply hoping for the best is certainly not fleeing immorality. It is embracing that immorality.

      For those who feel isolated without email capability, you might try the telephone. Or check with your local electronics store for devices that permit you to communicate via email without having full internet graphics access.

      Being regarded as a Luddite by your friends is really a small price to pay to gain control over this temptation. And the truth is that more and more people are respecting those who have the discipline to eliminate computers from the home. Radical surgery? Yes, but the stakes are incredibly high. As we come across people who have taken any or all of these steps to protect their families, we should all praise them for their courage and wisdom.

      While our culture tends toward vigilance in the protection of its privacy, we should not allow our culture to lull or browbeat us into overlooking the dangers lurking within the privacy of our own home. Instead, our vigilance as parents should be directed both toward our own sanctification and also toward that of our children.

      Without significant monitoring and limitations, a computer in the home can become a Trojan Horse which ultimately may cause your home and your marriage to be doomed. Let us not naively welcome into our homes the very instrument that may destroy it. Eternal vigilance is the most effective weapon in the flight from immorality. Eternal vigilance starts now for every one of us.

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