Taking it to the streets

Archdiocese uses billboard to promote its ‘freedom from pornography’ program

by Kara Hansen
Special to The Leaven

Kansas City, Kan. — The archdiocesan My House ministry is getting its message out in a big way.

Some 14 feet by 48 feet big, to be exact.

For Sam Meier, archdiocesan My House consultant, using a billboard to share the message of his ministry made perfect sense.

“The adult industry uses billboard advertising really well,” said Sam. “We wanted to put something up with a more positive message, tying into the beauty of church teaching.”

The billboard features just two short statements with impact: “Freedom from pornography! Freedom to love!” followed by the My House Web address, www.LoveIsFaithful.com.

Daily, passengers in over 12,000 vehicles will pass the billboard displayed just south of Ottawa on Interstate 35. The billboard is lit at night so even those traveling at that time can see the message.

Sam and his wife Beth, the associate consultant for the archdiocesan family life office, are both hoping a positive billboard message will reach a broader audience that might desperately need information on freedom from pornography.

“Parents are up against a lot out there and they can feel a little overwhelmed,” said Beth. “The adult industry is very clever, and there are so many forms of technology kids are using where they could come across pornography.

“They might have access to a home computer or a personal laptop. Many cell phones have Internet access, and you really have to go out of your way not to get that feature. The Wii, iPods, PlayStation, and Xbox all have Internet access.”

Beth stressed that while the Internet is a useful tool that can be used for good, it has become all too easy for kids and teens to stumble across pornography or have something pornographic emailed to them. And with 11 as the average age of first Internet exposure to pornography, it appears parents cannot be too concerned.

“What’s online these days is much more hard-core than the Playboy magazines present in most parents’ generations,” said Beth. “There is a big difference between a photo of a naked woman posing versus a video of an actual sex act. They both still objectify women, but a video is much more likely to leave an imprint in your mind.”

Far from just being an issue males struggle with, the Meiers said pornography has a harmful impact on females as well.

“If a girl or woman is looking at these types of images, it’s easy to start thinking, ‘This is what it means to be a woman,’” said Beth.

With the easy and regular access many teens have to the Internet, pornography seems to have become a large problem in the teenage demographic.

In a 2008 survey conducted at a Catholic high school in the Midwest (by its request, name and specific location have not been disclosed), 48 percent of boys in the senior class said they viewed pornography one or more times a week. Of the boys who had viewed pornography, 36 percent indicated they had feelings of addiction to pornography. And 68 percent said their parents were unaware of their pornography use.

At the same school, 29 percent of freshmen boys said they were viewing pornography one or more times a week, 12 percent had feelings of addiction, and 74 percent stated their parents were not aware of their pornography use. Nearly 90 percent of the students surveyed were from Catholic families.

Of all the high school boys viewing pornography, 80 percent shared they were accessing it through the Internet. Additionally, the school has found similar results every year for the past three years they have conducted this survey, indicating the 2008 results were not a onetime concern.

It would be easy for concerned parents aware of that information to want to get rid of the Internet altogether. Still, the Meiers say simply denying Internet access is not the answer.

“We need to teach kids how to handle pornography when they come across it,” said Beth. “Parents can protect kids and give them the ability to make good decisions.”

The My House Web site exists to provide resources and information for parents and spouses, to aid in keeping their families free from pornography.

“Our office can provide practical information for parents to use to protect their families and really empower parents,” said Sam.

Located on the My House Web site is information on the My House men’s and women’s groups, designed to help men and women affected by pornography use. Statistics, information on church teaching, and numerous resources — including Web sites, books, and multimedia talks — are all available through the site. The Meiers’ personal testimony regarding their experience with pornography is a part of their ministry and included on the site as well.

“We’ve been through it and we’re here to help because of our experience,” said Sam.

The Meiers said the focus of each of the resources is a positive message.

“It’s not what the rules are, but the why’s behind them,” said Beth. “If people really understood more of what the church teaches about sexuality, they would be surprised. It leads to a completely different frame of mind. Kids especially are bombarded by this stuff and they are often told [to] not do it. We need to tell them the why’s.”

The Meiers hope the billboard will pique people’s curiosity to visit the My House Web site and discover a positive and countercultural message of true love and intimacy, as well as practical tools to help.

“It’s not just for people who are addicted; it’s for any person who wants to come to the site and educate themselves on what’s out there,” said Beth. “The Web site is there to point people to resources, so they don’t have to go out and find them on their own.

“We want people to know there’s help and positive information available.”

1. Secure all Internet devices with filtering and accountability software, keep them in a high-traffic area of the house, and limit the time children can use them.

Computers – Use accountability and filtering software such as www.covenanteyes.com and www.safeeyes.com.

Cell phones – Sex & Cell Phones has information on parental controls at the Web site: www.nationalcoalition.org.

• www.safeeyes.com has filtering for iPhone/iPod Touch

• www.covenanteyes.com has accountability for Windows Mobile 6 cell phones and PDAs.

Video Games — The Web sites www.iphantom.com and www. opendns.com help to filter a home’s wireless signal, which can help protect children on Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and other gaming systems.

2. Monitor all social networking sites for children and teens (Facebook, MySpace, xanga. com, etc).

3. Know all user names and passwords to email, social networking sites, and every site that requires a user name and password for your children and teens.

• Periodically check e-mail, social networking sites.

• Periodically check text and/or picture messages on cell phones.

4. Secure television and satellite radio, and screen all movies before watching them.

• Christian movie review Web sites such as www.usccb.org/movies and www.pluggedinonline. com provide a detailed review of movies, including a written description of any sexual content, violent content, or other morally offensive content.

• Satellite radio — “family friendly” packages are available without “mature content.”

• Block all “adult/mature content” on TV, as well as other channels that may have inappropriate or morally offensive content. (The Web site www.skyangel.com provides family friendly TV packages.)

• Use teachable moments while watching a “family” show that depicts a situation that goes against your family values.

5. Spend quality time with your children and teens.

• Eat family dinners together.

• Affirm your children and teens daily.

• Pray with your children and teens daily.

• Turn off the TV, computer, and cell phone; talk to your children.

• Have vacation/family gatherings together and build positive memories.

6. Have open, honest, regular conversations about God’s glorious plan for creating us male and female and the beauty of our human dignity and sexuality.

• Read, listen and seek theology of the body resources. The Web site www.LoveIsFaithful.com has a list of resources on love and intimacy. Also, check out the Web sites at: www.pureloveclub.com www.christopherwest.com

7. Encourage all family members to receive the sacrament of reconciliation monthly, and go to Mass as a family each Sunday. Eucharistic adoration and Mass during weekdays are tremendous blessings.

These are some initial ideas. For more information and practical ways to protect your family, visit the Web site at: www. LoveIsFaithful.com.

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