Above, Chris McKenna addresses high school students.
March 2018 – Chris McKenna was around seven years old when he saw pornography for the first time. He found “dirty magazines,” and an obsessive curiosity began spinning around in his mind. It was a curiosity he was not ready for, and the enemy used it as a primary tool to fuel what would later become an addiction to online pornography that lasted for years.
Binge and purge
“I would call it somewhat of a binge and purge approach,” McKenna told AFA Journal. “I had enough of Jesus in me to know that what I was doing was wrong, so I would get to a point in my consumption where I would feel guilt and shame and would quit for six months. Then for two weeks, I would binge again.”
The binging and purging went on for a while; McKenna even carried the habit into his marriage, creating struggles and a great distance between him and his wife for 10 years … until one day.
That day, while he was running, the words of a late evangelist pierced McKenna’s mind and heart: “Oswald Chambers said that at some point you just must make a clear and effective decision about sin.” And that is what McKenna did.
It was not a “light in the sky” moment, rather a grace-driven logical choice of mind that he was sick and tired of being controlled by pornography. He quickly became connected with a small group of men with whom he could share his battle and who would hold him accountable on his road to recovery. He also spoke openly to his wife about the issue and continues to even now.
Dark versus light
“If you live as a child of light, the things of the darkness no longer have power over you,” McKenna said. “Everything in light is dealt with.”
But McKenna is quick to admit that it is still a daily battle. He must make conscious decisions to fight against the power of pornography in his life and to keep his struggle in the light, for when it is in the light, its power weakens.
Motivated by Christ, driven by his own past, spurred by the love he has for his wife and children, and burdened for today’s parents and youth, McKenna, a former student minister, has committed his life to taking a proactive approach in the fight against pornography. He founded Protect Young Eyes, a ministry with the purpose of defending kids against online dangers. He talks in detail about it below:
AFAJ: What exactly does PYE do?
CM: We are currently a clearinghouse for the best information that is available, primarily for faith-based parents, but really for anybody who wants to protect their kids. We profile, test, and recommend the best resources.
I [also] lead a team of five speakers who travel the country speaking to kindergartners through 12th-graders, parents, and teachers [at schools, churches, and in communities] about how to redeem technology for good. We are not advocates for bubble wrapping kids, nor are we advocates for letting them figure it out. We are advocates for intentional, redemptive use of technology that can bring glory to God and positivity to our relationships and our own hearts.
AFAJ: Tell us specifically about the presentations.
CM: We have five different age-appropriate presentations for kids on how to make God-honoring choices with technology. When it comes to educators (We do a lot of professional development.) and parents, we speak of 10 different digital realities, and then we apply 10 different practical strategies. The word practical is very important because you don’t have to be a network administrator to win in the digital age. You have to be observant, engaged, and informed.
AFAJ: What do you mean by observant, engaged, and informed?
CM: Observant meaning we believe that parents are in the best position to assess what their children are ready for when it comes to the Internet. There are five ways we teach parents to study their kids.
Engaged means that we love nosey parents. There is no such thing as privacy in the digital age. There are no such words as “my device.” There are no possessives. Every device in the home that is Internet ready is a shared “our, we, us” experience.
Informed is when parents have to do a little bit of research on their own. The two primary obstacles that I heard in youth ministry from parents were: “I don’t know where to go,” and “I don’t have enough time.” PYE was created to eliminate those obstacles. I’ve done hundreds of hours of research, and protectyoungeyes.com is one website where parents can spend time reading.
AFAJ: Why is there such a need for PYE?
CM: I speak from a very authentic point of view when I look parents in the eyes and say, “The porn that you grew up with or the exposures that you grew up with as a child are nothing compared to the digital exposures … that your kids are growing up with today. So we must be active and aggressive and be on the offense if we want to protect our children from digital dangers.
I know the tempting, devious, sneaky pull of technology because I’ve lived it. I’m a guy who had all the tools in my belt – a believer, a father, a youth pastor; I knew the Word; I knew what Christ did for me, yet still I was powerless against pornography. So what chance do 12-year-old boys have? What chance do 16-year-old girls have when they are asked to send a nude photo in order to get a first kiss? What chance do our kids have to know what to do if we don’t teach them in the digital age?
AFAJ: Why do you begin teaching children as young as kindergarten?
CM: Because parents aren’t always there when kids are clicking. I talk to too many parents, years after a kid was exposed to something, and … their kid just didn’t know what to do.
It goes back to what Frederick Douglass said: “It is easier to build strong children then it is to repair broken men.” I want to be in a business of training children so they can be God-honoring strong men and women. Unfortunately, too many kids – their morality, their faith, their relationships – are being formed by technology first, instead of through the love and care of their parents.
AFAJ: Why do you do what you do?
CM: It’s because I believe that technology is the number one impact on the spiritual formation of our young people today. Therefore, we must speak truth into that formation so that it’s directed toward God and not Google.
To book a presentation and to find helpful resources, visit protectyoungeyes.com
PRACTICAL PARENTING STRATEGIES
▶ Talk to your children about all of the awkward things that nobody talked to you about.
▶ Know that there is no such thing as passive parenting in the digital age.
▶ Be a conversational, loving, and intentional parent.
▶ Look your kids in the eyes and ask them about what they are doing online.
▶ Find a software solution that comes alongside your parenting. But remember, parental controls alone do not replace the need to be a parent.