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Provo parents learning how to fight the ‘new drug’

By Keri Lunt Stevens daily Herald - | Jan 13, 2016
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Clay Olsen, co-founder of Fight the New Drug, speaks during a presentation on pornography prevention on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 at Centennial Middle School in Provo. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily herald

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Clay Olsen, co-founder of Fight the New Drug, speaks during a presentation on pornography prevention on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 at Centennial Middle School in Provo. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Attendees listen to Clay Olsen, co-founder of Fight the New Drug, during a presentation on pornography prevention on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 at Centennial Middle School in Provo. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Attendees listen to Clay Olsen, co-founder of Fight the New Drug, during a presentation on pornography prevention on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2016 at Centennial Middle School in Provo. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

At 7:10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, the parking lot at Centennial Middle School in Provo was completely full. Unrelenting, latecomers snaked through the snow — their cars lining the street — each with a different background but similar question in mind: “How do we prevent and treat pornography use in children?”

Pornography isn’t something that impacts a stereotypical group, said Clay Olsen, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Fight the New Drug, in an hour-long assembly.

“It impacts all — all races, cultures, classes, genders and religions,” he said. “It’s unavoidable. It’s not if kids are exposed, it’s when. It’s not if they struggle, but how bad.”

Fight the New Drug is a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization with a mission to educate society about the negative effects of viewing pornography. A social movement using science as its base, FTND travels across the country sharing its message of “Porn Kills Love” via social media and live presentations.

At the assembly, which was the third parent and community night the school district has hosted this school year, Olsen covered three main points: when to talk about it, how to bring it up and what to say.

“We don’t have the luxury of not discussing it,” Olsen said. “This generation is growing up in a reality no other can imagine.”

At the assembly, many adults said they were lucky if their parents even addressed the topic of sex with them while they were young, let alone taught them the supposed dangers of viewing pornography.

“If kids have Internet access, now is the time [to talk about it],” Olsen said.

According to Olsen, parents should make it natural when bringing it up. For example, ask children or teens how it made them feel if together you accidentally saw a form of pornography, such as on a billboard or TV show.

When deciding what to say, parents were encouraged to use facts and examples to help them distinguish between what is healthy and unhealthy — for example, teaching children about love before teaching them about its counterfeit.

Olsen told parents to make sure to listen, to not judge and stay calm — even if a child’s questions or confessions are alarming.

Scott Roberts, of Provo, said his parents talked to him about sex years after he’d been exposed to it by his peers. When it came to the topic of pornography, the conversation was short: “It’s bad, don’t look at it.”

Now a father of four boys, Roberts said he wants to have the discussion early, and he wants to help his kids and society know of pornography’s negative effects.

“I want them to be educated — I want them to know [porn] can be harmful just like drugs or smoking or alcohol,” he said.

Melissa Weed, a Provo resident and mother of six, said the topic of pornography is a topic people generally avoid like the plague — but it’s a conversation that needs to be had.

“It is not a matter of ‘if’ our children will be exposed to pornography, but unfortunately a matter of ‘when,'” she wrote in a letter to Provo School District administrators in September 2015 to show her support for the Fight the New Drug program. “We as a community, parents, teachers and educators need to be discussing this topic and determining measures of how we can help our children navigate through these potentially life-altering exposures.”

The district heard her and many others — including Malissa Richardson, Miss Provo 2014 — with similar concerns. In October 2015, after several joint meetings with the district, the Provo City Council passed an anti-pornography resolution “commending individuals, families, businesses, schools, churches, and other institutions for promoting education of the harmful effects of viewing pornography.”

In the document, Provo residents are encouraged to “engage in Provo Board of Education’s efforts to sustain the Fight the New Drug campaign in local schools,” as well as to “seek education on the deleterious effects of pornography” on their own.

Kara Cottle, a Provo mother of two young girls, is doing just that, and said she was struck by what she’s found out.

“Every parent needs this education,” Cottle said. “This is not the way it was when we were growing up.”

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