I recently discovered that at least one of my stepsons had downloaded pornography on their computer, which is in their shared bedroom. The fourteen-year-old seems to be the guilty culprit, but he won't own up. The twelve-year-old says it wasn’t him, and I believe him. The law says I’m within my right to beat them both but should I? I’m a Christian and I feel I must cane the culprit. If I do, should it be severe? I was thinking 36 whacks each. I know it’s severe, but sexual sins are serious.
The laws in all states allow reasonable physical punishment, such as spankings, by a parent or guardian. The Bible speaks of using a rod (or switch) to punish misbehavior. (See Questions and Answers regarding Spanking for more details.) You, however, speak of caning, which is not the same thing. You talk about giving 36 whacks, but it is an arbitrary number. You state that you don't know who is guilty, but you talk about caning both boys severely. Finally, and most importantly, there is no indication that the boys will be receiving instruction as to why pornography is wrong or dangerous.
Let's back things up a bit and put things on more reasonable ground. Reserve spankings for willful disobedience. In this case, I would tell the boys that since it is clear that they are yielding to temptation, that they cannot be trusted with a computer in the privacy of their own room. Move the computer out into a public area of the home. If you suspect that they are using it when no one else is around, such as late at night, Windows has the ability to limit access to a user to certain hours of the day. Several software developers have programs to make such limitations simple to set up and will work on other operating systems. Set the hours to those times when you or your wife are home.
Do a thorough clean up of the computer and consider installing monitoring software. None of these steps will prevent a determined teenager from accessing pornography, but it makes it difficult and lets them know that you are determined to keep them safe.
Let the boys know that you will be going through their room at unannounced times to see if they are hiding pornography. Make it clear that pornography is not acceptable in any form in the house.
Finally, sit down with them and study with them about lust, sexual desire, and pornography. The more knowledge they have from the Bible, the less "glamorous" the pornography will appear. I would recommend using Growing Up in the Lord: A Study for Teenage Boys to give them the background they need at this stage in their life. Follow this up with the article "A Look at Pornography" to explain the specific dangers of pornography.
I have spoken to my wife and it is agreed that it would not only be wrong to administer corporal punishment to both my sons unless they're both guilty and that 36 whacks of the cane are not appropriate. I attended a strict religious school where teachers would administer corporal punishment to the entire class to keep order. I thought it would have been wrong to cane them both, but I wanted to be sure. We agree that it is a sin to wrongly punish someone. The fourteen-year-old has owned up. Would twelve lashes of a senior cane be more appropriate or should I slipper him?
I'm glad that some of what I wrote sunk in. Just because you were raised with or without corporal punishment, or just because a certain type of punishment was always used when you were young doesn't necessarily imply that it is scriptural or the best method. You mentioned that you are a Christian, so why aren't you going back to the Bible to learn how to discipline? I'm asking because neither the use of a cane or a slipper is mentioned therein. See "A series of questions about spanking" for an introduction to biblical corporal punishment. Also, read through the Scriptures listed in the Notes on Spanking. I do hope you are including studying with your boys about sexual matters as part of your corrective action.