The digital age may provide some blessings for children today, but unfortunately it can also be very dark. At the last 2018 Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Global Summit, Kristen Jenson with Defend Young Minds and author of Good Pictures, Bad Pictures shared with us 10 proactive ways to “turn the lights on” for kids, and give them a safer, happier, digital environment. We’ve summarized these points for you here!
Watch Kristen’s presentation here! Read below for a summary.
The mission of Defend Young Minds says it well: “We need to bring pornography out of the dark where it has power, and into the light where our kids have the power.”
Before she goes into the 10 ways to protect children, Kristen lists a few key principles to follow when discussing pornography with your kids. First, sooner is safer. A mom by the name of Susan S. says, “If we hadn’t talked that day, I’m quite sure I never would have known anything about it. What could have become a sort of wedge between us became a bonding experience, and fortified our trust in one another.”
Secondly, it’s not just a boy problem. Jeffrey J. Ford, a marriage and family life therapist from Utah, tells us, “The first thing parents and leaders need to understand is that girls are just as sexual as boys. In some ways, girls are more at risk [from pornography] because many parents do nothing to protect them.”
The next 10 statements are ways that kids can protect themselves from the dangers of pornography. They are from the child’s perspective and they are also in the form of “I” statements.
#1: I know what porn is; I can recognize it.
The simple definition of pornography, according to Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen Jenson, is this: “Pornography means pictures, videos, or even cartoons of people with no clothes on. These pictures focus on the parts of the body that we keep covered with a swimsuit.” For us as adults, the word “pornography” is loaded. For little children, however, a simple definition is all that is needed. As your child gets older, you might switch to a more advanced definition, such as, “Pornography is material specifically designed to arouse sexual feelings in people by depicting nudity, sexual behavior, or any type of sexual information in any media.”
#2: I know how pornography might make me feel.
Some kids feel repulsed when they see porn, others feel enticed. Most, however, feel both, depending on what they see. You should let your child know that these feelings are biologically normal.
#3: I know that pornography can hurt me.
It’s important to let your child know that porn can hurt their brains, stunt their ability to love others, and ultimately put people at risk for hurting others.
#4: I understand how addiction affects my two brains.
Every person has a feeling brain and a thinking brain. The feeling brain deals with fast, automatic thoughts, basic appetites and instincts, and the reward/pleasure center. The thinking brain goes through a slower, more methodical process, it helps the individual be able to distinguish right from wrong, and it is not fully developed until ages 20-25. The feeling brain hijacks the thinking brain when an individual is suffering from an addiction.
#5: I am learning to deal with my emotions so they won’t turn into addictions.
Often children begin to get curious, and they continue to seek out porn because it’s intense, quick, and a great distraction. If parents teach their children how to deal with emotions in a healthy way, they won’t need to turn to pornography as an addiction to deal with problems. Additionally, children need mentorship in making plans to meet their emotional needs.
#6: I can turn, run, and tell. I am prepared with the CAN DO Plan.
We must give children a plan: what should they do when they see pornography? Defend Young Minds has come up with a few steps for children, called the “CAN DO” plan. First, the child must Close their eyes, Always tell a trusted adult, Name it when they see it, Distract themselves and redirect their thoughts, and Order their thinking brain to be the boss.
#7: I have parents who can answer my questions about sex.
Why do kids “hire” porn? When parents don’t give their children a sexual education, when they don’t explain what sex is, and its nature, children seek out answers for themselves. Every parent is competing with the porn industry for the sexual template of their child.
#8: I know 5 important body safety rules.
These include 1) I know the names for my private body parts. 2) I know what “private” means. I keep my private parts private. 3) If someone, even another kid, asks to see my private parts, I say NO! 4) No one should ever ask me to keep a secret about touching private parts. And 5) I will always tell my parents or a trusted adult if someone asks to see my private parts. When I do, I know I won’t get in trouble.
#9: No one, including myself, should ever take pictures of me without my clothes on.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, sextortion is by far the most significantly growing threat to children. Sextortionis a type of exploitation that involves coercion to extort sexual favors from the victim. It is also a type of blackmail in which sexual images or videos are used to force sexual favors from the victim. People who sext may find themselves victims of sextortion. For this reason, a child should never take nude photos, or allow others to take nude photos of them.
#10: I know the trusted adults I can talk to without shame or fear about pornography.
Teach your child to identify trusted adults, so that they can feel free to talk about pornography without shame. Encourage your kids to report exposure the same day that it happens. Studies have shown that if a child doesn’t report having seen pornography on the same day, they’ll never go on to report it.
Let’s all work together to protect and defend our kids! To learn more, visit www.defendyoungminds.com.
- Jenson, Kristen A., Gail A. Poyner, and Debbie Fox. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-proofing Todays Young Kids. Richland, WA: Glen Cove Press, 2017.
- Manning, Jill C. Whats the Big Deal about Pornography?: A Guide for the Internet Generation. Salt Lake City, UT: Shadow Mountain, 2008.