Crime Expert Reveals 7 Tech Tips Every Parent Should Know

Two boys watching smartphone photos


LaVarr McBride is a professor of Criminology at Penn State and recently spoke at the Northwest Coalition for Healthy Intimacy’s annual conference in Portland, Oregon. I was there and took copious notes to share with you! (You also may order the DVD of the entire conference here. Highly recommended!)

Here are seven tips he shared to help your kids stay safe online.

Social Media & Tech Tips for Parents

  • Tip 1: Know every friend on your child’s social media accounts. Did you know that 30% of Facebook profiles are FAKE ID’s—many of whom are pedophiles or sex offenders trying to contact your children? Make sure you and your child knows each friend in the physical world and never friend anyone you don’t know.
  • Tip 2: Teach your child not to disclose private information because nothing is really private on social media, despite “privacy” settings. According to McBride, Facebook users disclose way too my information about themselves. Don’t post your telephone number, address, name of school, or any information a predator could use to gain access to your child.
  • Tip 3: Disable the GPS location setting on mobile devices. Now this gets creepy. Watch the video below and see how easy it is to use social media and geo-tagging to stalk people in a public place. McBride told a story about a predator whose victim had posted on social media that she would meet her friends at a certain movie theater at a certain time that evening. He was able to assault her because he arrived before her friends. McBride warned that predators are smart and use technology to find and assault victims.

Jack Vale’s Social Media Experiment


  • Tip 4: No devices in bedrooms at night. Kids often find it difficult to turn off their connection to friends and social networks. Make it a rule to charge all devices by your bedside at night.
  • iStock_000037398698SmallTip 5: Help your kids find a healthy amount of social media interaction. McBride advises parents not to “yank” technology away from kids, but to work with them and help them develop healthy habits. Texting can become addictive. In fact, an average of 2272 texts are sent per user each month! That’s over 75 texts per day. And it’s causing failing grades, sleep deprivation and even repetitive stress injuries in kids.
  • Tip 6: Warn kids about sexting or engaging in revenge porn. I know—your child would never do this. But 1 out of 5 kids are sexting, and they can be charged with child porn. Just warn them with this story McBride told about an 18 year old young man whose girlfriend broke up with him. To get revenge, a buddy of his suggested that he Photoshop her face onto a pornographic image and send it to a few of their friends. Unfortunately, he made the mistake of texting it to all 475 people on his phone list including her, his parents, his teachers, and his religious leaders. He was arrested and taken to federal court for distributing child pornography (his ex-girlfriend was under the age of 18) and then sent to prison for four years. True story.
  • Tip 7: No personal email accounts—all kids should use a family account so that parents can monitor correspondence.  Search for “safe email for kids” and you’ll find several options. If you want your kids to have their own email account, make sure you set it up and keep the password so you can regularly monitor messages.(This can nip a lot of peer problems in the bud!)

iStock mom and daughter reading


And here’s my two cents about giving mobile devices to your kids: don’t! If you want them to have access to an iPad, tablet or smartphone, buy them for the family and lend them out to your kids on your terms. You approve all apps, you have the account info, and you oversee their use of the Internet. There’s a big psychological difference between a child “owning” a mobile device and “borrowing” it from you.

I hope this has been helpful! It’s a scary world out there, but it only gets safer for kids when we as parents face it head on with good information.

What have you done to help your kids use social media and technology in appropriate, healthy ways? Share your two cents!

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Will Talking about Porn Today Save Your Child’s Marriage Tomorrow?

Save Marriage

Another One Bites the Dust

I just heard about another divorce caused by pornography addiction. A few years ago when I read the statistic that 56% of all divorces name pornography addiction as a major factor, I was blown away. But now I wonder if that percentage is even higher!

This tragedy was similar to so many others. The ex-husband was exposed as a young child and never overcame his addiction to Internet pornography. (I know women also suffer with this addiction, but I haven’t personally heard of a divorce due to a woman’s addiction.)

Student working on taskI do know people who have overcome this addiction, but it takes a deep level of commitment, constant study, work and acceptance that life will never be “normal.” Giving up porn may mean the addict can never own a smartphone or other mobile device. They may need to shield themselves from most movies and TV shows and avoid shopping at the mall. Their spouse may always need to keep the password to their computer. I can see how humiliating it could be, and I’m grateful to know that some are willing to do whatever it takes to save their marriage.

I also know of people who lost everything dear to them (marriage, family relationships with their kids, even careers) and took the addiction with them to their grave.

How does pornography affect marriage?

Dr. Jill Manning lists 21 negative effects of porn in her book What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? Here are ten that can negatively affect marriage:

  1. Increased risk of developing unhealthy views about sexuality
  2. Increased risk of getting involved in sexual behavior that is risky, unhealthy or illegal (hiring prostitutes, for example)
  3. Increased risk of experiencing difficulties in intimate relationships
  4. Increased risk of becoming violent or aggressive
  5. Increased risk of becoming sexually abusive toward others
  6. Decreased trust in your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse
  7. Increased risk of believing long-term relationships are not even realistic
  8. Increased risk of believing there is nothing wrong with being sexually active with someone you have no emotional involvement with or commitment to
  9. Increased risk of becoming sexually dissatisfied with your future spouse
  10. Increased risk of cheating on your spouse once you’re married

Saving Future Marriages

Last year, before we published Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, I was at a writer’s retreat in the beautiful Northwest and met author Ramona Zabriskie, who had just published an excellent book on marriage. As I told her about my work in pornography addiction prevention she literally got goose bumps and with wide eyes said,

“I am trying to save today’s marriages, but YOU are going to save tomorrow’s marriages!”

Of course, I’m not going to save them. Porn-proof kids are going to be better prepared to save their own marriages. Since then we’ve collaborated on a very informative webinar hosted by Ramona (which you should all listen to–we cover prevention strategies and also hear from a young woman who has worked with her husband in overcoming his addiction to porn which began at the age of five).

Porn-Proof = Better Marriage

0167I fervently believe that porn-proof kids have a much better chance at succeeding in their future marriages than those who bring a third partner–their pornography addiction–into their relationship.

I am feeling quite passionate about this today! Please don’t let your kids face this danger alone because you fear you’re taking away their innocence. They are already targeted in the cross-hairs of the porn industry! They need a defense strategy in place before they get hit.

The Good News

You can empower your children! Kids can learn to defend themselves against porn if they are educated.

young boy thinkingOne more radical opinion. I do not believe that children have the full ability to choose until they have been taught the consequences of their choices. A curious child that is caught off guard by pornography without knowing how or why to turn away does not really have a free and clear choice to reject it. And more often than you realize, their innocence will be stolen from them because they didn’t know any better.

OK, I’m done for today. But if you hear a scream coming all the way through the Internet, it’s me finding out that one more marriage has been destroyed by pornography.

Do you want to contribute to future healthy marriages? Please share PornProof Kids with your friends and family! We’d also love you to LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @PornProofKids. Thank you!


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Can Soft-Core Porn Damage Your Child’s Brain?

can soft core
Is a child’s brain affected or even altered by the “soft-core” sexualized images that are all around us? And if so, what are the long-term effects of porn exposure for that child and for our society at large? Could it be that we’re in the midst of a public health crisis?

That’s what Dr. Jenny Brown, a dentist in Bountiful, Utah and busy mom to young boys, wanted to find out.

Jenny Brown with son

After years of research (much of it done late at night after her kids were in bed), Dr. Brown has carefully pieced together a body of research* (see below for a link to her paper) documenting this alarming conclusion:

Exposure to soft-core porn negatively affects a child’s developing brain.

On a recent trip to Utah, I was able to talk with her about her research, which she is currently preparing to submit for publication in the journal of Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology.

Sobering Conclusions

Here are a few of Dr. Brown’s findings:

  • Children exposed to sexual images experience “neurological stress” —their brains are simply not mature enough to handle the “neurochemical blitz” brought on by exposure to soft-core porn.
  • The part of their brain called the basal ganglia (we call it the feeling brain) which is involved with more reflexive, instinctive, and impulsive behavior is made stronger as a child is exposed to more and more sexualized images.
  • As the feeling brain gains strength and efficiency, the pre-frontal cortex (or thinking braindecreases in response to viewing sexually explicit images. Not good because the thinking brain is the part of the brain that “overrides immediate gratification and augments self-control.” (Learn more about your two brains here.)
  • Continued exposure to pornography “causes the viewer to become more impulsive and less able to critically think” (among other problems).

Dr. Brown wants her work to help legislatures pass laws to protect kids from what she and many other experts feel is a public health crisis brought on by pornography.

But in the meantime, what can you do to protect your kids?

Your Plan of Action

happy kid with magnifying glass

Begin by looking at your world through your child’s eyes. Ask yourself:

  • Where does my child get exposed to sexualized media? Make a list of offenders. (Grocery store magazines, catalogs, TV, movies, malls, billboards, online ads, etc.)
  • What can I do to limit the amount of sexualized media my child is exposed to? (One of the grocery stores I used to shop at had “Family Friendly” checkout lines that didn’t have risqué mags displayed—you can ask your local store to provide the same option. I know this is just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a start!)
  • How can I help my child understand that sexualized media is inappropriate? (Explain the lack of privacy, dignity, respect for our bodies which they portray.)

Just like we “child-proof” our homes to keep little children out of danger, we can work to “porn-proof” our environments to protect the developing minds of our kids.

What have you tried? Please share your ideas by leaving a comment–working together we can better protect our kids.

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*Read Dr. Brown’s entire draft of The Physiological Effects of Innocent Exposure to Soft-core Pornography on the Developing Brain. (Dr. Brown gave us permission to share it on PornProofKids.)


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5 Back to School Tips for Porn-Immune Kids

back to school tips

A parent’s nightmare

An innocent kindergartner gets on a school bus to ride home. A third-grader approaches her, holds up a smartphone and says, “Look at this!” What the little girl sees is hard core porn. This story came from a middle class neighborhood in Boise, Idaho, but it can happen anywhere.

How does this little girl react? Will she tell her parents? Will she be scarred for life? Much of that depends on what she’s been taught and how well she’s been prepared.

Back to school time is exciting for kids and parents. New teachers, new friends, new notebooks! A new beginning. But let’s not kid ourselves about the risks. As mobile devices flourish, the risk skyrockets for young kids to be exposed to Internet pornography.

Here’s what you can do.

mom talking with daughter in park1. Define pornography—don’t assume kids know what it is 

I know this sounds basic, but even if kids hear the word pornography, they probably don’t know what it means unless you define it for them.

Jill Manning, PhD, in her book What’s the Big Deal About Pornography? (p. 1-2), relates the experience of a dad who took his 13-year-old son to a presentation about the effects of pornography. On the drive home, his son turned to him and asked, “So what is pornography, anyway?” Even after an hour-long presentation, even after being exposed to it while doing homework, this boy had not make the connection. Dr. Manning advises:

“Being clear on what pornography is and how to recognize it is the first step to protecting ourselves.”

Want some help on defining pornography for young kids? Check out How to Define Pornography for a Seven-Year Old.

2. Ask your kids to tell you if they ever see it

For whatever reason, kids often don’t tell their parents when they’ve been exposed to pornography.

Jill Manning, PhD, tells about her own unsettling exposure to a centerfold while playing at a friend’s home when she was eight. She immediately called her mom and asked to come home, but never told a soul.

“When I consider the kinds of images young people today encounter upon their first exposure to pornography, I shudder to think what would have happened to me if I had seen something more graphic…A pornography problem often starts with an innocent curiosity about something seen or heard—and then it can quickly lead to a twisted appetite for more graphic and harmful images.” (What’s the Big Deal about Pornography?, pp. 12-13)

For more ideas on getting your kids to tell you when they’ve been exposed to porn, check out 3 Reasons Kids Keep (Dangerous) Secrets.

iStock_000016807015Small3. After school, ask your kids what they’ve seen or been shown on the Internet that day

No nagging. Just bring it up in conversation. You might even share something you’ve seen or heard about online. This is all about teaching accountability.

“Hey, I saw the most amazing dance video on Facebook today. Aunt Vicki shared it with me. You’ll have to see it! What did you see online today?”


4. Password protect all of your mobile devices, install filters for the Wi-Fi in your home

I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve heard of young kids accessing porn from the family iPad or a parent’s iPhone. But it’s totally understandable! Kids grow up fast and the need to put a password on devices just sneaks up on you!

Recently, an article in the Deseret News National told the story of on an eight-year-old girl who was viewing hard core porn videos with her friend in her playroom closet. Once her parents found out (from the friend’s mother who called and told them what had been going on), the dad immediately password protected that iPad!

Go a step further and make sure your kids’ friends don’t bring it in on their devices. Install a filter that works on the level of your router to block inappropriate content no matter whose device is trying to access it. This article has some good information to get you started.

5. Confiscate (temporarily) all mobile devices when kids come over to play

Kids don’t need personal mobile devices to play in my humble yet correct opinion. Some parents make a rule that all incoming friends drop their mobile phones in a basket on the kitchen counter.

My neighbor’s son just had a birthday and his parents allowed a few select friends to come over for a sleepover. (Disclaimer: I don’t recommend sleepovers.) These boys wanted to sleep out in their very cool playhouse and when they were settled, dad came out and said, with a smile on his face, “If I find any electronics on any of you, you are going home immediately.” A Kindle was quickly handed over! And guess what, they all still had a great time!

This is all part of tech etiquette. Read more here about establishing your own family’s rules.



It’s truly sad that we have to work so hard to protect our kids. But this is the silver lining: As we talk to our kids, check in with them and empower them, we actually get closer and form a more trusting relationship. United we stand, divided we fall. Nothing is more true than this when dealing with the invasion of pornography.

Do you have friends or family who could use some help porn-proofing their kids?

Let them know about Porn-Proof Kids!


Click on the poster below to subscribe to our blog and we’ll send you a FREE downloadable poster of the 5-point CAN DO Plan featured in our book Good Pictures Bad Pictures. It’s a great reminder for kids of the empowering information they learned when you read them Good Pictures Bad Pictures!


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Ingenious! A 7-Year Old’s Insights for Porn-Proofing Kids

cover 7 year oldI am so inspired by parents who share their porn-proofing stories with me! This week I received an email from a mom who read Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids to her young daughter, Lillianne. Whether or not you’ve read the book, I think you’ll  learn a lot (as well as get a chuckle!) from this 7 year old’s insights.

Here’s what Lillianne’s mom wrote:

I just finished reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures with my 7-year-old daughter. At the end of each chapter, she wanted to dictate her notes to me and have me record them in the book. I thought you might get a kick out of her notes. As you can see, she missed the boat slightly in some areas, but some of her comments show impressive maturity and comprehension.

So, Lillianne, thanks for sharing your thoughts on saying “No! to pornography!

1. Stop and Check for Understanding

Conversation togetherKids get the craziest ideas, so no matter what you’re teaching your kids, stop and ask questions to see how much and how well they understand. Every effective school teacher employs “check for understanding” in their teaching plans. You can, too.

What did I learn notes pageThat’s why we included “What Did I Learn” note pages at the end of the first seven chapters of Good Pictures Bad Pictures.

As with Lillianne’s mom, sometimes you’ll find that your child is a bit off track. Sometimes you’ll be amazed at their utter genius.

At the end of Chapter 4: My Thinking Brain, Lillianne wrote this:

The more I use my thinking brain, the stronger it gets.  Even if I’m about to look at pornography, my thinking brain says, “No!”  If I’m doing my math homework my thinking brain gets stronger about pornography.

Good job, Lillianne! The stronger your thinking brain is, the more power you have to reject pornography!

But here’s where she may need some extra help from mom or dad:

I learned not to take drugs.  Drugs will probably make you get pictures of pornography and trick people into looking at them even if they don’t want to.

The point is how would you know if your child understands what you’re teaching them unless you ask them to explain it back to you?

2. Make “What If” Plans

mom daughter reading GPBPThis tip deals with helping kids apply what you’ve taught them about rejecting pornography. By practicing responses to various situations, you can help them be ready for situations where they could be exposed to pornography. Here’s an example:

What if you were over at your friend’s house and she said, I want to show you something on my iPad (or computer etc.). What should you do?

Here’s Lillianne’s answer:

If someone offers to show you a picture, just ask what it’s about and if [they say] it’s a surprise, just don’t look at it.

Exactly, Lillianne! There are some surprises you don’t want to see!

Other places that kids are getting exposed to porn on mobile devices are school buses, at sleep overs, and at family gatherings. I’ve also heard of several cases where kids view porn on school or library computers.

Helping your kids be prepared with a response can prevent them from being caught off guard and succumbing to peer pressure.

3. Personalize Your Teaching

Making Brownies with GrammyWe use a lot of kid-friendly analogies in Good Pictures Bad Pictures, but kids (like all of us) learn better when we can relate the information to something familiar. Something personal. In Good Pictures Bad Pictures, the little boy jokes about his aunt being addicted to chocolate. Here’s a few examples of how Lillianne personalized this concept about addiction.

Addiction makes you start lying to your family and friends.  And you must not try things you could be addicted to once.  And you can joke about things you might be addicted to like, “I’m addicted to Dippin’ Dots.” Cuz Dippin’ Dots are good.

Yup! Gotta love those Dippin’ Dots!

Instead of doing drugs or pornography, do something you like.  If you still feel unhappy DO NOT TAKE DRUGS.  Just wait.  Do not take drugs.  Just like go outside and lay on the grass.  I tried it once and it really helped.

Hmmm…Good idea, Lillianne!!!

3 Tips for Better Porn-Proofing

Kids are just learning how to learn. As you teach them about important subjects, you can improve their understanding and their ability to apply the concepts by practicing these three tips:

  1. Stop and ask questions. Have them tell you what they just learned.
  2. Prepare kids with “What If” plans to help them apply what you’ve taught them.
  3. Personalize your teaching to make the content relevant and interesting to your kids.

Those are Lillianne’s insights (OK, mine, too!). What do your kids think? I bet they have some ingenious insights of their own! (And I’d love to hear them!)

Do you know anyone who could use help porn-proofing their kids?

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Addiction & Depression: What Parents Need to Know

Addiction DepressionAddiction Leads to Depression

Do people get depressed and then addicted? Or is it the other way around? Does addiction cause depression?

I think it’s both. (And I believe that educating kids early about the process of addiction, including pornography addiction, empowers them to avoid this potentially devastating illness of the brain.)

Kids may turn to addictive substances and behaviors to escape from their negative emotions. But once an addiction takes hold, depression deepens. In fact, according to a Psychology Today article entitled Suicide: One of Addiction’s Hidden Risks,

“The rate of major depression is two to four times higher among addicts than the general population.”


Simply put, the addiction begins to kill off the brain’s neurotransmitter receptors. Fewer receptors means less neurotransmitter available for the brain to use. This ends up lowering the addict’s base mood. As this process deepens, so does depression.

Addiction Lowers the Brain’s Ability to Use Dopamine

Dopamine receptorsWhen an addict uses, their brain releases a huge surge of dopamine. Dopamine is believed to play a fundamental role in reward processes. Virtually all drugs of abuse activate dopaminergic systems, as
do “natural” rewards such as sexual interaction and food. Dopamine is a powerful neurochemical and it motivates you to do everything you do. However, flooding the brain with a tsunami of dopamine has unintended consequences—the dopamine receptors begin to shut down.

boy covering earsThink about when you hear a deafening noise. What do you do? You cup your hands over your ears. Well, the brain does the same thing by shutting down some of its receptors. It cannot control the fact that the user is flooding the brain with dopamine, but it can do something about how much dopamine is absorbed.

Here’s how Fight the New Drug describes this process:

…the brain is trying to protect itself from the overload of dopamine by getting rid of some of its chemical receptors, which act like tiny catcher’s mitts that receive the dopamine released. With fewer receptors, the brain thinks less dopamine is there and the user doesn’t feel as strong a reaction. As a result, many porn users have to find more porn, find it more often, or find a more extreme version—or all three—to generate even more dopamine to feel excited.


A Vicious Cycle

This process of dopamine surges and receptor pruning sets up a vicious cycle of increasing use but decreasing satisfaction.

Pretty soon, addicts have to use just to feel “normal” because when they don’t use they feel depressed. It begins to feel like an endless trap with no escape.

Regretful young man

Can We Just Say No to Suicide?

Sadly, addicts sometimes turn to suicide. It happened in my family. Like Robin Williams, this person seemed to “have it all.” What a sad, mind-boggling shock. But once something like this happens to your family, you can no longer see it as something that just happens to other people.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And according to Psychology Today, “Depression and other mood disorders are the number-one risk factor for suicide.”

You may think that only people addicted to alcohol and drugs consider suicide. But if you do a search for “porn addiction suicide” you’ll see that all addictions can be deadly. Here’s a paraphrase of one young man’s cry for help on an online message board:

“I’m 14 and I’ve been using porn since I can’t remember. Please help me stop. I can’t stand the filth in my life. I’m thinking about suicide.”


Heavy Stuff, But Kids Deserve to Be Educated

No parent wants to think about this possibility. If you’re still reading, give yourself a pat on the back for courage.

GPBP_06SmallMaybe because of my own loss, I believe children deserve to be educated about addictions of all kinds. That’s why Good Pictures Bad Pictures teaches kids about the dangers of addiction before they get involved with pornography or any other kind of drug. This is so empowering. Think about it–when kids understand how addictions begin and progress they have the crucial information necessary to choose to keep their brains safe.

How are you addiction-proofing your kids? Have you found any resources to help you?


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Good Pictures Bad Pictures features a CAN DO plan to teach kids the 5 steps to reject pornography.and minimize its brain-warping images. Subscribe to PornProof Kids and get your free downloadable CAN DO Plan poster pdf. 

In addition, if you teach your children to associate the pattern with five fingers, they will have a reference with them at all times—on the playground, on the bus, at your house, or at a friend’s house. How cool is that! Have faith in your child. He/she CAN DO it!

3 Reasons Kids Keep (Dangerous) Secrets

Note: This is my 100th post! Yay! OK, I just needed everyone to know. Hey, if you’re looking for a reason to indulge in chocolate or, even better, ice cream, go ahead and celebrate with me!

3 Reasons Kids Keep SecretsWhy Do Kids Keep Secrets from Their Parents?

In an ideal world, kids would automatically tell their parents everything that troubled or embarrassed them, like being exposed to pornography. But the truth is, they often don’t. And in this world of mobile devices spewing graphic content, social media bullying, online child predators trolling innocent video games (need I go on?), it can be dangerous for kids to keep secrets.

Is Anyone Home?

One day, when I was six or seven years old, I went a few houses down our street to see if my friends could play. Their front door was slightly ajar and I rang the doorbell. When no one answered, I decided it would be a good idea (???!!!) to go inside and look for them. I searched throughout the house for my friends, but no one was home. As (bad) luck would have it, just as I came out of the front door, the family drove up. “What were you doing in our house?” my friend yelled. It was at that moment I realized I must have done something terribly wrong. I didn’t stay to answer her question; I simply bolted for home, feeling scared and confused. I was so ashamed. I didn’t want to tell anyone.

Who did I finally confess to? My oldest sister. She had noticed I wasn’t my usual perky self and asked me what was wrong. After she assured me that I’d feel better after I told someone, I fessed up. And guess what? I did feel better!

Be Specific: It’s a Confusing World

As parents, it’s helpful to remember that young kids are still learning to navigate a very confusing world. They don’t know all the rules yet. They don’t know how to respond to the many new situations they face. Especially ones in their online neighborhood that are embarrassing and troubling (and potentially dangerous).

I didn’t know that entering my neighbor’s house to look for my friends was wrong when I was that young. And I had no idea that I could get relief from my shame by telling my sister what had happened. I had to be taught that.

Take away? Remind your kids that they can and should come and tell you when they feel embarrassed or upset for any reason. (Or if they ever see pornography.)

“You Can Tell Me Anything

iStock_000009923484SmallHere’s how one mom used an upsetting experience to bring this message home. She and her two sons, ages four and seven, were at an indoor trampoline park. Her youngest came running over and told her, “There’s a boy kissing everyone over there!” When her older son came back from that same area, she asked him, “What’s going on over there?” At first he hesitated and said, “Nothing.” Knowing that something was amiss, this wise mom took a moment to assure her son that he could tell her anything, and gently encouraged him to trust her. Only then did he tell her about the boy who was going around kissing everyone and making the kids feel uncomfortable.

Why the hesitation?

I believe there are three main reasons why kids keep their feelings of embarrassment or shame from their parents.

1. Kids need to be coached to confide in you

I believe kids need to be coached when it comes to confiding in parents and reporting embarrassing experiences. They need to hear over and over again that you want and expect them to come and tell you when others (including friends or family) act inappropriately. Or when they themselves have done something they’re not sure was appropriate (hey, we all make mistakes). Promise them you won’t freak out and they’ll feel better. (You can imagine how a secret is a huge burden for a young child to carry.)

GPBP_19SmallOur concerned mom in Good Pictures Bad Pictures specifically asks her young son to come and tell her if he ever sees pornography. And she reassures him that he won’t get into trouble when he does.

I believe kids need to hear this kind of specific encouragement on a regular basis.

2. Kids are afraid

Kids’ fears can overcome their common sense. Their feeling brain often rules their thinking brain. And fear can inspire, well, fear.

worried boyThe little boy in the story above might have been afraid of his mom’s reaction or overreaction. He sensed that this other boy’s behavior (kissing everyone) didn’t feel right, but he just wasn’t sure how to react. Would his mom scold him for not protecting his little brother, for not coming and telling her sooner? Would his mom make them leave early or, worse, never bring them to the trampoline park again?

My advice? Keep reassuring your kids that they can tell you anything. And when they do, praise them. And try not to overreact.

Want your kids to share their feelings with you? Read this post on emotional awareness for some practical tips.

3. Kids don’t want to lose their technology

girl-using-iphone-844616-tabletAccording to Donna Rice Hughes, President and CEO of Enough is Enough, a non-profit organization dedicated to Internet safety, when it comes to reporting porn exposure, one of the major reasons kids don’t tell their parents is because they’re afraid they’ll be grounded from using their iPads, smartphones, video games or from going online. I attended a teleconference interview of Ms. Hughes and learned that she advises parent not to completely ban kids from using technology or the Internet, but to train them how to use it and avoid its dangers. Their website is a great place for parents to find good information about a range of online safety issues.

Now it’s your turn!

I’ve listed three reasons why kids are afraid to share their secrets with their parents. Can you think of any others? Thanks for joining the conversation! I love to read your comments!