Thinking Outside the (Gift) Box: My Crazy Mama Plan for a Meaningful Christmas

This post was first published on Melody Bergman’s blog Mama Crossroads. Melody is an ardent anti-pornography and anti-exploitation crusader, besides being a completely lovely person. Although she writes specifically about Christmas in this post, everything she says can be applied all year long to families of any religion or no religion.

I believe that helping kids find joy in relationships instead of stuff helps them to reject the self-obsessed messages that are a constant drumbeat of modern media (and pornography). Don’t miss her two-box solution for an unplugged Christmas!

Modern family of four reading Christmas fairy talesby Melody Bergman

During our family drive home from music lessons, jingle bells blared noisily over an ad for some big sale on the radio. In the backseat my eight-year-old, Camden, sighed heavily. “Mom!” he finally burst out. “It’s all so stupid. Everyone is so greedy! I think we should boycott all the black Friday sales!”

I was speechless. Wow. Preach it, kid.

For a moment, I wondered whether he had heard me express similar sentiments or if he had come to the conclusion on his own. “What makes you say that, Camden?” I asked.

“It’s just so dumb. Everyone is so busy buying stuff they don’t even want to spend time with their families.”

Ah, Camden … always the deep thinker. I love that kid. And truthfully, a little excitement bubbled up inside me at the thought of him bringing up this conversation–one I’ve been dying to have with my family. He’s a lot more likely to listen if it’s his idea.

IMG_1665Where are you, Christmas?

With each passing year, I find myself becoming more and more disenchanted with the Christmas season. Maybe that sounds cliche. Cindy Lou touches on the same emotion in “Where are You, Christmas?” so I know I’m not the only one. I get it. But then the question becomes: What do I do about it?

“You know, Camden … Your dad and I have been talking about this for a while,” I told my little boy. “We have been wondering how to make Christmas meaningful for you boys. We feel like it doesn’t matter what we buy for you; it will just get lost in the avalanche of gifts.”

On a side note, the word “avalanche” is not really an exaggeration. My sweet, sweet … very loved boys are quite showered this time of year. And it is no one’s fault. It’s just the way things have played out. We are a blended family. As a result of the divorce and both their parents remarrying, the kids now have not two, but FOUR families (including parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) sending gifts.

Not only that, but their birthdays happen to fall in November and January, so … we officially have THREE MONTHS STRAIGHT of utter spoiling. It’s pretty awesome. But whoa. At a certain point, It’s kind of overload too. We haven’t quite figured out how to sort things out yet.

C07pageantThe lightbulb

“I have an idea!” Camden piped up. “How about we don’t do any presents in our family this Christmas! You know what I want instead of a present? To spend time with our family. That’s what I really want the most for Christmas–just to be together.”

I think my heart skipped a beat.

I know he’s not fibbing. He’s my little home-body. This is the kid that just wants to hang out at the house on Saturdays. He throws a fit if we have to run errands. I used to think he was just being difficult, but I’ve learned. He is perfectly content staying home playing with his little brother. “I never get to do that,” he tells me. “I never get to just be home and play with Liam.”

And he’s right.

Remember when we were kids? We used to have time to play with neighborhood friends, ride bikes, shoot baskets … whatever … His life just isn’t like that. I watch him scrambling to practice piano then catch the bus in the morning, zoom home at 4:15 p.m. with just enough time to unwind before hitting his homework, then dinner, some days he has lessons or scouts, and then the day is pretty much over. And then it all starts over again. What happens to the time?

“Wow, Camden. TIME. Time is a precious gift. Family time sounds like a pretty sweet Christmas gift. I love that idea. How about it? Let’s not buy each other gifts this year. Instead, let’s give each other gifts that don’t cost money.”

Camden practically jumped out of his seatbelt: “YES! AWESOME!” And I burst out laughing.

“Let’s do it!” We all agreed.

Christmas list

So if we aren’t buying each other stuff, then what are we gonna do on Christmas morning?

Here are some ideas that have surfaced:

  • “This is where sewing really comes in handy,” Camden told me yesterday. Haha. I taught him how to sew by hand earlier this year, and he actually made a stuffed cat for a little girl he has a crush on! So stinking cute. I talked to her mom a few weeks ago, and she was pretty impressed.
  • Daddy is a carpenter by trade, and I have asked him to make a creche for the front yard. Yay. :) I also have some fun ideas up my sleeve for the kiddos. It sure is handy having a handyman around the house. Hehe

And what about me? What do I really want? 

Just one gift. A box. And a promise to go with it. Here’s my plan … At noon on Christmas Eve, I will place an empty box on the living room floor and ask my little family to bring me all the electronics: phones, remotes, tablets, computers, game controllers, all of it. I will put mine in too. I will tape up the box, wrap it, and put it under the tree.

All I want for Christmas is an UNPLUGGED FAMILY for 24 hours: from noon on Christmas Eve to noon on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, we can open the box and have all our gizmos back, but until then …

One more box

In case my kids come tell me, “Mom, I’m boooooooored, there’s nothing to doooooooo …,” I’ll have another box full of fun stuff. It will be stuffed with ideas of cool UNPLUGGED things to do. I have already started a collection of 3×5 cards with games, experiments, and crafts, plus I have a book of 365 unplugged family activities.

Things like “taking a nap” or “reading a book” or “sitting by the fire” will also be options … though I’m guessing that I will enjoy those better than my kids.

I am pumped! We’ll see if the rest of the troop will buy into my crazy Mama plan.

What about YOU? If you had to think of a gift for your spouse or children, but weren’t allowed to spend any money, what would you give?

Come on! Think outside the (gift) box!


Melody Harrison Bergman
is a happily-remarried mama of two crazy little boys and an awesome step-son. She enjoys hanging out with her family, playing and teaching piano, singing, taking long walks in the rain, and advocating for her favorite cause—ending sexual exploitation. Currently, she is an administrator on three related websites on the subject: MamaCrossroads, her personal blog; Hope & Healing, a faith-based blog and private forum for more than 800 wives of porn addicts; and the website for the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation, based in Washington, D.C.

10 Fun Ways to Teach Kids Empathy (and Help Keep Them Safe Online)

10 Fun Ways to Teach Kids Empathy

by Kristen A. Jenson

Can developing empathy and caring attitudes in kids (who are basically me-centered) help to keep them safe online?

I think so, and I’m not alone.

I recently read a blogpost by Amy Mascot who attended a Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference. On her blog TeachMama, she shared a list of five actions that parents and other caring adults can take to protect kids online. I want to focus on the first one:

We must teach our children to respect themselves and others.

Amy shares that part of this is teaching kids empathy.

“We need to teach them empathy–-one of the most difficult things to teach our little ones. But we can try to teach empathy by teaching them to think about othersto care about others and to do what we can to help others.”

Why would teaching empathy help kids stay safe online?

Here’s my take. A lot of the online nastiness out there teaches kids selfishness and self-centeredness.

According to Dr. Jill C. Manning, author of What’s the Big Deal About Pornography?, “pornography encourages people to be less respectful towards others because it treats people like objects who simply exist to satisfy another person’s sexual urges or desires.” She goes on to explain, “When people begin to objectify other humans, we lose part of our humanity and diminish our divine ability to love and care for others” (pages 42-43).

Help empower a child. It's a great gift!

Help empower a child–It’s a great gift!

In our book Good Pictures Bad Pictures, we explain that pornography hurts kids because it “lies to your brain about how people should treat one another” and shows people “being mean…and acting like that’s okay.” Which. It’s. Not.

Fight the New Drug reports that, “Research has also found that watching degrading porn… leaves the user feeling less compassion for rape victims.”

In fact, one principle of rape prevention training is to help men increase their empathy for women victims. Empathy training is also used in sexual addiction recovery work. I know of a young girl who received professional counseling after she had viewed pornography for months. A big part of her therapy consisted of “re-humanizing” the actors by seeing them as someone’s daughter or son, someone’s niece or cousin, someone’s friend.

Bullying, which is a growing threat to online safety, is certainly devoid of empathy. And violent video games, where kids get to virtually shoot and kill for hours, only makes kids less empathetic in my humble opinion.

With all of these negative influences, it’s easy to see why today’s parents need to proactively teach their kids empathy. A big challenge, but worth the effort! It only makes sense that an empathetic and caring child will be better able to reject bullying and pornography as abnormal and wrong.

So how to you teach kids to care about others?

Here are 10 ideas to try out:

Teach your kids to express their gratitude. Yes, I’m talking about thank you notes again! Every year on the day after Christmas, I pull out the colored paper, stamps & ink, stickers, markers and other crafting supplies, and we make thank you cards. My kids used to glue a wallet-sized school photo of themselves onto their cards to grandparents, aunts and uncles and family friends. Very personalized and a fun tradition!

Model giving gifts to strangers. Every year we find a holiday “giving tree” and go shopping for local needy families. Encouraging your kids to contribute their own funds for this will increase their “ownership” and excitement. Help them picture what the recipients will say and feel when they open their gifts. Pure joy!

Get involved in community service by logging onto JustServe.org. Of course we’ve all heard about dishing out holiday dinners to the homeless, but seriously, in some places you have to sign up years in advance for that privilege! Why not start a tradition of year-round community service? To find service opportunities in your area, check out the new website JustServe. “JustServe.org links you to service opportunities in your community so you can make a difference wherever you are and however you want to serve.”

Write “Happy Day Notes” to cheer people up (and notice how good it makes you and your kids feel). For a great example and a free pdf, check out this enlightening and entertaining TeachMama blogpost.

Play Ding-dong Doorbell Ditch. My kids loved doing this! Gather some plates of goodies, add a nice (anonymous) note and jump in the car. As long as you live in a safe neighborhood, do this after dark. Pull up past the target’s home (maybe even around the corner), and let your kids run up to the porch, deposit the goodies, ring the doorbell and RUN like crazy back to the car, where you quietly pull away hoping they don’t see you (or hear everyone laughing and gasping for breath!).

Give someone the 12 Days of Christmas. If your family celebrates Christmas, consider setting up 12 small gifts and delivering one each day starting on December 13th (if you want to end on Christmas Eve) or December 14th (if you want to end on Christmas Day). A friend of mine received these small gifts the year she went through a difficult divorce. It made a huge difference for her and her two daughters to know others were thinking of their family.

Give someone a “Heart Attack.” This is fun for Valentine’s Day, but can be done year round. Cut a bunch of hearts out of colored paper and write kind, encouraging messages on them. Stick them onto the door of the person you’ve chosen and ring the doorbell. When they answer, ask them if you can help them in some way (raking leaves or pulling weeds) or invite them to a family dinner or social event.

Make freezer meals for someone in need. This could be a fun family activity that won’t take too much time but could be a huge help for someone who has a family member in the hospital or who just needs some TLC. I love my out of print (but still available used) Frozen Assets Lite & Easy: Cook for A Day, Eat for a Month book, but there are cookbooks and websites galore available to help you.

Zachs_Shack_lemondade_stand-LDS-PhilanthropiesHelp raise funds for a good cause. Because our son was in a wheelchair, we can empathize with how important and liberating wheelchairs are. Over the years, we’ve done a few small fund-raisers and donated to The Wheelchair Foundation as well as to LDS Charities Wheelchair Initiative. Zack, a young boy, has far surpassed our efforts with his annual lemonade stand fundraiser—check out his story and website ItFeelsGreatToGive.org. Other families enjoy participating in walks, races, car washes, auctions or bake sales to raise money for non-profits or to help a family defray medical costs.

Visit people. Being in a hospital or a care center can be a lonely and discouraging experience. Several years ago, I teamed up with another mom and we brought our kids to a retirement home to play their musical instruments. The residents loved it! Once when my sisters joined me for my birthday, I dragged them to an assisted living center where we sang, joked and chatted with the residents. I honestly think it was the most fun we had all weekend! All you have to do is to call ahead and speak with the recreational director (who will love to hear from you!). Sometimes you can even bring your pets!

Have fun encouraging your little philanthropists!

Helping kids learn to care for others is one way to enlarge their humanity and fortify them against the de-humanizing influences of pornography. Do you agree? How do you help your kids to develop empathy for others?

Thanks for subscribing!

Can Gratitude Build Better Health & Happiness in Kids? Yes!

can gratitudeCan you help your child build greater mental health and happiness by teaching them to be grateful?

The research says yes. (And we’ve got resources to help—check out the list at the end of this post.)

Gratitude Associated with Better Health and Increased Happiness

According to an article, In Praise of Gratitude, in the Harvard Mental Health Letter,

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

One study done by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami asked three groups to write in journals. One group wrote about things they were grateful for that happened during the week. The second group wrote about irritations, and the third group were simply asked to write about events that affected them, with no emphasis on positive or negative.

After 10 weeks, those who documented their gratitude were “more optimistic and felt better about their lives.” Further the study noted that, “Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation.” Wow!

The Harvard Mental Health Letter goes on to explain that having an attitude of gratitude helps improve relationships. This doesn’t only include couples, but managers who remember to say “thank you” enjoy employees who are willing to work harder.

How are Adolescents Affected by Gratitude?

young-man-washing-dishes-mexico-605596-galleryAnother study published by Michelle D. Hasemeyer from the University of South Florida, reported that adolescents who have higher levels of gratitude also enjoy higher levels of “life satisfaction,” “less internalizing symptoms [such as depression, sadness, anxiety],” and higher levels of support from parents, teachers and peers. These kids also had higher grades.

So, the power of gratitude cannot be underestimated in my humble yet correct opinion.

Dr. Gail Poyner, a licensed psychologist (and my co-author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures), shared that there is early research indicating that higher levels of gratitude may predict how well people recover from anxiety. Sounds good to me!

How to Encourage an Attitude of Gratitude

So how do you cultivate gratitude? Here are six suggestions from In Praise of Gratitude:

  • Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
  • Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
  • girl-praying-917438-galleryCount your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
  • People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
  • Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).

I’ve always been a stickler for encouraging (OK, forcing) my kids to write thank you notes (ideally before the gift was used or the check was cashed). Now that they are adults, they’re pretty conscientious!

Resources

A BIG THANK YOU for YOU!

Thank you for reading (and subscribing to) PornProof Kids! I get so many emails from readers thanking me for writing Good Pictures Bad Pictures, but when it comes right down to it, YOU are the ones who, day-to-day, are raising great kids! Kids that are caring, appreciative, and empowered to protect their brains from the destructive messages and addictive nature of pornography.

So I THANK YOU for all of your tireless work as parents and grandparents to protect your kids in a culture that doesn’t make it easy.

For all of you who are celebrating Thanksgiving Day this week, it’s nice to know that as you count your blessings, you’re increasing your mental health in the process!

Is My Child Ready for a Mobile Device? A Parent’s One-Stop Holiday Gift Guide

Determine if your child is ready, plan and communicate usage guidelines, and know how to prep mobile devices with appropriate parental controls and protective apps and filters.

by Kristen A. Jenson

Is my child ready for a mobile deviceIs your child begging for a smartphone, tablet or iPad? Many parents wonder at what age a child is ready to have a constant connection to the Internet via a mobile device. Horror stories abound about kids accessing hard core pornography via iPads, iPod Touches and smartphones, so parents are wise to proceed with caution.

Following are 3 proactive and protective strategies, crammed with great advice and links, to use before (or even after) your kids receive access to a mobile device.

ONE: Determine if your child is ready for a mobile phone.

Lookout (a mobile cyber security company) in conjunction with The Online Mom, published a family smartphone guide. Here are their four questions to help decide if a child is ready to receive a mobile phone or device. When you can answer yes to all of these, your child may be ready:

  1. Does your child need the phone to stay connected with you or for emergency situations?
  2. Does your child understand and respect the time and usage limits you have placed on other things like television and video game playing?
  3. Does your child understand what types of apps are okay to download and how to surf the Internet safely?
  4. Does your child know how to use the phone safely and appropriately? (Do they know who and who not to communicate with? What they should and shouldn’t share online? What sorts of words and pictures NOT to send?)

NOTE: I strongly advise parents to give the gift of access to a mobile device instead of allowing your child to “own” it. It’s your device, but you are allowing them to use it as long as they follow your rules.

Family playing with Tablet computer at homeTWO: Hold a Family Tech Meeting to set up the rules.

Before your kiddo rips open the package, everyone needs to understand the guidelines, boundaries and expectations that a powerful Internet-enabled device requires. The family smartphone guide gives several tips for a family meeting, including:

  • Write a list of rules before the meeting, but consider asking your child to come up with smart guidelines as well—sometimes kids are even more strict than their parents! (Cover guidelines about calling, texting, downloading apps, taking and sharing photos, posting to social media, GPS location settings, and when the phone needs to be OFF. I advise parents to collect all mobile devices from kids at bedtime and recharge them at your bedside.)
  • Post the rules where everyone in the family can see them.
  • Ask your child to sign a contract listing their responsibilities and the consequences for failing to be responsible with their mobile device.

NOTE: Even if your kids already have use of mobile devices, it’s perfectly fine to hold a family meeting and do a “Re-set”!

THREE: Set parental controls and passwords. Install filtering software or apps.

GPBP_20SmallYou may want to complete this step (and charge the device) before you wrap it up.

  • Set the password on your child’s mobile device, and keep it safe. (Check out this handy, free tool called KeePass to conveniently store all of your passwords.)
  • Set search engines to “safe search” modes and use other parental controls. Droid Lessons explains how to do this for Android devices and Apple Support explains how to set restrictions on iPads, iPhones, and the iPod Touch.
  • Install filtering software or apps to protect your child from unwanted content. Here’s a list from PornHarms of filtering products, and this article, Keep It Clean: 8 Tools to Block Porn and Sexting, contains other great options for protecting your kids. Uknowkids provides this list of three must-have security apps for teens.
  • After they’ve been using it, periodically browse your child’s device, checking on the photos they’ve taken and shared and the apps that are installed. (Let them know beforehand that you’ll be checking their devices periodically.) Make sure you understand what each app does. You may want to make a rule that all apps are approved by you. (Realize that some apps are designed to hide content. For example, Hide It Pro brags that “the app is cleverly disguised as ‘Audio Manager’ in the App Drawer… [and] is basically your secret vault of pics/videos/messages/apps etc.”)

Remember, You Are Your Strongest Tool!

iStock mom and daughter readingFinally, almost every article on installing filters and using hi-tech strategies to protect kids, ends by saying this: You are your strongest tool! Talking with kids, regularly, is what will persuade them to protect themselves. This is the low-tech route, but in the end the most effective.

That’s why we encourage parents to start when their kids are young to explain the damage Internet pornography and addiction can have on the brain. The best-selling book Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids is one way parents can begin to educate kids without scaring them, and to get them excited about protecting themselves with their own internal filter.

Please like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or pin our blog posts onto Pinterest. Other parents like you will appreciate it!

Help empower a child--It's a great gift!

Help empower a child–It’s a great gift!

 

Snapchat, Sexting and Photo Hacking: How to Protect Your Child’s Digital Footprint

Pro-active parents must talk to their children about the types of “good pictures” and “bad pictures” that can be taken of them and shared digitally. Here’s some great information to help parents protect their kids’ digital footprint (and two rules to keep them out of trouble). 

by Claudine Gallacher, M.A.

Two Girls Taking Selfie With Mobile PhoneMy Awakening

My first reaction was disbelief. Why would teenage girls think it was a good idea to take pictures of one another wearing only bras? But this was precisely what happened several years ago during an overnight “girls only” activity at a supervised church event. One of the girls confided in me that late at night they were acting silly and decided to take pictures of one another using their cell phones.

None of the girls thought it was a big deal.sleepover

However, I thought it was a big deal! I immediately talked with my daughter, only 7 years old at the time, and pleaded with her to NEVER EVER let anyone take a picture of her (including herself) that she would not want a teacher or grandparent to see.

A year or two after this event, I heard the word “sexting” for the first time. A study published in 2012 in the  Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that 28 per cent of high school students had sent sexually explicit messages via their cell phones. More than half of the students surveyed had been asked for a nude photo!

What I’ve Learned about the Modern Teenage and Tweenage Worlds

  1. Kids are much more comfortable having their picture taken than I was as a teenager. For them, taking “selfies” and photos of others is as second nature as getting up to answer a phone (attached to the wall) was for me.
  2. Many teens don’t view sexting as risky because it’s so common. They know teens who sext and haven’t suffered any negative consequences.
  3. Often girls feel like they must compete with porn or they might lose their boyfriend. For many kids, it’s an important form of social currency. Jennifer Lawrence has exacerbated this fear by suggesting to girls, “Your Boyfriend Is Going To Look At Porn Or He’s Going To Look At You.”

What Kids Need to Know About Sharing Nude and Semi-Nude Photos

  1. Any nude photo of a minor (no matter who takes the picture) may be considered child pornography and anyone found possessing it may be subject to prosecution. Parents, who own their child’s phone, can be prosecuted for possession of child pornography, a felony offence.
  2. Sharing nude photos may have serious psychological consequences, with some therapists warning that the psychological scars of sexting are akin to the post-traumatic stress of rape.
  3. Nothing on the internet is private. Everything on the internet is permanent. Once a digital photo is taken and is transmitted via the Internet to any type of digital storage, it can be accessible to hackers. Nothing is actually deleted and “no photo or video is truly temporary, even on Snapchat.” The internet is archived and tools, such as the WayBackMachine, allow people to see web pages as they appeared in the past. Besides this, apps and third party websites whose purpose is to save photos can be hacked.

Family playing with Tablet computer at homeStart Early to Shape Attitudes

Parents often worry about ruining a child’s innocence by bringing up issues like pornography and sexting, but I fervently believe in the adage, “Talk early and talk often.” Age compression is a social trend that has younger and younger kids acting like teens long before they reach their teen years. Whatever unhealthy (or illegal) trend is happening in the teenage or tweenage world, younger kids need to be prepared to reject it well before the moment of decision arrives.

Two Essential Rules to Repeat to Kids

  1. Never take or allow anyone to take a photo of you in your underwear or without clothes on. Only take photos that you would let anyone see.
  2. If someone asks you for or sends you a nude photo, always tell a trusted adult right away.

Have you talked to your kids about the types of pictures they should be sharing? Have they already begun to form a digital footprint? We’d love to hear your ideas, experiences and questions so leave us a comment!

Please help us help parents by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter or pinning our blog posts onto Pinterest.

 

My kids say they haven’t seen porn…should I believe them?

My kids say they haven't seen porn; should I believe them?Every parent wants to believe their kids are honest. However, sometimes kids hide the truth from their parents. Keep reading for some stats, warning signs and advice for getting the truth from your kids.

Sobering Stats

Here are some sobering statistics every parent should carefully consider:

  • 71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents
  • 90% of boys and 60% of girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18
  • 32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online
  • 39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online
  • 83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online
  • 69% of boys and 55% of girls have seen same-sex intercourse online
  • 11 is the average age for viewing Internet pornography

Some Kids Won’t Admit Their Exposure to Porn

SALIFELINE Protecting Families

For FREE download, click on image.

Read this eye-opening story from S.A. Lifeline’s Protecting Families From the Harmful Effects of Pornography (p. 85).

A devoted mother of two boys (ages 12 and 10) and a daughter (age 8), came home from a church meeting with a handout on how to talk to kids about pornography. She was a full-time mom and felt quite certain that her kids had “had no exposure to pornographic materials.”

After explaining some of the basics, she asked her children if they had ever seen pornography. Immediately her 12 year old spoke up about a time “when a picture popped up on the computer screen and how this image kept flashing in his memory and he didn’t know how to stop it.”

Then she asked her 10-year-old son if he’d seen any pornography. He said “No,” but his little sister ratted him out. “What about the time I walked into the living room and you and your friend were on the computer looking for pictures of naked women?”

Obviously, some kids tell the truth more easily than others.

jeff fordJeffrey J. Ford, a licensed therapist who treats pornography addiction, states in his article Creating a Safe Place to Talk About Dangerous Things that, “much of the time initial disclosure begins the process of getting the whole story, and is rarely the whole story!” Ford advises parents that a child “will open up about things in stages and rarely discloses something all at once.”

Warning Signs

Here’s some advice from uknowkids.com’s recent article Is My Child Watching Pornography Online?

  • Is your child very curious about sexuality for a very young age? Do they seem fascinated by the thought of sex and their genitals?
  • Has your child showed any early signs of sexual activity? Do you have reason to believe that they have indulged in sexual contact before?
  • Are there charges popping up on your credit card that you have no clue where they came from? Is your child constantly asking to borrow your credit card, but never gives you a straight answer on why they need it? (Here at PPK, we’re not sure why any parent would hand over a credit card to a child!)
  • Have you noticed that now your computer has been getting a lot of pop-ups and that you are receiving an alarming amount of inappropriate e-mails?
  • Do you feel your child is going through any obvious changes in behavior? Are they acting way more defensive or secretive lately?

If you start seeing any of these warning signs, this should be a red flag to you that something’s going on with your child.

Young dad and son

Our Advice

  • Continue to have brief, regular conversations. Ford advises that it’s “helpful to remember that our children will not learn everything at once, and we don’t need to cover everything at once either…Parents must have many conversations about pornography which provide an opportunity to clarify values and beliefs, express opinions, instill truths about sexuality, and answer questions that their child will have.”
  • Present the evidence. Dr. Gail Poyner, a licensed psychologist who treats children with pornography addictions, recommends that if you suspect your child has been viewing pornography and have some evidence to prove it (a list of search terms or url’s and times/dates), present it and say, “It looks like someone has been searching for porn on this device and I believe it may have been you. We know this is hard for you, but we’re going to get through this together. It’s hard to admit to using porn, but the first thing we’re going to do is to try and make sure you can’t access any more of it.”After that, the parents can begin to share information about how harmful porn can be. It is not necessary for the child to admit right away–or ever– that he or she has been into porn. The child may never admit to it, but parents can still move forward. If during sharing information the child keeps denying, just continue to give information over the course of time. If honesty becomes a big issue, it distracts away from the real issue and can turn into a battle of wills, which will only keep the child lying.
  • Stay calm. Kids will avoid talking or asking questions if they perceive their parents are anxious or upset.
  • Create a safe place to talk about pornography. Instead of lecturing about how bad it is, ask what your child thinks and feels about pornography. Especially with older kids, don’t react with judgment if they are more accepting of pornography than you are. Over time, work to help them see the damaging effects of pornography.
  • Click on image to purchase

    Click on image to purchase

    Click on image to purchase

    Be positive about the benefits of maintaining sexual integrity.

  • Read Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids to your children so they understand exactly how pornography affects their brain and why it’s important to always tell their parents when they are exposed to it.

Next Step Internet Safety: 3 Tips to Help Kids Install an Internal Filter

by Kristen A. Jenson (originally published on Net Nanny’s blog, The Nanny Notes as Internet Safety: The Biggest Mistake (Smart) Parents Make)

Next Step Internet SafetyA little girl goes to a friend’s home to play. Instead of playing with dolls, the two girls hide away in the closet and watch hard-core porn on the family’s iPad.

Is the fact that the iPad was not password-protected the biggest mistake her parents made?

No.

Smart parents understand that the Internet is a dangerous place for kids. To protect their children’s developing minds, they install filters on their computers and password protect mobile devices. They may even reach out to other parents to make sure they are doing the same.

Their biggest mistake? To think they’ve done enough.

So if a parent has already installed Internet filters, what else can they do to protect their kids? The answer: Teach them to install their own internal filter.

What’s an Internal Filter?

It’s the understanding of what pornography is, how it affects their brain, and an action plan to use when they are innocently exposed to it.

Here are three steps to help your kids install their own filter.

  1. Define the word pornography.
  2. Explain that viewing pornography can hurt their brain (just like drugs).
  3. Give them an action plan to use when they see sexually explicit media.

Define Pornography

Dr. Jill C. Manning

Some parents shy away from even saying the word pornography, but that just gives it more power. Jill Manning, PhD, author of What’s the Big Deal About Pornography?  and an expert who has testified before Congress on the dangers of pornography, advises parents to define the term so kids are clear about what we want them to avoid.

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

Let’s bring this darkness out into the light without apology or shame. For some great tips, check out How to Define Pornography for a 7-Year Old.

Pornography Can Hurt the Brain

More and more brain research is demonstrating what mental health practitioners already know: viewing pornography can lead to a lifelong addiction that can be more difficult to overcome than addictions to drugs, alcohol or tobacco. And because kids have easy access to the Internet, these addictions are beginning younger and younger.

brain-scans1Recently, Valerie Voon from Cambridge University published the results of a study which showed that pornography addiction leads to the same brain activity as alcoholism or drug abuse. Another study done in Germany documented brain shrinkage in people addicted to pornography. These and many others studies are beginning to show that pornography can damage the brain just like drugs do.

What do your young kids need to know? That just like other drugs, viewing pornography can lead to brain damage and addiction. For more kid-friendly information about how pornography affects the brain (and a child’s freedom), read Hey Kids! Freedom Begins in Your Brain.

Give Your Kids an Action Plan!

This is where you get to help your kids with some specific strategies. Answer these questions to help you devise your family’s porn exposure action plan:

  1. When they see it, what should they do immediately? (Shut down the device—it’s good idea to practice this drill.)
  2. Who should they tell if they are ever exposed to pornography? (Kids often keep exposure to pornography a secret for a variety of reasons—encourage them to tell you and assure them that they won’t get in trouble.)
  3. How can they deal with the memories of the porn exposure that keep popping up? (This is a cognitive skill—for some helpful tips, read Teach Kids Two Ways to “Forget” Porn.)
Click on image to purchase

Click on image to purchase

If you’d like more ideas to help your kids proactively defend themselves against pornography, check out the read-aloud book Good Pictures Bad Pictures, Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. It’s a comfortable story about a mom and dad who teach their child what pornography is, why it’s dangerous, and specifically how to reject it.

I am convinced of this truth:

As we face the dangers of pornography head-on, our kids won’t have to face them alone.

Please share this article with anyone you know who has young children or grandchildren. Thank you!

And help us grow our influence by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter or pinning our blog posts onto Pinterest.