3 Secrets to Porn-Immune Kids

How do you immunize kids against porn? How do you porn-proof them so your kids stay safe online?  It’s no different than the many other dangers you train your kids to deal with–first you warn them, but then you’ve got to practice “what you preach” so they can react appropriately when they are exposed. It’s kind of like a fire drill. First you teach them about the potential for danger; then you teach them how to get out of the house safely.

Beyond Warning

puzzled momXSmall

I believe that warning them is a great first step, and a boatload of kudos to you proactive parents who open a dialogue with your kids about pornography.

But may I suggest that you don’t stop there? Arm your kids with a warning, but follow up with the skills they need to protect their brains. It’s like building any kind of immunity–first you need the knowledge about good nutrition, exercise, cleanliness, and medical options, but then you’ve actually got to practice those good habits until they become skills.

Media defense skills empower kids to reject pornography and keep it from dominating their thoughts.

When bullies taunted me at school, my mom gave me some tools to deal with them. (She happens to be one of the funniest people you’ll ever meet. In fact, once her smart-alecky humor almost got us kicked off a tour bus in Hawaii! But that’s another story.) The witty verbal retorts she recommended often left my tormentors scratching their heads and looking dumbfounded. Pretty soon, the bullies left me alone. I was grateful for my mom’s bullying defense skills.

Adults Underestimate the Pull of Porn

Even good kids who have had plenty of warnings to stay away from pornography still succumb. A study out of Europe documents what I believe it true the world over–parents simply underestimate their kids’ online exposure to pornography. They underestimate the enticing pull of these images–especially for kids who don’t know how to deal with the shocking memories they create.

Media Defense Skills

So here are three super simple, but super powerful, media defense skills to help kids supercharge their immunity to porn.


GPBP_07Sml1. You’ve got TWO brains!
 Teaching kids they have two brains–the feeling brain and the thinking brain–is empowering for all kinds of growing up skills (which we explain in greater detail in Good Pictures Bad Pictures). The feeling brain is all about instinct, appetites and desires, and all of these are critical to survival. Pornography activates the feeling brain and, over time, can give it power to hijack the thinking brain—that part of the brain that understands consequences and puts the brake on our appetites. It may be helpful for kids to see their thinking brain as a super hero that needs to triumph over their feeling brain, the brain that is very curious about seeing pictures of naked people. Read more about teaching kids that they have two brains in my post: You Have Two Brains! 

GPBP_23Sml2. Name it when you see it. “That’s pornography!” is a powerful phrase because it activates the pre-frontal cortex and revs up the thinking brain to take charge. If a child looks at a pornographic picture and thinks, “Wow! She’s exciting!” or “He’s hot!”—this response can easily lead to looking for more porn. But if kids are trained to say, “That’s pornography!” (and can practice saying it with their family), it wakes them up to the danger of what they’re seeing and the importance of rejecting it immediately. Read more about the power of this skill in my post entitled How to Avoid the Slippery Slope of Gateway Porn.

young boy thinking3. Practice the art of distraction. Pornographic images are extremely memorable. Especially for kids whose mirror neurons make the images feel all the more real. So when kids see anything that arouses their interest (it could be a scantily clad actress in a movie or a model in a bikini), those images are hard to forget. They keep popping up and enticing a child to look for more. Kids need to know this will happen and be prepared to distract themselves (or to get you to help them) every time the images reappear. It’s especially helpful to engage in something physical that requires their mind’s full attention. As they practice the art of distraction, those images will begin to fade as the neural pathway to that image erodes and weakens. Find out more about this skill in my post: Teach Kids Two Ways to “Forget” Porn.

These Skills Work!

It’s ironic (but not surprising) that as I’ve done research online for Good Pictures Bad PicturesI’ve been exposed to more porn. Thankfully, these same media defense skills work for adults, too! By practicing them, those images have faded from my memory.

Shameless plug!

FREE Can Do Poster

Good Pictures Bad Pictures includes an easy to remember 5-point CAN DO Plan for kids to employ when they see pornography. Subscribe to our PornProof Kids blog and get this free printable poster to give your kids the media defense skills they need. (Click on the Home Tab in the menu bar above and then look for the FOLLOW BLOG VIA EMAIL on the RIGHT sidebar. P.S. If you received this blog in an email, you’re already subscribed. If you’re already subscribed, but haven’t received a free printable poster, email us at pornproofkids@gmail.com.)

You would never expect your child to be successful in school without learning the skills of reading and basic math. In the same way, kids cannot be expected to be successful at avoiding the traps of pornography without these simple but powerful media defense skills.

Have you taught your kids about pornography and how to manage their thoughts? How have your kids responded? Please leave a question or share a story. Thanks!

 

4 Ways Porn Makes Kids More Vulnerable to Sexual Abuse

DistressDid you know that children are sexually victimized at a much higher rate than adults? Virtually everyone can agree that adult rape is a horrible crime. But the Children’s Assessment Center website reports that nearly 70% of all reported sexual assaults (including assaults on adults) occur to children ages 17 and under.

And this study was done back in 2000, so I’m pretty sure with all the proliferation of child pornography, that number is even worse today.

Pornography is so intertwined with sexual molestation that parents need to know how all of this works together. Let’s look at four ways that showing pornography to kids can weaken their ability to avoid, resist and escape sexual victimization.

According to Diana E.H. Russell in her Big Porn, Inc chapter entitled Harming Children, porn can arouse, legitimize, desensitize and silence children who are being molested.

Young boy using laptopSeeing pornography arouses children’s sexual curiosity, especially in boys. And perpetrators often show pornographic pictures to begin grooming them for sexual subjugation. “Pedophiles posing as young teenagers in Internet teen chat groups often send pornographic pictures or email messages…in order to arouse their curiosity and to manipulate them into meeting in person.”

Showing pornography to kids serves to legitimize or normalize child sexual abuse in the eyes of victims.  The abuser uses porn to persuade them that they would enjoy certain sexual acts and that it’s normal or alright to do. Sending child pornography to targeted children is a ploy to convince kids that other children are sexually active, too. No big deal, right? Wrong!

Showing pornography to children desensitizes or “disinhibits” them. A child molester grooms an intended target by first befriending them, then touching him or her and then introducing the child to X-rated videos until the child can sit through them. Once the child is comfortable watching pornography, it’s much easier to get them to do the sexual acts depicted in pornography.

Sombre futureKids naturally feel guilty and ashamed for looking at pornography, and pedophiles use this to their advantage. According to Russell, “Child molesters can often silence their victims by telling them that their parents would be very upset to learn that they had watched pornography.” And kids who are molested following the exposure to porn may feel complicit in the abuse. Just another reason for them to remain silent, keeping their shame buried inside.

So how do parents use this information to help their kids?

  • First, kids need to be educated and given a basic definition of pornography so they know how to label it when they are shown it or stumble upon it.
  • Next they need to be taught that if they are shown pornography, they won’t get in trouble for telling you about it. It’s not their fault and they are not to blame. But mom or dad needs to know.
  • Third, if you find out that a friend or family member has shown pornography to your child, cut off all access to that person and get professional counseling immediately. In my county, we have a Support, Advocacy and Resource Center  where victims can turn for help in cases of sexual assault or exposure to pornography. In other areas, search for “Sexual Assault Resource Center.”

mom talking with daughter in parkSexaul abuse of minors is far too common, and has long-term negative effects on children. Help your kids stay safe by teaching them about pornography and encouraging them to tell you if they are ever shown it by anyone.

Have your kids ever told you that someone showed them pornography? How did you respond? Please leave a comment! We can all learn so much from each other.

When Pre-schoolers See Porn: 3 Tips to Prepare Your Child to Be Out in the World

embarrassed momKids say the darnedest things! Sometimes they rat out their parents. (Oh I remember those times!)

Here’s a story you may not believe, but it’s true.  I recently heard it from a teacher who told me that a three-year old boy in her pre-school class remarked one day, “Daddy lets me sit on the couch with him and watch the naked people on TV.”

WHAT??? I am NOT making this stuff up! I only wish I were!

This teacher is one of those force-of-nature types, and boy did she get back with that father! He was a bit dumbfounded to hear that his son was reporting on his porn habit.

So what does this incident have to do with you?

two girls with cell phoneEven if they never hear the word “pornography,” your kids are going to hear about porn. And it doesn’t matter if they’re in a private schools or public schools—it’s everywhere.

So how do you prepare them? Here are three tips to help kids talk to you about their experiences when they’re away from home.

  1. Teach kids to notice differences.  You can teach your kids that, outside of your home, people are sometimes different. Without even mentioning “pornography” or “naked people,” you can ask your kids to report back on the differences they find in school or in any other environment.
  2. Listen carefully and respectfully. If they tell you something crazy (like the true story above), don’t get freaked out. You might scare your child into silence, or worse, shame.
  3. Reaffirm your family’s values. Be clear, but don’t get preachy. Here’s a possible response: “Joey’s father might watch naked people on TV, but we don’t. Our bodies are special and we keep them covered up. We would never allow naked pictures of ourselves to be put on TV. And we don’t watch others who do.”

Conversation togetherAs kids get older, your discussions will hopefully continue. Kids may ask questions that temporarily stump you, but tell them you’ll think about it and then get back with them. Children are smart and they want to gain understanding. Who better to teach them how to navigate a pornified world than their own parents?

Have your kids come home with some crazy stories? Have they ever stumped you with a question about sex or pornography? How did you respond? Please share! I love to read your comments!

4 Tips for Teaching Kids about Sex

Parents tend to dread and put off the inevitable sex talk. And with good reason. It can be awkward.

But it’s one of the most important topics you can discuss with your kids!

Why?

OK, you know why, but just in case you’re new here, kids are getting exposed and affected by pornography at alarming rates! Their curiosity propels them to easily accessible internet porn. Without their parents to tell them any different, kids often follow their curiosity about sex, and that can lead them to powerful life-long pornography addictions.

I wish I were exaggerating!

Not to mention falling prey to the ugly notions about sex that porn teaches. In pornography, sex is not a loving way to bond with your committed partner. Today’s porn has metastasized into a hundred thousand variants of violent and shocking perversion, all streaming in full color video over any internet-enabled device! Whew!

I know we’ve got a big task. We have to teach kids that sex is good (in the right situation), but porn is not. The main thing is to just get started!

So, here are four tips to make these discussions more comfortable, for both you and your kids:

  1. Start young. Observe your kids and take time to consider how much they are ready to hear. Kids are often curious about their anatomy (or the anatomy of the opposite sex) and this can be a starting point. Get comfortable talking to your kids about their bodies and then, bit by bit, increase their knowledge. In my opinion, most kids should have a basic understanding of sex by age 8 (if not age 7) or you risk allowing them to get that info from some other source.
  2. Teach often. The most effective way for kids to learn is by repetition and incremental teaching. One big “talk” can be traumatic, awkward and confusing.
  3. Your relationship matters. Parents get panicked about coming up with the exact right words to say, but in the end it’s the overall relationship you have with your kids that makes the difference. Being open, expressing love often, and taking the time to listen to them will all combine to make both of you more comfortable when it comes to talking about sex.
  4. Straight talk is best. Don’t use code words or slang to discuss sex or human anatomy. You want to imbue sex with the respect it deserves and that means using the correct vocabulary. If you have to practice saying the words “vagina” or “penis” out loud to yourself in a closet, do it. Get comfortable with these words because they are going to help you educate and protect your child.

A recent study of church-going teens showed that only 15% of the kids considered their parents to be the primary source of information about sex. The remaining 85% got their sex-ed from peers, the internet, media, textbooks, other family members or church leaders.

So we have a choice: Teach kids about sex early and often or let someone else do it for us.

Do you have other tips for teaching kids about sex? Please comment and share what has worked for you! (See below or click on the grey bubble above!)

Will the Porn Talk Arouse Curiosity in Kids?

Today I want to respond to a sincere question I received on a recent blog post. The reader brought up a concern that I’ve heard several times before:

Won’t talking to kids about pornography make them even more curious to search it out?

The answer is: I don’t know. It might. But if they do go looking for it, they will at least have some warning about the potential damage it can do to their brain.

So here’s the choice: Teach your kids about pornography and risk increasing their curiosity about it OR say nothing and take your chances.

Kids are curious, but we still warn them about all kinds of other dangers. Do parents feel that warning kids about the dangers of smoking or doing illegal drugs will propel them to seek these things out?

Studies show that a majority of kids are exposed to pornography by age 11, and that age is falling as more and more kids get internet-enabled devices. Research out of England reported that 75% of teachers worry that “easy access to hardcore pornography through mobile phones and the internet is damaging their students.” A third of those teachers surveyed believe that the majority of their students ages 16 and under regularly viewed hardcore pornography.

As a result, these teachers are seeing the results:

  • Children as young as 11 are becoming over-sexualized and feel under pressure to “perform sex acts.”
  • Overly sexualized language is “becoming the norm” among students
  • “Awful” behavior of boys towards young women is attributed to watching pornography.

In the end, I believe what really helps kids to stay away from pornography is the open and informative discussions they have with their parents or other trusted adults. (For some ideas about how to get started, see my post “Pornoculation: Where Do I Begin?”)

But this begs another question: Do you need to explain sex to a child before you warn them about pornography?

 

I’d love to get your feedback on this question.

Have any of you warned your kids, even in a very simple way, about “bad pictures” or pictures of people “without clothes on” before you’ve talked to them about sex? How did it go and how did you feel about it?

To leave a comment, see below or go up to the top of this post and click on the grey comment bubble. Thanks!

How to Use Your Children’s Curiosity to Keep them Safe

Kids are curious. And it’s a good thing because they have a lot to learn! But their natural curiosity can be a burden for parents who have to answer all those “why” questions as well as keep their little ones safe from dangerous situations.

Hence, the proverbial warning: Curiosity killed the cat.

When it comes to pornography, children are extremely vulnerable. Their natural curiosity about their body parts and how they work coupled with the accessibility of internet porn presents a real danger. I believe the average age of first exposure to pornography for most children is somewhere between 7 to 9 years of age.

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, p. 13.)

The solution?  Become your kid’s “go-to” person for information about sex.

Children need their parents to be a comfortable and credible source of information. Parents need to provide:

  1. Basic information about the body and how it works.
  2. Warnings about the dangers of looking at pornography.

Make no mistake, children’s natural curiosity will drive them to find answers to their questions. Wise parents will start early to work with that curiosity to shape healthy attitudes about sex and help their children reject pornography.