We want to protect our kids from porn. When I was a little girl, I found a magazine in our yard with porn, and the photos upset me. Today children can find porn much more easily when they are on the internet or phone.
Author Kristen Jensen was my guest this week. She has written several books for parents on protecting kids from porn
Cynthia: Years ago, I walked to school every day. I lived a few blocks from my school. Because the school was so close there were kids that walked through my yard. One day, I was out in the backyard, and I found a magazine. When I opened it up there were pictures of women without clothes on. I thought, “what in the world is this?” I took it to my mother, and she just threw it away. Probably some boys dropped it when they walked through the yard. But that was my only experience. I didn’t even know what porn was for years. Now it is so much easier to find because of the Internet, and we do not want our kids to get into that. Today I have Kristen Jensen with me. She has a ministry called Defending Young Minds, and she’s actually written a couple of books for kids: Good pictures, Bad Pictures. She’s going to talk to us a little bit about how we can protect our kids from porn. Welcome Kristen.
Kristen: Thank you so much, Cynthia, it’s great to be here with you.
Cynthia: Kristen, why did you start this ministry?
Kristen: It was a tragedy in a family that got me started. The mother was homeschooling her children because she just really wanted to protect them from the evils of the world. But the Internet was in her home. Come to find out her oldest son aged 17 was sexually molesting his younger brothers and sisters. Porn was a big part of it. So, I woke up the next morning after hearing this really sad and tragic story, I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind that I needed to find a resource for her, but I couldn’t find anything. The crazy idea popped in my head that I could write it myself. That was the beginning.
Cynthia: We want to protect our kids from porn. You talk about a screen smart child. What is that?
Kristen: A screen smart child is a child that isn’t going to be caught off guard. None of us do very well when we’re caught off guard. We want to prepare our children. Not scare them, not burden them but prepare them so they have a ready response, so they know what they’re facing.
Cynthia: Tell me how to prepare a child.
Kristen: They know why it’s harmful and know what to do. I say give kids three things. #1, a definition that is age appropriate. #2 a warning so they know why it’s harmful. #3 a plan so they know exactly what to do when they are confronted.
Cynthia: OK, you said a definition a warning and a plan. What would you say in terms of the definition for a very young child?
Kristen: This was probably the hardest part of the book because you don’t want to burden them with the ugliness of it. We want to just let kids know that if they see nudity that focuses on the private parts of the body that they come and tell us. I say bad pictures or videos or cartoons of people with little or no clothing on that focus on the private parts of the body that we keep covered with a swimsuit.
Cynthia: What is that warning?
Kristen: We do that for our children. We warn them about a lot of dangers. Don’t touch the stove. It’s hot. Don’t run out into the street. There are cars. When we give kids screens, we need to do the same thing. Teach them and give them some good reasons to reject it. Certain pictures are harmful for a growing brain. In the older book we talk about addiction. Bad pictures can really change your brain and cause an addictive disease in the brain.
Cynthia: Is this as dangerous for a girl as it is for a boy?
Kristen: Absolutely. We have a myth in our culture that girls are not the least bit interested in sex. If they are, they’re bad girls. That’s not true. They’re biologically human. Girls often are even more vulnerable because we don’t worry about them.
Cynthia: Can you give an example?
Kristen: I heard of an 8-year-old girl. Her mom had the talk about the birds and the bees. Then she gave her an Internet enabled device. This girl figured it out very quickly and started searching for the term sex and found horrific pictures. She would come home every day and watch it until her parents found her. By then her personality had changed. She had become just very withdrawn, depressed. They had to put her in counseling. Girls get into it differently, sometimes through romance novels. It’s very damaging to them to their whole concept of sex.
Cynthia: Yes, the media has a poor concept on that topic. How do you teach them to forget bad images?
Kristen: It’s a cognitive skill that I think everyone should have. It’s just a way of redirecting their thoughts so when that memory pops up, they go to something that is powerful that they like to think about. Eventually what that does is it creates a new neural pathway away from that picture. It’s three or four steps.
Cynthia: I see kids using TV or even the screen to avoid being bored even if they’re not into porn and I don’t think that’s good. I think it’s much healthier to do something in the real world or learn something or read something rather than be on the screen.
Kristen: Yes, a lot of kids are doing that these days and so are adults. But adults should be responsible enough to not do it. The people that make the social media platforms have hired the best and brightest. They know how to hook you, and you can go down the rabbit hole of those reels.
Cynthia: We have just done a segment on internet predators. The longer kids are online, the more likely they will meet one.
Kristen: The more inappropriate material a child sees, the more vulnerable they become to traffickers because they’re sexualized. Traffickers can see it a mile away.
Cynthia: We need to be aware and prepared.
Kristen: Kids should not be taking screens into their bathroom or bedroom. If your child suddenly is taking very long showers, make sure they’re not taking a device in there and just turning on the shower. The big tech companies are not being responsible. They’re not putting kids first.
Cynthia: I want to thank you Kristen for what you’re doing. I’m so glad that someone is out there addressing this. You can find her at defendyoungminds.com
To learn more about internet safety, click here.