Recently, my kids and I revisited Good Pictures Bad Pictures —a book by Kristen Jenson and Gail Poyner. It’s really the first tool I used to teach my kids about the harmful effects of pornography. Now, I am even more in love with the book. And I am going to tell you why I think every parent needs to have a copy of this amazing resource in their home.
All kids deserve fair warning and a fighting chance
I am going to let you in on a secret. I have really good kids. I’m not trying to brag, but they are the kind of kids that sometimes makes me want to avoid parent teacher conferences. I just don’t know how to respond to the many nice things that are said about them.
Yes, it’s a really good problem to have. Maybe you’ve got the same problem? If you do, then you will understand me when I say: despite how good they are, like everyone else, my kids struggle with confidence and poor self-esteem at times. Being a good kid doesn’t mean they will simply sail through life without experiencing all of the bumps, bruises, scrapes, challenges and heartaches that are a natural part of growing up.
And just because they’re good kids doesn’t mean they are immune to the power of pornography to captivate and control them. Here are three reasons why all good kids deserve to be warned about the dangers of pornography:
1. Porn is everywhere
Even if kids could somehow get through childhood without stumbling across pornography online (highly unlikely), they are influenced daily by the second-hand effects of a porn saturated society. As with smoking, you don’t actually have to engage in the activity for it to adversely impact your life.
Sooner than later, talk on the playground, school bus or in a locker room will find your kid and raise questions in their mind that beg to be answered.
2. Porn increases sexual curiosity
It’s natural for all kids to be curious about the male and female body; that is just human nature. But, where kids go for answers will have a significant impact on how they perceive themselves, and perhaps how they end up treating the opposite sex.
When kids look up questions about sex online, they are quickly launched into a world of bizarre, risky and often violent sexual behaviors. This can send very conflicting messages to a child’s developing mind and body.
3. Porn shapes sexual attitudes
For young people the need to fit in and belong is very powerful —overwhelming even. Unfortunately, pornography convinces people that the behaviours portrayed online are normal and acceptable.
Recent brain studies demonstrate that when individuals are frequently exposed to violent or degrading material, they are less likely to rate it as violent or degrading. Porn culture spills into mainstream media; what was once bleeped, blurred and censored is now widely celebrated as daring, brave and normal.
Not surprisingly, kids can begin sending sexualized texts to other classmates as early as the sixth and seventh grade. Girls and boys groomed by porn-culture often learn that sex precedes kissing and even friendship. Porn-culture perpetuates the idea that rough, aggressive sex is normal. Woman and men are to be treated as objects, not as individuals worthy of respect and friendship.
Finding answers by using good resources
There was no way I was willing to stand idly by and let my kids grow up believing the warped view of sex that the porn industry is selling. I determined to make sure they understood that sex was about love, intimacy and emotional connection; that it strengthens and helps foster a real and lasting relationship. I resolved to find a way to empower them to reject pornography when confronted with it.
I felt in my heart there must be a resource out there for our family and so I began searching the Web to find it. I was surprised to find very little information beyond filtering products and Internet safety contracts. Blocking inappropriate content was important to me, but I also needed to learn how to have meaningful conversations with my children about pornography.
Then I found Good Pictures Bad Pictures —a read-aloud chapter book. From the reviews, it sounded like a great place for me to begin. I ordered it, and when it arrived in the mail a few days later, I couldn’t wait to get started. After reading it through quickly to myself I knew I had found something good—I just didn’t realize how good!
A few days later my 7-year-old and I started reading it together. We went through the first chapter cautiously, only because I wasn’t certain how he was going to respond to it. Let me tell you, it was such a comfortable experience for both of us. By chapter two we were hooked!
Each night we would read a few more chapters. On the third night his older brother decided he didn’t want to miss out Mom time, and snuggled up with us too. At the time he was eleven, so both my boys fit perfectly into the age range the book was meant to address.
More than words on a page
Reflecting back, I don’t think it was just the content of the book (which is brilliant) that was so enjoyable. It was also the bond of learning something valuable together that really made it a positive experience for all of us. While I read it aloud, my kids could sense the information I was sharing with them was very important. They beamed inside and out, that I trusted and respected them enough to talk about this. I was scoring Mom points!
By the end my boys could tell me:
- What pornography is
- Why pornography is harmful
- What they can do to manage pornography when they encounter it
Learning all that from one children’s book is truly remarkable. But even better, the topic of pornography is no longer taboo, and can be talked about easily in our home, without shame or embarrassment.
Since that first reading we’ve had many follow-up conversations about pornography, however we hadn’t got back to actually reading the book in over a year-and-a-half.
Recently, I had had the impression it was time to open it up again. I wanted to make certain the concepts found within, remained fresh in my kids’ minds. It’s important to continually reinforce the steps kids can follow whenever they encounter inappropriate content. Good Pictures Bad Pictures teaches kids to turn away, tell a trusted adult, and call it what it is—that’s pornography!
The boys thought having a refresher was good idea too.
The once 11-year-old is now a teenager and will soon enter high school. You might think it would be awkward for him to review a book geared for children, but it wasn’t at all! For one, he’s hanging out with a younger sibling. And two, he’s smart enough to appreciate the book is packed full of information that applies to everyone, at any age.
The great thing about coming back to Good Pictures Bad Pictures is that this time our discussion went far beyond the book. It’s like we had become the experts!
For example, during the chapter on addiction each boy told me about the different substances they had discussed in health class that year. I let them explain everything they remembered and had them tell me why we would want to avoid anything that is addictive.
Talking in this way with my older son was especially timely. I mentioned that some of his classmates might start to smoke, drink, or take drugs. Then I asked him why someone would do this even when they knew it could cause them serious harm.
We considered how the feeling part of our brain likes to be in charge and how difficult it can be to make smart decisions when there is pressure to do what everyone else is doing. We also talked about that changes happen in your body around the time you enter high school and why these changes can make you more inclined to do dangerous things.
Each time we brought the discussion back to pornography. But what a great experience it was to let my boys take the conversation anywhere else they wanted to go. These are the moments that build bridges for future communication; those times when adolescent needs to talk honestly and openly about their feelings and the challenges they are experiencing.
You can do it too!
Every kid deserves to be warned about the dangers of pornography. Without the whole story, a child’s natural instinct will be to look a little longer. It’s not that they are bad kids. It’s just human nature. And living in a culture that is oblivious to the harms of pornography doesn’t make it any easier. No matter how strong your kids are today, there will be a time when they are faced with the decision to either stop and look, or reject pornography outright. It happens in an instant!
Spend the time now teaching your kids to reject pornography. If you don’t know where to begin, grab a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures.
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Also, please send us your success stories! Perhaps you could tell us what a conversation about pornography sounds like in your home? We’d love to laugh, cry and celebrate with you. It’s our goal to support one another as we all work towards the same objective. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credits: – Flikr
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