What 10 Parents Learned When Their Child Was Caught in a Porn Trap [Part 1]

What 10 Parents Learned When Their Child Was Caught in a Porn Trap [Part 1]

In this 3-part series, follow along as 10 parents describe their journey of helping a child overcome the addictive pull of pornography—and the advice they hope to pass along.

Over the past three months, I’ve listened to the profound stories shared by parents from homes across North America. They’ve told me about their amazing kids. Kids who are kind and considerate. Outgoing and funny. Smart and ambitious.

Kids who in the blink of an eye (literally) found themselves caught in the porn trap.

As you continue reading, do your best to set aside fears, doubts, or pre-conceptions of what it must be like to raise a kid struggling with porn. Unfortunately, many good kids do get caught in the porn trap. Maybe they weren’t warned. Or maybe the pull to look was just. that. strong.

Either way, overcoming pornography is a challenging road — one we don’t wish upon any child. What we’ve discovered is that these good kids fare much better when they have parents who are willing to walk beside them, fight for them, love them … and never give up.

What 10 parents want you to know

These parents agreed to share the details of their experience because they want you to know:

  • First, how urgent it is that we start this conversation TODAY and keep following up.
  • Second, some of your closest friends need your support and understanding.
  • Third, you’re not alone if you have a child struggling with pornography.

Finally, these parents want you to know that if you’re helping a child find their way out of the porn trap, recovery and healing are possible.

The stories are anonymous — all names have been changed.

Reaction, realization, and reflection

In this first part of a 3-part series, parents describe the journey they’ve been on since first discovering their child’s pornography habits. As you continue you will learn more about their:

  • Initial reactions and the frustration of finding adequate support
  • Understanding obstacles on the road to recovery
  • Realizations about their role in their child’s recovery
  • Reflections, progress, and practical advice for other parents

We know these stories will increase your compassion for those fighting to free kids from the porn trap.

NOTE: There isn’t time or space to share each family’s full story. Because we are recounting the real-life experience of families overcoming trauma, it may seem discouraging at the outset. Keep reading. You will soon find yourself in a beautiful story of redemption. It’s true! The hardest trials in life are often what lead to our sweetest and greatest moments.

PYM: How did you first react when you found your child was looking at inappropriate things?

Some parents happened upon pornographic materials in their child’s search history. Other discoveries were more extreme. Toni’s son (age 11) exposed himself to a young neighbor girl (who by good fortune, immediately told her mother). Ruth learned that her son (age 15) had downloaded a file containing hundreds of child abuse images when the police showed up to search their home.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding discovery, each parent expressed that they felt overwhelmed by the situation and ill-prepared to offer their child practical solutions.  

I assumed we could talk through the crisis

“We did our best with the knowledge we had at the time. Our initial solution was to talk it through, lock down the internet for a time, and help our child (age 12) make plans to do better. We assumed that would be enough. But we weren’t accounting for the cravings pornography had introduced to our son.”  — Sharon

I had no script for that

“I thought I was prepared to handle the idea that my son (age 12) was looking at pornography. I’m not saying I condoned it. But I had grown up knowing that my dad had a stash of magazines in the house. What I was not prepared for was the nature of the pornography we found … It was so far beyond what I could have imagined. I didn’t have a script for that. I’m sure I made all sorts of mistakes trying to make sense of it.” — Josh

We had no one to turn to for help

“Our son (age 13) was masturbating up to 7 times a day and had constant thoughts to expose himself. This issue was bigger than anything anyone had ever seen before. The school was of no help. Our church was of little help. We found therapists and programs geared for adults. But it seemed there nothing for children.”  — Toni

We needed better tools

“We first sought counseling through our church. But back then, no one was making the connection on how porn affects the brain. Or how the brain affects behavior — not even therapists. Their focus was on getting my son (age 14) to replace his unhealthy habits with more uplifting thoughts. Unfortunately, these weren’t the tools that could help him.” — Alana

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

PYM: What have been some your child’s greatest obstacles in overcoming the pull to return to pornography?

Most of the parents pointed out that their timeline for their child’s recovery and their child’s own timeline were very different. Even when children understood the negative impact of pornography on their lives, they were hesitant to put in the effort needed to make changes to their behavior. SImply put, for the child at that point in time, using pornography felt too good to give up.

The attractive nature of pornography

“I don’t think he was ready [at first] to commit himself to the idea of letting go. He still liked it too much.” — Sharon

Their natural character traits get hijacked by porn

“Our oldest son is very outgoing. He’s also incredibly smart and investigative by nature. In a way I think that made him more vulnerable to pornography. His thirst for information drew him back in time and time again.

And yet, his younger brother, who is more socially introverted, also struggled. For him, pornography was likely used to fill a gap left by loneliness and boredom.” — Alana

Related: How Porn Hijacks Young Brains

Mental health problems complicated our son’s recovery

“Not long after our son had begun using pornography we noticed significant changes in behavior (violent outbursts). With the help of a therapist, we learned that our son was suffering from OCD. Pornography didn’t create his illness but it was intensified because of it. Understanding there were other factors a play helped us set better expectations all around.” — Macey

Note: When pre-existing mental health issues were discovered parents agreed on two things:

  • First, pornography use exaggerated their child’s negative behavioral symptoms.
  • Second, understanding their child’s mental health became a key factor in helping them overcome their reliance on pornography,

“Our son became so depressed in the sophomore year that he ended up leaving school for a time. We didn’t understand what was going on then. Now, I realize that there were signs of depression even from when he was younger. Once he was diagnosed properly and got the meds he needed, he started to succeed at school and life again.” — Sarah

Struggling with his identity and searching for answers

“I had to understand two things before I could appreciate my son’s struggle with porn. First, he was dealing with same-gender attraction. Second, porn is absolutely EVERYWHERE. The accessibility is ridiculous.” — Josh

PYM: What have you learned while helping your child heal from pornography?

A general theme among all the interviews was that parents felt they needed to find a way to support their child’s recovery without being overbearing. Still, even when parents learned to relinquish control, their involvement was in no way passive. Rather they learned to become proactive minus “the panic.”

Let go of the blame and shame

“Porn is a real problem in the real world. It’s a challenge that hits a lot of kids hard. I needed to recognize that my son was going through his own life experience — a big oops — that with concerted effort he could eventually put in his past. At first, I felt an overwhelming sense of blame, shame, and panic. But that wasn’t helping either of us.” — Sharon

I cannot take his addiction away

“I’ve learned to give my children space to grow their own strong roots. I am a very protective mother by nature. I want to step in and do things for my children. My son was very young when he was first introduced to pornography. I cannot blame him for that. But I’ve also learned that I cannot take his addiction away from him. He has to do the work himself.” — Sarah

Live in the present moment

“I needed to see my child for the individual he is; rather than a walking version of my future fears. I do so much better when I’m able to stay in the present. I try to take the approach of ‘what can I do at this moment that will help my son?’ If I start to panic about the future that’s when things get really scary.” — Macey

Look for the right kind of support

“When there’s an addiction involved, the best thing is to find your child a therapeutic level of support — something that combines the science of addiction with the spiritual aspect of healing.

I am not in charge of my child’s healing or how fast that happens. I can not save my child. No human can save another human. My role is to love, support, and believe that they will heal. The timing of when and how that happens has everything to do with him, not me.” — Toni

Related: Does My Child Need Counseling? Reassuring Advice from a Porn Addiction Therapist

What advice would you give to other parents? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Kids need tools they feel good about

“Get involved immediately. Help your son or daughter find the tools that work for them. Be aggressive. Check in regularly. Find out what is helping and what is not. Fighting pornography addiction means retraining your brain, learning to avoid triggers, and responding differently when an impulse starts. It’s not about will power. Kids need tools they feel good about. And the right tools make all the difference!” — Alana

One recovery resource that is available to all ages in any location is Fortify. It’s an online program designed to equip individuals struggling with compulsive pornography use – young and old – with tools, education and community to assist them in reaching lasting freedom. Their mission is to help spark an uprising of people tired of porn messing with their lives – and ready for something far better. Check it out!

Be prepared beyond prevention

“Honestly, I thought we had nailed it. We were having open dialogue about the harms of pornography, activating parental controls on all of our devices and filtering our Wi-Fi. It was on a week-long visit to his grandparents that he found unfiltered access to pornography. For our son (age 13), it became an immediate obsession.

One night I woke up to find him standing over me in our room. In my half-sleep, I thought he’d had a nightmare and was needing comfort from mom and dad. In reality, he had used my fingerprint while I was asleep to unlock my phone to access porn. He had done it successfully once but the screen timed out. It was only on the second attempt that I was awakened.” — Macey

Don’t ignore unusual behavior

“I kept his phone at night and checked it regularly. All our devices were set with passcodes. Plus, I was never shy of talking to my kids about pornography. I had even explained to them about child pornography and that it was abuse. Looking back, I now recognize a few vague clues that he was using pornography.

For example, he spent too much time in the bathroom with his phone. And there was one night he freaked out just as I was about to check his phone. He threw a total fit, punching a hole in the wall. We got so distracted by his outburst and subsequent trip to the ER that I forgot to check the phone. If I had, I think I would have found the files sooner.  

I feel terribly guilty. I often wonder if I could have done something differently. But I don’t have an answer that makes sense.” — Ruth

Face the issue straight on

“I wish I had realized the kind of media that was really coming into our home through various sources. It’s definitely tougher to filter content coming at our kids than it should be. So along with filtering, I think parents should face the issues straight on. This is not something I would ever hesitate to talk about with kids.” — Josh

There is so much more to this story

As I said, we only have time to scratch the surface of these powerful stories. If you’ve stuck with us this far … thank you! By learning from the experiences of these beautiful families you are more prepared to initiate change in your family and community.

We will hear more of their stories in Part 2 and Part 3 of the series. For now, know that all of these young people have grown stronger in their fight to overcome pornography because of the support they receive from their parents. They are great kids (some now grown with kids of their own).  Each has hopes, dreams, and exciting aspirations for their future.

Here are just two of the amazing experiences these families shared.

I have no thought of shame

“I remember my son calling me from the hospital when his first baby was born. His wife was resting and he was holding his brand new babe while we talked. He said, “Mom, this is my little girl. And I have no thought of shame in my head. I fought so long to free myself so I could be safe. And worthy to be the kind of father that could protect my kids.” — Toni

Seeing our whole family together

“One of our daughters got married a few months ago. She asked her brother to be a Master of Ceremonies at their reception. He went above and beyond in his role. He was so amazing and helpful. He might just be the best MC ever! Of course, the wedding was the highlight. But seeing our whole family together in that way was fantastic.” — Sharon

3 take-aways for parents

  1. Every child, every family is vulnerable to the porn trap. Harmful habits can form quickly. Sadly, kids are naturally inclined to keep dangerous habits a secret — especially when they know looking at inappropriate things online is wrong. Parents can do their best to create a safe zone where kids can share their challenges and get unconditional love and support. Children may or may not choose to reach out for help right away, but it will make a difference in the long run.
  2. Children are unique. Pornography can target individuals in different ways. Natural personality traits and mental health issues can become additional roadblocks on the path towards recovery. Parents are in the best position to take the whole child into account and look for the help they need.
  3. Parents and children usually have different timelines for when to tackle recovery in earnest. Ultimately, recovery must come from the individual struggling with the addictive habits. However, a parent’s love, support, and interest in their child’s recovery play a significant role in their child’s future success and ability to believe in themselves.

What’s coming in the rest of the series

A child’s pornography use affects everyone in the family in some way.  Part 2 will look at how parents learned to manage their own painful emotions and find their own recovery.

Wouldn’t you love to sit down with these parents and learn what advice they have for you and your family? Part 3 will offer practical advice from those who have walked this journey and what helped strengthen their relationship with their child.

Get more help!

We’ll send you our free SMART Plan Guide for Parents to prepare you to help your child heal from pornography exposure or use. Click the image below!

Your Daughter’s Body Image – Healthy or Shameful? 4 Ways to Counteract Toxic Media

Your Daughter’s Body Image – Healthy or Shameful? 4 Ways to Counteract Toxic Media

Both of my daughters dance. They have an incredible ability (that I don’t share!) to communicate their emotions and ideas through the power of movement. They practice hours on end at home and the studio to push their bodies to new levels. They celebrate their growth and accomplishments, and I sit in the audience amazed at what they can do.

But it’s also soul-crushing when they compare their bodies to those of another teammate – or to an Instagram photo of a ballerina or contemporary dancer they admire. Their achievements and beauty seem to immediately fade in their own eyes when they are confronted with something they are not, and think they should be.

Comparison is the thief of joy

Unfortunately, my daughters’ reactions to immediately compare instead of celebrate is common. Think of the incredible numbers of images we see daily of women in advertisements, social media, and television/film. How many of them portray women as objects of beauty based on their physical bodies alone? Isn’t the message to be younger, fitter, sexier? Do we celebrate much beyond what is skin-deep? How do we go up against something so pervasive?

This enormity of this issue reminds me of the saying about eating an elephant. How do you do it? One bite at a time.

We may not be able to radically change society’s perception of women overnight, but we can make a measurable difference in our homes, our neighborhoods, and local communities.

We recently asked one of the directors of Beauty Redefined, Lexie Kite, PhD, a few questions to help us promote a different definition of beauty. She and her sister, Lindsey, started their organization to help girls and women improve their body image and self-worth as they wade through harmful cultural ideals.

Beauty Redefined: How to help girls have healthy body image

1. What are the most powerful voices children hear that determine how they see themselves and ultimately define beauty?

Two influential voices kids hear:

  1. Their family and caretakers, and
  2. The characters they watch on screen.

The voice of family members

If you say something negative about your body or your looks (or any other woman — celebrity or otherwise), that child near you WILL HEAR. It will negatively affect her view of her own body. She will learn that her value is based on how she looks.

But here’s the kicker: Even if you say something positive about a woman’s body, it can still have a negative impact on your child. She will learn that what is noticed and admired is how a woman looks — herself included.

We can consciously be aware of what we say, and move the conversation beyond appearances. The results are powerful and immediate!

What’s a parent to do?

  • Start now to change the conversation. First priority? No more rude comments about your own looks. Second? Evaluate how you talk about others’ appearances and what motivates you to do so.
  • Discuss the power of words — both positive and negative.
  • Don’t pretend like your daughter’s body doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter — teach her that it matters a lot, but not for the reasons she’s been taught.
  • Explain that companies try to convince people that their appearance needs to be “fixed” so they will buy their products. But nothing we could ever buy will truly help us feel worthy of love, happiness, and success.
  • Teach them what to say when they hear snide comments.
  • Make a list of things your family can compliment each other on other than physical appearance.
  • Encourage girls to participate in sports and enjoyable physical activities. Did you hear about the most recent female football player?

The voice of media

It’s wildly important to help your kids choose appropriate shows and critically consider what they are seeing. Many girls and women are featured on TV, in movies, or in magazines purely as props to be ogled.

In children’s animated movies, female characters are barely represented – and when they are, they are wearing just as little clothing as women in R-rated films. Did you know male characters outnumber females 3:1 (in group scenes it’s 5:1) in kids’ movies? Let’s show our girls media that uplifts them and shows them what they can be.

What’s a parent to do?

  • Read girls stories about girls. Did you know there’s a whole website dedicated to books that highlight true strength of girls?
  • Help your daughter decide if she is ready for social media, especially Instagram. Use the questions in this article to lead a discussion.
  • Check out sites like Common Sense Media to help you determine what movies, books, and apps may directly influence how your daughter defines beauty.

Related: Lingerie Ads and Little Eyes: 5 Easy Ways Protect Kids from Porn (in Ads)

2. What are some indicators that our children may need us to help develop a new working definition of beauty?

If she uses the “F” Word – “Fat”: If your child calls herself or someone else “fat” in a disparaging way, that is a sign she has learned some harmful messages that some bodies are more valuable than other bodies.

What’s a parent to do?

  • Respond without putting a value on fat. It’s not good or bad. It just is. The second you respond to her calling someone “fat” by telling her “That’s not nice!” you are teaching her that fat is bad.
  • Be a champion for body diversity.
  • Talk openly about how some bodies have more fat than others for a variety of different reasons, and that isn’t an indication of of health. (The Health at Every Size movement is incredible.)
  • If your child is called “fat,” don’t automatically respond by assuring them they are not fat. Telling a child they really are thin will not protect them from the pain of being called “fat.” If we give size-based comments the power to build us up, we reinforce their power to tear us down.
  • Teach her that her body is an instrument, not an ornament. Treat your own body the same way.

She Uses the “D” Word – Diet: Another indicator of poor body image might be when your child wants to go on a diet or you see that she is restricting food.

What’s a parent to do?

  • Let her know that many people and companies in this world try to convince little girls and grown women that they should shrink and take up less space, but it’s a mean lie. This lie is intended to get girls to spend money and time worrying about their bodies.
  • Talk to her about how our bodies need and want food for lots of reasons, including for fuel and enjoyment. By paying attention to how she feels when she eats, she can take better care of her body and trust that her body will lead her toward choices that are good for her.
  • Let her know strict diets can hurt our bodies and almost never lead to sustained weight loss.

3. How does society’s definition of beauty contribute to the anxiety many kids feel today?

When kids grow up surrounded by appearance-obsessed messages such as “Weigh Less, Smile More!!” and “Perfect Your Parts, Perfect Your Life!!” plastered everywhere, those messages rake in billions but get us nowhere closer to real health and happiness. Instead, these messages become so normal — SO unquestioned — that we believe and act as we’re told.

The point here is not to villainize makeup, hair care, or any industry, but to understand the ways these ever-present messages ask us to view ourselves. That view is an outsider’s gaze – from the outside looking in on ourselves. It’s called self-objectification and it’s a normal part of most females’ lives now, whether we know it or not.

What research and real-life experiences make very clear is that when we see ourselves as more than our bodies, we get closer to finding health, fitness, and happiness.

What’s a parent to do?

  • Make a list with your daughter of all the wonderful inner traits you both have. Celebrate those!
  • Talk about goals and dreams you both have where you can use those traits. If we are so focused on our physical bodies, it stunts our progress in every way that really matters. Research shows us that when we live “to be looked at”, we are left with fewer mental and physical resources to do what can really bring happiness.

4. How does pornography specifically shape the way we as a society define beauty? What impact does this have on boys? On girls?

We live in a media-driven world that teaches boys and men from a young age that girls and women are, first and foremost, objects of sexual pleasure. This lesson is taught in lots of ways, ranging from the seemingly harmless lack of female characters in TV shows, books, movies, and video games targeted at boys and men, to the most popular pornography saturating the internet.

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

When female characters rarely have speaking roles or do anything to move the plot forward in media, that sends a clear message that they are primarily valued for the way they appear or for their relationship to men (love interests, most often). When female characters do appear in children’s media, they most often resemble the sexualized beauty ideals of the rest of media.

What message could this possibly send to boys other than that girls are valuable for their bodies, but nothing more?

The normalization of pornography and sexual objectification in the media is everywhere. Yet it is largely invisible to people who have slowly become accustomed to seeing idealized female bodies in all states of undress. Women are much more likely than men to be naked or nearly naked in every form of media imaginable. Women are also much more likely to be sexually objectified in violent ways (rape, assault, abuse) in every form of media.

Objectification is dehumanization. As media literacy expert Jean Kilbourne says, “Turning a person into a thing is almost always the first step toward justifying violence against that person.”

We can talk to our kids about what they are seeing and why it is wrong.

Related: It’s Awkward and It’s Okay: You CAN Talk to Your Kids about Pornography

Conclusion: We CAN raise girls who love themselves – the whole package

As we watch what we say about women, and call out all the harmful media messages surrounding our girls, they will learn to respect their bodies as instruments that can do amazing things! We can help them re-frame their self-image and reclaim their power. That benefits everyone, girls and boys, men and women!

Get your free guide to 11 Startling Stats Most Parents Don’t Know About Porn – Click the image below!

Click here for your guide

Parents and Teachers! Check Out Google’s New Toolkit and Help Kids Be Internet Awesome

Parents and Teachers! Check Out Google’s New Toolkit and Help Kids Be Internet Awesome

Have you ever had a phishing lesson?

No, not the kind near a river or lake . . . Though “phishers,” or scammers, do use bait to try and steal personal info from you on the internet. Do you remember how or when you learned about phishing on the web?

As adults, we often take for granted the things we learned along the way – like never click on an email from someone you don’t know. We forget that we need to proactively teach our kids things we may have learned the hard way (like being very careful about what you type into a search engine).

As you talk to your kids, for example, about what you recently learned about Snapchat, you’re ultimately giving them skills to make smart choices online. We’ve recently come across a free resource from Google, Be Internet Awesome, which will help you do just that.

What is Be Internet Awesome all about?

Be Internet Awesome helps teach kids internet safety and digital citizenship. Google created lesson plans for parents and educators, and interactive online games for kids. That’s right – an online game you can feel good about because it reinforces lessons about sharing information on social media and what to do if you are targeted by a cyberbully. Plus, it’s pretty fun to play!

Pavni Diwanji, one of the Be Internet Awesome creators, shares this:

Developed in collaboration with online safety experts like the Family Online Safety Institute, iKeepSafe and ConnectSafely, Be Internet Awesome focuses on five key lessons to help kids navigate the online world with confidence.

The five lessons focus on these words: Smart, Alert, Strong, Kind, and Brave. These are definitely qualities I want my children to develop.

The lessons are designed for kids ages 8-12 in mind. However, the content could be adapted for a slightly younger or older crowd. The lessons were just updated in June 2018 – we’re talking current, relevant information at your fingertips to help your kids make smart choices online!

The link between being safe from pornography and being internet awesome

Be Internet Awesome is great at teaching digital citizenship and safety. But like almost all internet safety programs, they are a little squeamish when it comes to talking about pornography. It’s probably what they mean by “questionable content.” Well at Protect Young Minds, we dare to speak up about it rather than You-Know-Who it (any Harry Potter fans out there?)

Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself. Dumbledore to Harry Potter

We liked The Internet Code of Awesome’s five fundamentals so much, that we added our ideas to tie them in with teaching kids how to keep away from pornography.

Be Internet Smart: Share with Care

Keep personal information private; also, if you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t share it online.

Pornography connection: Teach kids not to show pornography to other kids if they accidentally see it – get an adult to help. Also, don’t pass on disrespectful, compromising or sexually explicit photos of other kids (or yourself!) through texting or social media.

Be Internet Alert: Don’t Fall for Fake

Not everything online is true or real! Learn about the strategies people use to steal identities. Also, people online can pretend to be someone else. Be careful who you share information with.

Pornography connection: Pornography tries to trick people into watching fake illusions of bodies, relationships and sexuality. Also, someone who has pretended to be your friend online might be trying groom kids for sexual abuse, sex trafficking or making pornography.

Be Internet Strong: Secure Your Secrets

It’s important to create strong passwords to protect your online accounts. Also, make sure you review your privacy and security settings often. You want to control who sees the information you put online

Pornography connection: It’s a real threat – 160,000 Facebook accounts are compromised every day! Some hackers will access your email or social media and send porn to your friends. And don’t share your passwords with friends. Sometimes friends try to play pranks by pretending to be you, but that can really hurt your reputation if they share inappropriate photos or comments. 

Be Internet Kind: It’s Cool to Be Kind

Use the internet to “spread positive vibes.” You can block people who are being mean or inappropriate, and always speak up! Report mean activity to an adult every time.

Pornography connection: Carefully choose the pictures and other content you want to share online with the goal of uplifting others. You can block people who share inappropriate things like sexually suggestive videos, pictures, songs, memes, etc. Some people ask for nude pictures of others and then share it with others to be mean. If you receive a text with an inappropriate picture, tell an adult so you can help stop the cruel joke.

Be Internet Brave: When in Doubt, Talk it Out

Talk to a trusted adult anytime something feels “off” or when you KNOW something’s wrong.

Pornography connection: Parents can be clear about what pornography is, why it is harmful and what to do when kids see it. Many internet safety programs are so ambiguous – “if you see anything that makes you uncomfortable” is too vague for kids! Especially because pornography might actually make a child feel good and bad at the same time. Kids need to have the right words to be able to explain what they have seen to a trusted adult.

Our read-aloud book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, lays out the CAN DO plan – an easy way to teach kids what to do when they see pornography.

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

3 things I like about Be Internet Awesome

1. The five lessons are ready to go. They include a page of vocabulary with simple definitions for phrases like digital footprint, clickbait, and two-step verification . There are several activities that are designed for a classroom setting, but can easily be used in a family setting.

The only preparation needed is to read through the lessons beforehand to decide which activities you want to do. You may also take some time to identify moments in the activities when you want to tie in a discussion about pornography.

2. The online games in “Interland” are challenging enough that they’re fun! The games reinforce the things that are taught in the lessons. If you feel overwhelmed by the activities in the lessons, forget them! (It’s okay if you’re not geeking out over them like I am). Simply sit down with your kid and play through the games in Interland. Each game is followed by a little quiz about the digital safety or citizenship topic.

BONUS: Your child doesn’t need an account to play; no sign-in is required (one less password to keep track of).

3. Be Internet Awesome comes with a Printable Pledge. When you spend time and energy learning this stuff together, you want it to benefit your kids for a long time! Print off the pledge, sign it as a family, and hang it somewhere visible – like the computer desk or tablet charging station. This way, your kids will be reminded to make smart choices online each time they pick up an electronic device.

We created an add-on pledge so families can commit to being smart, alert, strong, kind, and brave as they reject pornography as well. You can get it at the end of this post!

We encourage you to hang these pledges side-by-side for maximum impact.

Be aware of Google’s agenda

We also think it’s important to mention some concerns of critics who wonder if Google is the best role model for internet security. After all, “Google itself collects users’ personal information and tracks their actions online.” You can also talk to kids about how tech companies gather and use data about everything we do online. Online Marketing to Kids: Protecting Your Privacy is a lesson you can use for older kids about data privacy, and Parent Coalition for Student Privacy has a comprehensive parent toolkit.

In spite of these limitations, a recent study found that the program has value for kids. Jacob Woolcock, a computing teacher in the UK, has been using it with his students and says the resource is “entirely relevant. These are life skills they need.”

Older kids need reminders to make smart choices online too

Perhaps your kids are a little older and not interested in “kid games.” You may be looking at the games in Interland and thinking, “My kid would think this is so dumb!”

It’s still important to address the topics of internet safety and digital citizenship with them. Here are a few ideas for ways to do this:

1. Turn your teen into the teacher.

  • Choose a few vocabulary words from the lessons, and ask your teen what they mean at the dinner table: “Hey Jess, I came across the term “bot” today. I think it’s an internet thing. Can you explain it to me?”
  • Ask your child to help you review your privacy and security settings on one of your social media accounts. Why not ask them about their settings as you go?
  • Best of all, have your teen use the Be Internet Awesome lessons to teach their siblings or mentor neighborhood kids. I guarantee they’ll learn something along the way!

2. Ask your teen about the good stuff they’re doing online.

I love the brainstorming activity Michelle Linford outlines in 3 Ways to Mentor Responsible Digital Kids. Kids identify the positive and negative things that happen online. She also recommends you “regularly mentor your children to deliberately make good tech choices.” Sometimes we get caught up worrying about all the bad, without recognizing the good!

3. Have discussions about digital citizenship.

Older kids can discuss deeper issues of digital citizenship. This article helps shed light on the importance of these skills, and encourages teaching teens how to use technology to:

  • Make their communities better.
  • Respectfully engage with people who have different beliefs.
  • Shape and change public policy.
  • Assess the validity of online sources of information.

Take some time to reflect on how YOU use technology in these four areas, and share your strengths and weaknesses with your teen. (Just a hint – one way you may be helping your online community is by sharing blog posts you read on Protect Young Minds!) Sharing information to raise awareness of the problems of pornography is definitely the work of a good citizen.

Your local school may love it too!

Does your child’s school have a curriculum they use to teach internet safety? Why not introduce the principal to the Be Internet Awesome program? It’s free and easy to use. Teachers are always on the hunt for great activities to fill time – sometimes students finish their science lesson wayyy before the bell!

In 2001, Marc Prensky created the term, “digital native,” to describe children who grow up with digital technology, as compared to “digital immigrants.” Even though I’m a young mom, many days I feel like a digital immigrant because technology changes so rapidly!

With its ever-changing nature, digital technology and the internet can be used to accomplish great things. Let’s band together to teach children how to make smart choices online and harness that good potential.Be Internet Awesome” is an affirmation we can all get behind!

Get your Ready to Reject Pornography Pledge here, and use this pledge along with the Be Internet Awesome pledge to help kids grow their internet defense skills!

Click here for your free pledge

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Should Kids Describe the Porn They’ve Seen? Experts Advise Mom

Should Kids Describe the Porn They’ve Seen? Experts Advise Mom

This may happen to you, so here’s some great advice to prepare you to talk with a child who tells you about exposure to porn. Many parents wonder if it helps or harms kids to share details about what they’ve seen.

help child exposed to pornography

Recently a concerned mom, who wants to help her 10-year-old son heal from his exposure to pornography, reached out to us for answers. We turned to some excellent therapists for suggestions, all of whom treat people with pornography addiction.

Here’s her question:

“My 10 year old son saw a pornographic image at a party last night. We had a really good conversation after the party (and we’ve been having short porn conversations the last couple years). But I wonder about whether he should tell me about the one image that he saw. One part of me says if he describes the image to me then it is more ingrained in his brain, when he’s trying to get the image out of his brain. Another part of me says he should share what the image was so it’s not just a ‘secret’ only he knows. Which of those routes is better?”

What do counselors recommend?

Jon Worlton, LCSW:

“Obviously he confided in a trusted adult which is wonderful and suggests that a big part of him felt uncomfortable and in need of adult feedback and support.

First, I recommend that parents start by asking how, when and where the image was shown or seen.

Second, it’s important for parents to ask about how their child felt or reacted to seeing the image.

Finally, I don’t think that sharing or talking about the nature of the image is going to ingrain it any further. In fact, it may go a long ways in terms of lessening the impact.

The image is there. Hopefully what can be associated with the experience of seeing the image is that he was able to tell someone who cared about him. Talking about his exposure provides a reality check and dissipates the shameful secrecy that so many of our clients experience.”

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

Jeff Ford, MS, LMFT:

Dr. Jill Manning talks about how pornography mis-educates people about sex. That’s why it’s so important to process a child’s exposure in order to re-educate children about healthy sexuality. (Her book What’s the Big Deal About Pornography: A Guide for the Internet Generation is a good resource.) This is a great opportunity to begin teaching about sex, and although it may seem premature, the education is crucial.”

Geoff Steurer, MS, LMFT:

The biggest thing is that he does need to speak about it if it’s distressing to him. His shame around it matters more than the content of the image.”

Related: Does My Child Need Counseling? Reassuring Advice from a Porn Addiction Therapist

Dr. Adam Moore, LMFT:

“First, you want to avoid jumping too quickly into an in-depth conversation with your child. Congratulate your child for their bravery and honesty. Ask what they’d like to share about what happened. They may feel too ashamed to go too much into it immediately. Give the child some space – they may need a day or two to prepare to share more. Every child (and adult too!) has a a preferred ‘speed’ for sharing personal and sensitive information. If you can trust that speed, you’ll likely get a better conversation.

Certainly, some kids are more reserved or even secretive than others. If you sense that your child is avoiding the conversation entirely, you can push a little more. But especially if your child came to you in the first place, give them a little time to get ready to share more.

You can even prepare them in this way, “I’m looking forward to when you’ll be ready in the next day or two to share a little more about what happened with me. Imagine how much relief you’ll feel when this weight is lifted from your shoulders.” This invites the child to come to you and shares a benefit they’ll get from opening up.

Whether you or your child initiates the next conversation, start it as lightly as you can. You can take this topic seriously without creating fear or shame. I would just say, “Hey, hopefully you’ve had some time to think things over from the other day. I imagine that what you saw has probably come back into your mind at least a time or two since we last spoke. When I feel afraid, ashamed, or overwhelmed by something, the best thing I’ve found to help me work through those feelings is to share what happened with someone I trust. When I share my experience, it doesn’t feel like a secret anymore. It starts to feel less powerful or overwhelming. I just start to feel better.”

Don’t miss out on our free resource at the end of this post – The SMART Plan for Parents: Helping Kids Who Have Seen or Sought Pornography.

Questions to help kids share hard things about pornography exposure

Next, you’ll want to ask a few questions or make statements that help the child know what type of information they might share. Here are some examples:

  1. Feel free to tell me again how you ended up seeing the image.
  2. How did you feel when you first saw it? Did anything surprise you about how you felt?
  3. What made you decide to tell me about it?
  4. What do you wish had happened instead?
  5. \What about the image was the most upsetting to you?
  6. What do you feel you would like to share with me about the image that would help you not feel so upset?
  7. Is there anything else that’s bothering you about the whole experience?
  8. What could I say that would help you feel like it’s not bothering you so much anymore?

Related: The 8 Best Questions to Ask When Your Child Has Seen Porn

Don’t feel bad if this conversation doesn’t flow smoothly, or if it takes a few tries over a couple days to really do it right. This is likely the first conversation you’ve both had about this topic, so give yourselves some credit for doing the best you can. Be patient with yourselves as you try something out that’s difficult and possibly embarrassing.

At the end of each conversation, I would add this:

“You might remember something later that you forgot to tell me. That’s totally OK. When you remember it, just come tell me as soon as you get the chance. I’ll be so glad that you came back again. We’ll keep talking until you feel like you’ve got it all out.

You may be surprised to find that kids start out telling a less detailed version of the story to test the waters with parents. Once they feel safe sharing with you, they may be ready to share more. Don’t be surprised if the fourth version of the story is a bit different than the first! It’s a very human thing to do to share increasing levels of detail as you feel more comfortable with that person. It’s a sign that things are getting better. Good job!(End of Dr. Moore’s quote.)

Related: One Secret to Make Embarrassing Talks Easier for Kids

You can lighten the burden of a child who has been exposed to pornography

We love the advice these therapists offered for families facing this difficult experience. The top points we want to highlight are:

  1. Offer to listen. If a child tells you they’ve been exposed to pornography, ask them if they want to describe what they’ve seen. Reassure them that they don’t need to worry about upsetting you (and then be sure to stay calm!) This lets your child know that you are willing to share their burden so they won’t feel alone. Until they feel safe to open up to you, they are still carrying the burden of a secret.
  2. Follow up but don’t pressure. They may not be ready to share everything they have seen with you right away. Some kids may not want or need to share the details of what they’ve seen. Children often reveal their trauma one little bit at a time, testing to see if their parent can handle it.
  3. Don’t ask leading questions. For example, don’t suggest details of what they may have seen. Instead of asking, “Did you see this type of pornography or that kind of pornography?”, let them describe it in their words.

Remember, just the fact that your child has opened up to you about their exposure, and knowing that they could tell you more in time, is healing. Being exposed to pornography can be distressing – but with a parent who comes alongside to listen and comfort them, children do not have to feel alone or go on to have problems with pornography.

Protecting kids from pornography includes helping them neutralize its effects once they’ve been exposed. Get our free resource below for parents who want to help their kids process what they’ve seen and come out with their “thinking brain” in charge.

The SMART Plan for Parents: Helping Kids Who Have Seen or Sought Pornography
Excellent, calming advice for parents that includes a free downloadable guide.

Click Here

#MeToo — 10 Ways Predators Are Grooming Kids

#MeToo — 10 Ways Predators Are Grooming Kids

Is your child being groomed right in front of you? The #MeToo social media tsunami has revealed the mind-blowing scope of sexual exploitation. I’ve been shocked to discover just how many of my friends have suffered the trauma of sexual harassment and even rape.

To prevent your own children from becoming a #MeToo statistic, it’s important to learn how predators operate.

young girl thinking -grooming kids -metoo

Would you recognize the difference between a pedophile and a person who is simply being friendly with your child? And have you trained your kids to recognize the warning signs?

In a world sickened with millions of sexual abuse images of children (child pornography) uploaded daily, it’s not surprising that the world is also crawling with child predators.

One of our readers, we’ll call her Katrina, shares a traumatizing story of how she recognized and cut off the advances of a potential child predator. I believe her experience and advice will help other parents protect their precious children from sexual abuse.

A close call [reader story]

A year ago, I thought grooming involved personal hygiene or giving a dog a haircut. I have since learned it is something much worse. Grooming also describes the process predators use to prepare their victim(s) for sexual abuse and/or assault. According to the U.S Department of Justice NSOPW:

“Many victims of grooming and sexual abuse do not recognize they are being manipulated, nor do they realize how grooming is a part of the abuse process.”

Was my daughter a potential victim?

About eighteen months ago I noticed that a woman at church, in her mid-forties, was taking an interest in my seven-year-old daughter. I didn’t think much of it as first. My daughter tends to be outgoing and well loved in our church community. Then one day at church my daughter asked if she could go sit by this woman.

Something did not feel right. I can’t explain it, but instantly it felt as if I’d been hit in the stomach. Events of the past few weeks flew through my mind. Yes, this woman was taking an excessive interest in my child. She was kind and complimented her. She found common interests they shared and told me she loved my daughter.

My daughter had commented that she and this woman were “totally alike.” She said they looked alike and liked the same things. The woman had given my daughter gifts and actively sought out opportunities to be around her. She had even asked to have a playdate with my child.

I’d also found a few text messages between the two of them on my phone expressing that they were “BFFs”. A seven-year-old and a woman in her forties should not be telling each other they are “BFFs”!

As I considered these actions, I went with my intuition. I stopped all further communication and contact between them.

Was my child being groomed right in front of me?

Later, I came upon a grooming list and was shocked to see that 8 of the 10 items on the list had occurred between my daughter and this woman! Had she been grooming my daughter right in front of me? Had my ignorance and trusting nature let it happen?

10 grooming behaviors every parent should recognize:

  1. Seeks out and pays extra special attention to a child
  2. Acts overly interested in the child
  3. Buys them gifts and or treats
  4. Touches or hugs them in front of trusted adults which makes the child think the touching is OK
  5. Finds out what your child’s likes and interests are and then flatters the child by claiming to have the same likes and interests
  6. Pretends to be a good friend to the child, even “best friends” and acts as a sympathetic listener when child is upset
  7. Tries to find ways to be alone with the child
  8. Tells the child dirty jokes or shows them pornography 
  9. Grooms parents to gain more access to the child such as offering to babysit
  10. Grooming happens online as well so be aware of your children’s online activities

As a concerned parent I took steps to educate myself and teach my child. I began to have better body safety discussions with all my children. The post, The 3 Big Red Flags of Sexual Abuse really helped me have these crucial conversations with my daughter.

Now Available! Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is HERE! CLICK HERE to learn how to teach kids ages 3-6 about body safety and protect them from the dangers of pornography.

At first, my daughter had a tough time accepting my worries. She said the woman was so nice and had given her gifts. As I explained the list of things a predator (or someone who wants to hurt children) will do, my daughter was able to realize and accept the possibility that this woman might have had bad intentions.

We discussed ways she could help protect herself. For example, avoid being alone in restrooms. We also told her that if she ever felt unsafe she could go to a trusted adult and ask them to take her to her mom or dad. We had her practice by saying it and acting it out.

Children need help with their feelings

If this woman had sexual intentions is not certain, but I felt strongly she was attempting to develop an inappropriate emotional connection with my child. While no sexual abuse or assault occurred, my child still had to sort out feelings of affection she had developed for this woman.

Parents can help children understand and deal with their emotions. If abuse or assault has occurred, the child needs reassurance they did nothing wrong. It is never the child’s fault. Make certain the child understands how much you love them. Work to create a safe environment for your child. Discuss concerns, fears, and conflicting emotions. If a child comes to us and we brush them off, it sends the message we do not care and we really do not want to help them.

8 strategies to help prevent grooming

  1. Teach body safety at an early age, as early as 3 years old
  2. Teach your children about grooming behaviors
  3. Teach them to report any gifts or treats they receive from teachers at school, church, from coaches, family members, and even from their friend’s parents, etc.
  4. Teach them it is never okay for anyone to show them pornography or tell them dirty jokes
  5. Help your children know they can come to you with concerns without fear of their feelings being minimized or getting in trouble
  6. If your child comes to you and is having a tough time telling you what happened…take the HINT! It is something BIG to them! Ask them if it is hard to say or if it is embarrassing to talk about. Help them through it with love and encouragement, and don’t freak out!
  7. Teach your children to report any time they’ve been alone with an adult (that you haven’t previously okayed). Unfortunately this includes extended family members. Remember the groomer is usually not a stranger.
  8. Most importantly do not be afraid to talk to your children. Children who are educated are empowered and have a greater chance of protecting themselves.

Protect Young Minds is grateful for the parents who contribute to our blog! We appreciate Katrina for her honesty and awesome advice!

We designed the Body Safety Toolkit to help you empower your kids against potential sexual abuse. Claim your FREE copy today. Click the image below for instant access.