I am passionate about parents speaking honestly with their children about sex. I have written about that a bunch (here, here, here and here for starters). I am also passionate about helping prevent the sexual abuse of children. I think these two issues are closely related. When we teach our kids about their bodies and how important they are, we empower them. We want to teach them in ways that aren’t shaming, but give them permission to talk to us if something questionable happens. As part of that educational process, it is important to me to talk to my kids about pornography.
You don’t have to be a researcher to know that porn is a MAJOR problem today. It is harming everybody involved. The porn that existed when I was a kid has been replaced by something much darker and much more accessible. It is available anytime for free via devices that are all over my home, the neighbor’s house, the library, the school computer lab, etc. The latest research I read indicates the average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is between 8-12 years old. Let that sink in for a minute.
We cannot passively sit back and think if we don’t talk to our kids about porn, then they won’t encounter it. All we’re insuring is that they WILL encounter it, but they won’t know what to do about it. They will feel guilty and shameful and they won’t want to talk to us about it because we have not established that we are safe people to talk to about this topic.
On the recommendation of a friend (she’s a Licensed Professional Counselor-Mental Health Service Provider), I bought “Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids”. My friend and I have a shared passion for educating kids and protecting them when it comes to issues of sex and sexual abuse. I’ve done it as a mother/foster mother/group home mother and she’s done it in the professional realm through her work with kids. She said this has been a helpful tool in her work and I also found it to be a great resource with my kids, so I wanted to share it with you.
(Full disclosure- If you click on this picture, it will take you directly to Amazon. If you buy the book while you’re there, that benefits me. If you decide to go that route, thank you!)
I can admit that while it isn’t hard for me to talk to my kids about sex, porn has been more difficult. I think that it’s easy for me to emphasize the beauty of sex and God’s design for the human body, but porn is entirely negative and a perversion of all I’ve taught my kids about privacy and intimacy. It is hard to feel like you are introducing that idea into their lives. But who do I want framing that conversation? Me or the kid at the park who hands my child their smartphone?
Which is why I was really thankful for “Good Pictures Bad Pictures”. It opened up a dialogue about pornography that felt natural and made sense to my kids. If you have a school-aged child (in my opinion, this book is ideally suited to kids ages 7-10ish), you need this book. Here’s why:
-It did not make me uncomfortable to read it. At all. While the topic of porn brings up all kinds of difficult feelings, this book didn’t go there. It spoke very factually about porn in ways that would make sense to a child. It wasn’t graphic, it didn’t use any words that made me squeamish and it didn’t make my kids ask weird questions, like I was worried they might.
-It feels scientific. This book talks about brain science in ways kids can understand. We have actually used the language (thinking brain vs. feeling brain) in many other conversations not related to porn since we read the book. It did not go over their heads like I worried it would. It uses brain language to talk about why porn is appealing, which was an aspect I wouldn’t have thought to cover in my own conversations.
-It provides an action plan. This is not a hopeless book. It doesn’t just say “Porn is bad. Stay away from porn. If you see porn, you’re doomed. The end.” It explained WHY people want to look at porn and what damage that does to your brain. Then it moves on to give them a plan of what they should do when they encounter porn. The plan was simple, easy to remember, and effective. It sets good groundwork for them during these early years when they don’t really understand what they’re seeing, but they know it’s not okay.
-It is not religious, but supports Scriptural concepts. The idea of thinking brain vs. feeling brain is great for them to understand and while the book doesn’t have any religious content or spin, it was easy for me to add Biblical language to the concepts of self-control and what we are to meditate on and how we should respond to temptation. I couldn’t find anything in here that was contrary to our belief system, but I also couldn’t think of anything that would offend someone of another belief system.
-It talks about addiction in nonjudgmental ways. I have raised many children of addicts, so we talk about addiction a lot. I am very sensitive about HOW those topics are discussed because I want kids to understand the power of addiction and not just see it as the problem of “weak” or “immoral” people. This book made it easy for the kids to understand how quickly addiction can happen and how powerful it can be. That gave them empathy for those who struggle while also giving them caution about how they should respond when confronted with something addictive.
So go buy this book and read it through with your kids. Then pass it around to the neighbors and your church friends and be sure your kids’ cousins have read it, and let’s just get this information OUT THERE to combat what our kids are facing. They shouldn’t need to feel alone or powerless or surprised when they run into this stuff. They need to know they have a plan and that we’re behind them in this fight.
Do you have any other great resources on this topic to share? Let me know! If you read this book with your kids, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.