In all the time I have been a mom and a psychologist, this was not a day I had imagined. I mean I test out many therapy books on my children. The Way I Feel, Listening To My Body, and My Body is Private are great ones. I love I said, “No”, a book about tricks people use to sexually abuse children. But a book about protecting children from pornography?
But pornography and children…
However, the statistics on pornography use in tweens and teens are startling.
Did you know that 1 of 10 kids under the age of 10 have seen pornography?
The average age of initial exposure to pornography is 11 years old.
93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to internet pornography before the age of 18
One survey found among college males, almost 50% had seen pornography before the age of 13. Results suggested that the porn influenced the “men’s expectations and behaviors during sexual encounters.”
64% of young people, ages 13–24, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.
The effects are equally concerning.
Children who are exposed to hard-core pornography are at increased risk for depression, sexual explotation, and pornography addiction to name a few. Furthermore, because young brains are still developing pornography can shape their sexuality, arousal patterns and their understanding of romantic relationships.
There is a great deal of concern that increased exposure to online pornography is related to an increase in teens acting out these behaviors with younger children. Indeed, 23% of reported cases of child sexual abuse are from those that are under the age of 18.
Moreover, the part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control and good decision making isn’t fully developed until the mid-twenties. You read that right, mid-twenties!! Obsessive and graphic pornography use can have a huge impact on teens.
Recent research has shown that the less a parent monitors online activities, the more likely the child and or teen will explore online pornography.
Protecting Children from Pornography
It’s crucial that we are having regular conversations about sexual health at a much younger age. Between the ages of 2 to 4 years old we can begin the conversation about how their body is theirs. They are in control of their body. Certain parts of the body are private, that is not for others to see or touch. When we teach children the anatomically correct names we empower their communication about their body. Between 4 and 6 years old, we should be talking about the importance of okay and not okay touch. News flash some not okay touches feel good and some okay touches feel bad (e.g. a shot at the doctor’s office). By age 7 we should start thinking about how to protect our children from the effects of stumbling into porn.
“But I am always supervising my child’s internet use.” Maybe you are and maybe you aren’t but one day you won’t be and you want them to be prepared.
So when another therapist said, “Hey, there’s a children’s book for that.”
What?? A children’s book on porn. No… Really?!?
I bought it and stored it on my shelf for 2 months. But the stats are bigger than my discomfort.
The book starts by explaining in an age appropriate manner what pornography is and why it is dangerous for young brains. It goes on to explain the concept of addiction and the parts of the brain involved, the feeling brain and the thinking brain. Chapter 7 explains how pornography can trick the brain into addiction. Finally, the book walks kids through exactly what to do if they stumble upon “bad pictures” online. The CAN DO plan stands for
Close eyes immediately
Always tell a trusted adult
Name it when you see it
Order my thinking brain to be the boss
The concepts in this book are quite wonderful. On their website you can get a free poster.
My 8 year old was intrigued from the beginning with lots of questions. “Why would someone post pictures like that?” “If it can hurt your brain why would it be out there for children to see?” There were none of the preconceived notions we as adults struggle with. There was just a thirst for knowledge and curiosity about learning something new. In those moments we developed a vocabulary and opened the door to discuss difficult but important topics.
You can check the book, Good Pictures, Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jensen, MA.
Begin conversations about sexuality and body safety early. You can provide bits of age appropriate information as they are ready so that neither you or your child are overwhelmed by the information you need to share. It’s important to make protecting children from pornography a priority. If you child is on the internet, then these are conversations you need to have. And you need to have them before they become a teenager and officially decide you don’t know anything anymore.
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