Protecting Our Vulnerable Kids
Kristen Jenson, the founder of a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to reject pornography, talks to parents about the dangers of porn. Jenson has written a book called, "Good Pictures, Bad Pictures," and reminds parents that age seven is the average age of exposure. Through her book, Jenson helps parents teach children what porn is and what children should do when they encounter it.
About the Guest
Kristen Jenson talks to parents about the dangers of porn. Jenson helps parents teach children what porn is and what children should do when they encounter it.
Protecting Our Vulnerable Kids
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, February 15th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. In our world today, it’s a not a question of if our children will be exposed to pornography. It’s a question of when.
What do we do as parents to prepare them for when that moment happens? We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Do you remember how old your kids were when you started having any kind of conversation about pornography with your boys—or even—did you have conversations with your daughters?
Dennis: I don’t know if I did with my daughters—had some with my sons. I would say this: “Based upon what’s happening today, I didn’t start young enough.” I don’t know what they’d say; but I think they would have said, “Dad, it would have been okay, based upon what we saw growing up”; and I don’t know what they saw. We didn’t have that kind of conversation taking place in the elementary years or junior high or high school.
But we have a guest with us, Kristen Jenson who has written a book called Good Pictures Bad Pictures. Welcome back to the broadcast.
Kristen: Thank you so much.
Dennis: Kristen heads up an organization called Protect Young Minds. She lives in Southeast Washington—Richland, in fact, the tri-cities area on or near the Columbia River.
Bob: He just has to say that because that’s kind of like he’s now dreaming that that’s where he is.
Dennis: I love the Columbia River. I had one of the best fishing days I’ve ever had in my life there on the Columbia River, Kristen; but I love what you’ve done here. One of the things that I like what you’ve done is you have practically helped parents engage in the conversation; but then you take it a step further, and you logically work through why pornography is bad for you. Where does a parent start with a young person about how pornography does bad things to your mind?
Kristen: Well, we wanted to start with young children before they get exposed or at least young enough that they are still listening to you and taking your advice on everything.
So, we wanted to start with this original book at age 7, and we wanted to point out a concrete way that your mind is damaged by pornography and especially how it can become an addiction. So, we go through—and in a very child-friendly, simple way, we explain the process of addiction, especially the addiction to bad pictures.
What I found out is that therapist are actually using this book with their adult clients because we have managed to—very—in simple terms explain the process of addiction. We talk about the feeling brain and thinking brain and how they have to work together but how the thinking brain needs to stay in control because that’s the part of the brain that knows right from wrong. So, we explain all of this to children and then give them a plan.
We’ve updated our book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids; and it has discussion questions at the end of each chapter. So, you can really engage in a discussion about this topic; but it’s very comfortable.
Bob: The book is not something you’d sit down in one evening and try to read to a child; is it?
Kristen: Well, some parents do; but some parents take it chapter by chapter and do it every evening for a week or two. Either way, whatever fits well with your family—but I wouldn’t just think that once you read the book to your child, then you’re done, you can check that off, and you never have to talk about it again. Obviously, you need to continue these conversations.
But this book helps you to begin that conversation—teach your child what pornography is, how it can damage your brain through addiction—
—an addiction that is very hard to overcome and one that you don’t want to get involved in because you want to protect your brain. Every child needs to install an internal filter.
Kristen: —in their brain that goes with them wherever they go because you may lock down and put filters on all your devices; but the minute they go next door, you don’t know what your neighbors have done. You don’t know what’s been done with their classmates in school.
I hear this from all over the country. Kids are getting Chromebooks, and they may have some filtering at school; but the minute they walk out of that school, those filters are no longer on. Those kids get into porn with a school-issued device.
Bob: You’re not against filters.
Bob: You think parents need to use filters.
Kristen: We need—oh yes, you have to have—
Bob: You’re just saying it’s not sufficient—
Kristen: It’s not sufficient.
Bob: —to have an external filter. You’ve got to have the internal filter.
Dennis: But I want to take you back to the basics, and I want you to answer the question:—
—“How would you describe pornography as a mom of a three to six-year-old of a seven to ten-year-old or then to a pre-teen or teen?” Explain how you would describe it.
Kristen: Well, you know we really worked very hard to come up with that initial definition, and it’s in both of our books. The definition is pornography means pictures of people with little or no clothing on. And actually, we add in pictures, videos, or even 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.
So, that’s just enough of a definition that helps a child recognize it; right? We don’t need to give them the whole definition of pornography,—
—but we do need to give them enough information so that they can recognize it.
Dennis: So, what do you say to a child in the elementary years?
Bob: Same thing—same kind of definition?
Kristen: I think a similar definition will help. Now, if you’ve already talked to them about sex. Then you can say it shows people having sex, and you can talk to them about why that isn’t a good idea to watch and why it can be harmful to you.
You know I’ve thought a lot about why—“Why is watching people have sex so bad? What is the problem with that?” You know a sexual relationship is a personal, unique thing that you build with your spouse.
Bob: So, there’s a reason we call it intimacy; right?
Kristen: Right. When kids are teenagers, I think you should talk to them about how—
—the people that are in pornography are often very exploited.
Kristen: You can talk about how it feeds sex trafficking. You can talk about all of these things, but it’s important for children—young children—to understand what it is and how it is like a poison.
So, in our Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, the father comes in at the end and uses the example of rat poison and says, “Rat poison tastes good to the rats. If they could look at that poison and say, ‘That’s poison,’ and run in the opposite direction, they’d be safe; but once they start eating it, it begins to poison them and then eventually kills them.”
Bob: Kristen, I can imagine a mom thinking to herself—I mean I’m having the thought, “If I said to my six-year-old,”—
—“‘Private parts aren’t bad,’ but we shouldn’t take pictures of our private parts. I could imagine a six-year-old going—‘I never thought about taking a picture; huh?’” Now, all of the sudden, you planted a seed where their curiosity takes over, and they are getting out the camera. They’re saying, “I think I’m going to try taking a picture.” You’ve introduced an idea that otherwise might not have come to their mind. Is that something a parent should be concerned about or not?
Kristen: Well, I mean it’s the same with other dangers; right? You can tell a child, “Don’t run out into the street,” and then the child thought, “Oh, I never thought about running out into the street. I’ll just go right out onto the street.” That usually doesn’t happen. I believe that a child that is prepared and that a mother and a father that have talked to a child and said, “Look, this is a danger”—we were saying before that you need to prepare children years before they may face a danger; right?
Kristen: You need to prepare because an unprepared child is vulnerable.
And there’s always going to be that kid—right?—that has to learn—
Bob: Stretch the—break the rule.
Kristen: Yes, there is always going to be that kid that has to learn from their own sad experience—
Kristen: —but at least, you have sincerely done your best as the parent to warn them. You can’t control your children. You can’t make all their decisions, but a child that is caught off guard by this usually doesn’t fair well.
I remember the story of a mother who told me that she had read Good Pictures Bad Pictures to her 11-year-old daughter. Her daughter went on a field trip; and on the bus, she was sitting next to her friend, and a young man came up with a mobile device and said, “Hey, look at this.” It was pornography. So, guess what happened. The 11-year-old that had been warned—
—turned away and said, “I’m not going to look at that.” The 11-year-old friend that hadn’t been warned continued to look.
So, to me, when kids are caught off guard and they have had no training / no warning, they are much more vulnerable to go on and lose whatever innocence they may have had. So, the risk is so much greater on the side of the porn industry getting to our kids than we’ll ever plant seed and be guilty of—I would not even worry about that. That—to me, that’s like a tool of the devil. That fear—
Kristen: —keeps us silent, and that is one of Satan’s greatest tools—is to keep us silent because he knows that if he can get to our kid and they don’t know anything about it and they’re caught off guard, he has an in.
Bob: Kristen, you’ve got an acronym that you teach kids in the book. It’s the CAN DO acronym. This is designed to give them a way to think about—“What am I going to do if I’m ever exposed to these pictures?”
Bob: Walk through the five points of that acronym; can you?
Kristen: Yes. We have the CAN DO plan, and the first three steps of the CAN DO plan really help a child know what to do when they are exposed: So, to turn away from it, to tell a parent, to name it when they see it. The second part of the CAN DO plan is what to do when those memories come flooding back because they’re shocking and how to help a child gain some control / how to help a child, in essence, “forget”—and I’m putting little quote marks around forget because once it’s there, it’s there—
Kristen: —in your brain; but there are ways to minimize it.
There are ways to take that pathway that goes to that horrible picture or that enticing picture and reroute it in another direction.
So, the CAN DO plan is a simple way that children can learn to know exactly what to do when they see pornography. This is based upon research, and it’s very helpful for children. You can get a poster on our website that shows the CAN DO plan that is in the book.
Bob: We’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. If folks want to find the poster and get more information, they can go to our website, and the information’s available there.
Dennis: There is another very powerful tool, I believe, the devil of hell uses in our kids’ lives. It’s shame. Once a child has been instructed about what to do, if they’ve been exposed, they may be ashamed to tell their parents that they’ve seen something. How does a parent create—
—a relationship of safety that invites the child to tell the story of what they’ve seen / what they’ve been exposed to / what somebody else is talking about / what they’re being tempted to do? How can they do that?
Kristen: So, there are a couple of things—and we do this in the books. One of the things that we do in the original book is to say, “Pornography might feel like the pull of giant magnet,” and to really just explain to children that it’s normal to feel curious or enticed by it; but that there are some real serious consequences of following that curiosity. The other thing we do in the junior book is to say, “Even if you see a bad picture, that doesn’t make you a bad kid.”
Dennis: That’s good.
Kristen: There is something good you can do when you see a bad picture.
So, we don’t want kids to feel ashamed, and they do. That’s why I say—parents that expect that their children will come and tell them if they see pornography, if they haven’t already started that conversation with their child, is a false expectation because children do feel ashamed. They also feel afraid that they might lose their technology / their access to technology—
Kristen: —they might get in trouble. If the parent has never talked about anything like this, they don’t even have the vocabulary to know how to start that conversation. So, I like to say parents who have the courage to face this issue head-on will make sure that their kids won’t have to face it alone.
Dennis: And one of the first things a parent ought to say to a child who is bringing some experience or something that happened at school or on the school bus to the parents—is to say, “You know what? I am so proud of you.”
Dennis: “That takes courage”—
Dennis: —“to share that with us. We want you to know we are really proud of you at that point.” Then, go on to unpack the conversation; but let the child know—and I think I’d reinforce it again before the conversation is over: “Mommy and Daddy want to do life with you. We’re important guardian looking out to protect and guide you on some really pretty treacherous ground that you’re going through.”
Bob: This is where we’ve had friends and guests on our program who have said, “As parents, you’ve got to practice the don’t-freak-out face / the don’t”—
Bob: You know when your child comes home and says, “Well, guess what I saw,” and they tell you; and your reaction is to go completely ballistic; right?
Dennis: You saw—what?!
Bob: You’ve got to go—“Huh? Tell me more about that.”
Kristen: The calmer you can stay, the more your children will feel comfortable telling you even more.
Dennis: Says easy; does hard, though.
Kristen: I know. I know. That’s why it’s good to practice.
Also, if you find something on your kid’s iPad that you are freaking out about—I had a friend call me, and she was absolutely sobbing. I said, “Do you need for me to come to your house?” “Yes. Yes.”
So, I went to her house, I knocked on the door, she wasn’t even”—I went into her house, found her in her bathroom absolutely sobbing. She told me that she’d found pornography on her 14-year-old’s iPad. She was about to go to the school and pull him out and say, “What is this?!” I said, “Look, breathe. Take 24 hours / 48 hours and get ahold of your own emotions.”
So, we recommend that a parent get their own emotions, calm down, so that your brain / your thinking-brain can make some good decisions and not just freak out.
Dennis: And get a game plan—
Dennis: —with your spouse; and if you’re a single mom, get a friend to coach you and say, “Here are the points I want to make. I just found x, y, and z on my daughter’s iPhone or on a device that she’s using.” You ought to know where you’re going because if you don’t, the child will confuse you in the midst of that; and I promise you the depth of this can be very, very confusing.
Kristen: Children are getting all of these sexual cues from their environment, and part of their job is to figure out the world. So, they’re more curious about these things.
Kristen: Do you want to go to your parent who has never talked to you about it before / who is embarrassed—you can tell? Or do you want to go to Google and say, “Hey, tell me about sex?” Well, it’s a lot less embarrassing for the kid to find out through Google and easier if you haven’t started those conversations.
I did a study with ten porn addicts earlier this year and found out that they were all different. There were two women and eight men, and found out that the thing they had in common is that their parents had never explained to them about sex. So, they had to figure it out on their own, and where did they go? Pornography—the great sex-ed on the internet—and that’s where they went, and then they got pulled in.
Dennis: Or they go to their peers.
Kristen: Or they go to their peers who tell them about pornography.
Dennis: Exactly, and both of them are lost—both them and their peers are lost.
Bob: And part of getting a game plan is not just, “How are we going to play defense?” When that happens, but “How can we play offense so that we’re ahead of the curve on this conversation? How can we get books like this and proactively begin the conversation with our kids before puberty?” Don’t wait until—
Kristen: Yes, don’t.
Bob: —after puberty to start this. It’s the same reason—
—when you created Passport2Purity®, you said, “This is a conversation that parents need to be having with their kids before the hormones hit rather than waiting for the hormones to take over and kidnap your child.”
Dennis: Yes, we ought to have a conversation about Passport2Purity right now. If you have not taken your child through that—I’m watching parents at younger and younger ages take—the mom takes the daughter / the father takes the son as early as seven / eight years of age all the way to pre-puberty.
Bob: And have the birds-and-bees talk with them at that stage.
Dennis: That’s right. There are peer pressure conversations. There are boundaries and limits with the opposite sex. There’s how babies are made. And here is the cool thing: Barbara does the conversation with your daughter and you. So, she takes the pressure off of you having to say those words. Now, it’d be good if your daughter heard you say it too, Mom.
Bob: That’s right.
Dennis: Okay. Dads, come on. Speaking about stepping up, dads ought to be all over this—
—going away with their sons, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13-years of age, going through this content and having the conversation because really this sets the back drop for what Kristen has done here, Good Pictures Bad Pictures. You’ve got to have a conversation about human anatomy and sex in the midst of warning them about pornography.
Bob: Well, and as we’ve already said this is an urgent enough issue that people from whatever their faith background is—whether they agree on Gospel-issues or not—as there is a disagreement between us on these issues. Yet, this subject is something where we’ve got to come together to protect our kids; and you’ve created a great tool that is being used in public schools because it’s not a faith-based approach. It’s a more practical approach to this issue; but it’s a great tool for moms and dads to begin to help train our kids to know what are the good pictures and what are the bad pictures.
So, let me point our listeners to FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s our website. There is information about both of the books for kids that Kristen has created, Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr., information about the Passport2Purity resource that we have here at FamilyLife. Find all the information and order the resources you are looking for on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com or call 1-800-FL-TODAY if you have any questions or if you’d like to request any of these resources. Again, call us at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
This is a big weekend for couples attending Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways. We’ve got getaways happening this weekend in Asheville, North Carolina; Colorado Springs; Hershey, Pennsylvania; Montgomery, Alabama; Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Next weekend, I’m going to be speaking at the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway in Kansas City.
And we’ve got getaways happening next weekend in Albuquerque; in Appleton, Wisconsin; Cincinnati; Grand Rapids; and in Tulsa.
Will you pray for these couples—both this weekend and next weekend? Pray that they will leave the getaway with a stronger, more secure spiritual foundation for their marriage than when they arrived.
If you’re not attending one of the getaways this weekend, you can still have some time together as a couple. In fact, we’ve created about 20 different conversations starters for date-nights; and I don’t if you had your Valentine’s Day date-night last night or if you’re still planning to have it this weekend; but we’d love to email you 20 different conversation starters for your date-night. You can use two or three of them when you have your next date-night and save a few more for the date-nights to follow.
Just go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and request the Date-Night Conversation Starters, and we’ll get those sent to you via email. There is no cost for that.
And we hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together in your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we’re going to talk about the importance of having a vertical understanding of your marriage: how the spiritual foundation for a marriage is really essential to how we get along with one another. Dave and Ann Wilson will be here to talk with us about that, and I hope you can join us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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