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Have you ever agonized over how early to start talking to your young children about pornography? Have you wondered how you can protect their innocence while at the same time warning them about online dangers? Do the two seem mutually exclusive?
Possibly. But maybe there’s a better question you should be asking: Which is safer? An innocent kid or an informed kid?
And here’s a follow up question: Which child can maintain their innocence longer? A child who has no clue or the child who can recognize a pornographic picture or video and knows to turn away and tell a trusted adult?
Sue is a fierce mama bear who has done everything in her power to protect her kids from viewing pornography. Filters all devices. Only lets her children play at the homes of people she knows well and trusts. Keeps herself and her kids informed of the dangers out there.
But one day her son asked if he could go on a bike ride with a new neighbor friend. And although Sue didn’t know the family well, she said yes, thinking they would just be outside with no devices. The boys went to grab the new kid’s bike, but went inside the house for just a brief minute.
And that’s when it happened. While inside, the older teenage brother exposed this little 7 year old boy to internet pornography.
Luckily, his mom had already prepared him for this situation by reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids together. He recognized what he was seeing, turned away and when he got home, he told his mom and they processed it together.
Here’s what Sue told me:
“Just days after discussing this topic again, my 7 year old son ran into pornography! And everything happened according to our plan! It was a beautiful thing, in that regard! If we hadn’t talked that day, I’m quite sure I never would have known anything about it. What could have become a sort of wedge between us became a bonding experience, and fortified our trust in one another.”
So next time you are worried that talking to your child about the dangers of pornography will somehow rob their innocence, remember these three questions:
What is the actual value of innocence?
In children we often equate innocence with ignorance. We don’t want them to have to know about “adult” topics. But unfortunately children are at risk of pornography exposure from a young age. Keeping them ignorant of those dangers means they have no way to protect themselves from their own curiosity! So given the current accessibility of porn (it’s like air pollution!), how valuable to a child’s well-being is their innocence (i.e. ignorance) about a very real threat?
Can I control when and where my child is exposed to pornography?
If your answer is no (thank you for being honest!), then seize the control you do have! You can control how early and how effectively you begin arming your child to reject pornography.
Is an informed child safer than an “innocent” child?
Life often hits parents with competing or conflicting goals. And parents must figure out what is best for their kids in the long run. That’s a parent’s job! Is it better for young kids to be innocent or informed? Given the hundreds of stories I’ve heard, my vote is to inform and empower children to reject pornography as soon as they have any access to the internet or mobile devices.
An “innocent” child is a vulnerable child. An informed child is a prepared child!
And a child who is prepared with a plan for protecting themselves is a safe child!
For the sake of our children, let’s bring pornography out of the dark, where it has power, and into the light, where our kids have power.
If you are wondering what age is appropriate to talk to your kids about pornography, check out this article with statistics about porn that you need to know. Also read why this mom has chosen not to let her kids have smart phones yet.
Kristen A. Jenson is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds. She is the founder of ProtectYoungMinds.org, a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to resist and reject pornography.
Kristen is the mother of two daughters, and a son who is waiting for her in heaven. Her latest honor is becoming a grandma! She lives with her husband and sassy chocolate Schnoodle puppy in the beautiful state of Washington. Kristen earned a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A. in Organizational Communication.