Soul to Sole

Soul to Sole

By Tina Mattsson

I remember my daughter’s first dance recital. She was 3. I sat in the audience and cried. Something about seeing her move her body so carefree and comfortably moved me to tears. As Mary Bawden, founder of Soul to Sole Choreography (http://www.soultosolechoreography.org), puts it, “there is a beautiful integration of mind, body, and spirit in dance.” But as she points out in her blog on her website, “It’s the 21st century, and the cultural dance environment has morphed into 2 distinct options for children: healthy versus unhealthy dance.”

Bawden has had dance in her mind, body, and spirit from a young age. She grew up dancing, but ultimately decided not to pursue a career in dance. She instead became a teacher and taught high school. But after a few years, the call to dance became so powerful she couldn’t ignore it any longer. So with the support of her husband, she went back to school and got a BA in Modern Dance from UC Riverside. Slowly doors kept opening until she was invited to start a dance ministry.

After becoming discouraged at the increasing hypersexualization of young girls in dance, Bawden created an initiative called Dance Awareness: No Child Exploited (DA:NCE) http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/dance-awareness-2/. The purpose is to “bring greater cultural awareness and education around the growing use of sexy, age-inappropriate costumes, music and choreography in children’s dance and how this is distorting the art and activity of dance for kids.”

The research is pretty clear here. Hypersexualization of young girls at an earlier and earlier age has damaging long-term ramifications. The American Psychological Association defines hypersexualization as “occurring when a person’s value comes only from his or her sexual appeal or behavior to the exclusion of other characteristics” (De Melker, 2013).

In 2010 the UK government commissioned a review called Sexualization of Young People Review by Linda Papadopoulos. She found that “exposure to the sexualized female ideal is linked with lower self-esteem, negative moods and depression in young women and girls” (Lister, 2013).

Also, the American Psychological Association says research shows that the sexualization of girls negatively affects them in many ways including: (“Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women”, 2007)

* Cognitive and Emotional Consequences: Sexualization and objectification undermine a person’s confidence in and comfort with her own body, leading to emotional and self-image problems, such as shame and anxiety.

* Mental and Physical Health: Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems diagnosed in girls and women–eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood.

* Sexual Development: Research suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences on girls’ ability to develop a healthy sexual self-image.

Bawden says while there are people in every culture who are truly evil, the majority of the people are unaware or uneducated. And they see something that makes them uncomfortable, such as a young girl dancing provocatively, but they don’t know what to do or say because they have no research or tools, so they say nothing. DA:NCE aims to change that.

On the DA:NCE website is an intriguing and informative video (http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/dance-awareness-ppt-video/) that traces dance and widens the net to show how unhealthy dance is connected to normalizing children to be used for pornography. In other words, “grooming girls to be objects and encouraging young men to view girls as objects.” Bawden is quick to point out it’s not the kids’ fault. It’s the culture and many other issues, one of which is money in the pornography industry and the availability of the Interne to make this happen without people realizing what’s going on.

Bawden feels strongly about children experiencing the beauty of dance like she did and that mind, body, and spirit connection. And she feels strongly about keeping kids safe in this endeavor. So she has made the video and PowerPoint presentation available for free on the site for people to use to help educate their communities.

For more ideas on how to help your child develop a strong body image and to talk to your child about their bodies check out our books 30 Days to A Stronger Child and 30 Days of Sex Talks. Also, check out our website for more information on media literacy and digital citizenship.

For more information and links to many more organizations with information on this topic, check out the resource page for DA:NCE. http://www.soultosolechoreography.org/links/

Tina Mattson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education.

Resources

De Melker, S. (2013, December 21). Researchers measure increasing sexualization of images in magazines. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/social_issues-july-dec13-sexualization_12-21/

Lister, L. (2013, June 27). Hyper-Sexualization of Girls – Dove Self-Esteem. Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://selfesteem.dove.us/Articles/Written/Hyper-Sexualization-of-Girls.aspx

Sexualization of Girls is Linked to Common Mental Health Problems in Girls and Women. (2007, February 19). Retrieved November 08, 2016, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2007/02/sexualization.aspx

Kids and Their Bodies

Kids and Their Bodies

By Trishia Van Orden

Have you ever wondered why children become more and more obsessed with their bodies as they age?  From infancy, children explore their bodies trying to understand what it is and how it works. As kids age, they start to notice how they look, feel, and act, sometimes comparing themselves to others. They start to develop a body image that is all their own.

Our body image is how we see ourselves. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine yourself, what do you see? The image that you created in your mind is your body image. You can have a positive healthy body image or a negative damaging one, depending on how you see yourself. This view of self is influenced by many factors including; media, family and friend’s, personal expectations, and past experiences. Each thing that we have experienced in our life has somehow affected how we see ourselves.

As parents in this digital age we watch our children grow, we see that they too take in messages from external sources which tell them how they should look, act, and think. Sometimes these sources are parents and sometimes they can be media. It is important as parents to ensure that our children understand the information fed to them every day. Recent studies have shown that people who identify with characters in the media–for the purposes of this article we will define media as TV, magazines, videogames, or online– tend to have a negative body image. (Beth Teresa Bell, 2011) Developing a negative body image can lead to several problems including eating disorders, unhealthy exercise habits, depression, behavioral problems, and unhealthy understanding of sex . (Morry & Staska, 2001) (K.A. Earles, 2002)

Parents are the link to helping children see through unhealthy messages and helping them see what an amazing thing a body is. Some ways that you can help your child develop a good body image is;

  • Be the example: Provide your children with an example of someone who loves their body and all the things that it can do. Ask yourself what you say about your body or physical traits when your child is around?
  •  Help them see their true beauty: Remind children that they are amazing the way they are. Help them see their wonderful talents, skills, and personality. Beauty is never just skin deep.
  • Sincerely compliment your child: Provide your child with lots of positive feedback on how they look, think, act, and behave.
  • Help your child develop positive affirmations that they can remind themselves of when they are down (e.g. I am smart. I am creative etc.)
  • Start the morning by reminding your child who they are and what they stand for.
  • Help your child develop a good understanding of the media this is called media literacy. Teach them to be skeptical of what they see and hear in the media. (This can be done by teaching them media literacy and digital citizenship.)
  • Teach your child about their body and how it works. Help them realize how special their body really is no matter how it looks.

As you work with you child on these skills they will learn how to better understand their bodies and the wonderful things that it does. Developing a positive body image will help them as they enter school and grow to be teenagers. They will be better aware of who they are and what they really can do.

For more ideas on how to help your child develop a strong body image and to talk to your child about their bodies check out our books 30 Days to A Stronger Child and 30 Days of Sex Talks. Also, check out our website for more information on media literacy and digital citizenship.

Trishia Van Orden graduated from Brigham Young University,Idaho with a BS in Marriage and Family Studies. She has an amazing husband and two children, with one on the way. Her passions include research and helping families!  She wants to be a family life educator and family therapist someday!

Sources:

Beth Teresa Bell, H. D. (2011, April 15). Does media type matter? the role of identification in adolescent girls’ media consumption and the impact of different thin-ideal media on body image. Sex Roles, 478-490. doi:DOI 10.1007/s11199-011-9964-x

K.A. Earles, R. A. (2002, Sep). Media influences on children and adolescents: Violence and sex. Journal of the National Medical Association, 94(4), 797-801.

Morry, M. M., & Staska, S. L. (2001, October). Magazine exposure: internalization, self-objectification, eating attitudes and body satisfaction in male and female university students. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science; 269.

Other helpful resources:

www.nationaleatingdisorders.org

www.kidshealth.org

 

New, Family-Friendly Documentary Makes it Easy to Talk with Kids about Porn

New, Family-Friendly Documentary Makes it Easy to Talk with Kids about Porn

Now Available on iTunes!

By Dina Alexander, MS

President, Educate and Empower Kids

I recently had the opportunity to speak with director Justin Hunt about his new, family-friendly* documentary, Addicted to Porn: Chasing the Cardboard Butterfly. Thinking of my kids, I appreciated that there was NO explicit imagery of any kind in the film. And I loved the clear, animated depictions of how addiction works. They truly help kids (and adults) understand how addictions begins and how powerful porn can be to the developing human brain.  

Narrated by Metallica’s James Hetfield, it features powerful interviews with neurosurgeon, Dr. Don Hilton and others researching the neurochemical effects of porn, as well as perspectives from young people in five different countries, and personal stories from those deeply affected by this epidemic.

“At it’s core, it’s a movie that shows an imminent threat to intimacy,” described Hunt.

Another compelling theme in the documentary addresses shame and how it can keep kids from talking to their parents about pornography exposure and keeps those struggling with addiction from getting help. As Hunt explained, ”If we are going to move forward as families and as a culture, we have to get out from under the weight of the shame of it. It is not allowing us to get into the dark places.”

Hunt echoed many of the concerns Educate and Empower Kids has had over the years, saying “We have no public education on porn and no discussion on what intimacy is. We don’t show kids “this is how a relationship is supposed to look and this is how you get there.”

Many of us are still trying to bring simple awareness of this issue into the public eye and bring the very real dangers of pornography out into the light. “We can’t deal with it if we don’t acknowledge it,” said Hunt. “It’s like a cancer. You can’t see it on the surface, but it’s destroying us from the inside. It’s eating us alive from inside out.”

When asked what surprised him during his research and filming, Hunt disclosed, “The commonality surprised me most. How pervasive porn use is and how universally damaging it was.”

“We’re not talking about a small percentage of people. I saw over and over how many people are affected by it and the ripple effects of this. I also saw self-absorbed fathers who were addicted, totally disengaged from their kids and spouses.”

As a father, Hunt has also frequently talked with his kids about pornography and its consequences. “I have many open discussions with them. I don’t baby them. I ask them, ‘What are you seeing? What are the norms? Do your buddies watch porn? Do people try to get you to look at porn?’”

What’s Justin Hunt’s advice for parents?

* Stop thinking “it’s not my kid.”

* Stop thinking “they’re too young (to have seen it or be affected by it).”

* Start checking your kids’ phones

Although the documentary is available on iTunes, you can also book a showing of a PG or G rated version in your community, church or other local event. You may even be able to get the director to come out and discuss the film with your group! Go to https://www.atpdoc.com for more information.

For great discussions about the dangers of pornography for younger and older children, check out How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography available on Amazon. (link: http://amzn.to/1OjQKfA)

 

*Parents should note that there are two expletives in the documentary.

 

13 Reasons Why Not…

13 Reasons Why Not…

By Lisa Shanklin, Communications Director, Educate and Empower Kids

The popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is still trending on Netflix. It was released a month ago and has been trending ever since, and it has a lot of psychologists and parents concerned. It was given a  mature rating for graphic sex and rape scenes, drug and alcohol use, and language.  On a positive side, it is generating a lot of needed conversation on the topics of suicide, cyberbullying, and other teen related topics. The show is based on a sophomore girl (about 15/16 years old) who commits suicide and leaves 13 reasons why she did–holding her bullies accountable for what she felt led to her death. There are hundreds of articles reviewing the show, and there are many efforts being made to focus not on why one would commit suicide–but on WHY NOT to take your life. We have listed our 13 Reasons why our kids mean so much to us and encourage you to give your child their own 13 Reasons why they matter to you:

13 REASONS WHY NOT!

1 – You are unique.

2 – You have a contribution to make to the world that no one else can make.

3 – You are not alone.

4 – Things will get better.

5 – Feelings change. Situations change.

6 – There are others who can and will help you.

7 – You can help others.

8 – Death is permanent. You don’t get another life.

9 – You are strong.

10 – You can overcome.

11 – You are brave.

12 – You are needed.

13 – Your life is worth the effort to keep trying.

It can be so difficult to see hope and to see one’s own value during dark times. Reinforce in each of your children reasons why they matter to you and how life would not be the same without them in it. Have a discussion tonight. Tell them your 13 Reasons why they matter to you. If you have more than one child, make sure each of them understand why they are important and integral to your family. It is never too late, start today!

If anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK [8255]) or dial 911. The world is better with you in it.

For essential lessons and activities that help connect you to your kids and create meaningful discussions, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, available on Amazon. The book includes great questions, lessons and challenges to help your kids learn to fill their emotional, intellectual, social, physical and spiritual “accounts.” Some of the topics include: friendship, respect, positive self-talk, empathy, addiction, gratitude, community, critical thinking, and many more–30 lessons in all.

Lisa Shanklin has a degree in Recreation Management and Youth Leadership from Brigham Young University. She has been an active volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America and the local PTAs in both Baltimore, Maryland and Atlanta, Georgia. She served as the President and Executive Director of Women for Decency in 2016 and continues to work with families, schools, small businesses and nonprofits in her community to teach internet safety and digital citizenship. She is the mother of five children and now has a daughter-in-law as well. She resides in Johns Creek, Georgia with her two youngest children.

Child Safety Management Apps and Spying Apps

Child Safety Management Apps and Spying Apps

By Stephen Schroeder

This article continues the needed discussion surrounding the ever evolving app list on your children’s phones. For more information on what we’ve deemed the most dangerous apps of 2017, click here.

 

 

 

The difference between Child Safety Management Apps and Spying Apps

On January 18, 2017, The Gazzette published a post about Jonathan Birt, who was jailed for spying on children in the school where he once worked. This news adds to the number of incidents making spying on children an alarming crime. This case also intensifies the discussion regarding the negativity around spying of any kind.

The use of GPS apps to locate children is also seen as a spying tool. People have different thoughts about it and some parents may complain that such apps actually increase threats to their children’s safety. On the other hand there are people that believe such apps are indispensable for helping safeguard their children’s lives.

Even with the continuous debate about children trackers and spying apps, the number of devices and software for child trackers is still consistently growing. With all these apps and products in the market, is there really a good one to use for keeping children safe?

Apps that are meant to spy

Setting aside those spying apps that are crafted by government agencies, let us take a look specifically at those products that are very open in proclaiming their business as children spying apps. These devices or software tell people, especially parents, that there is a need for them to spy on their kids. These spying app companies promote their products by tapping into scare tactic reasoning like early pregnancy, early marriages, reckless driving and drug addictions.

Spyera

This spying software is claiming to be the only product that can spy on phone calls. The app needs to be secretly installed on the phone of the person being watched. The parent using the app should at least know the password of their kids’ phone to install it otherwise the app is useless. Spyera presents their apps features to include access to photos, videos and audio tracker, phone call tracker, VOIP calls tracker, and VOIP call recording. Remotely controlling a kid’s phone is one of its proud features.

Teensafe

Phone and text messaging play an importance role in teen’s daily lives. Teensafe is a software that can spy on the phone and call messaging. This software must be installed in the child’s phone with the exception that parents have the option to let their children know or not – thus retaining the capacity to install it surreptitiously. They can choose to let them know but it does have the capacity for spying.

Given the two sample products, the element of a spying app is secrecy and infringing on the privacy of children. The more secretive it gets, the more effective the app will be. This secrecy is where the discussion and many opinions about spying apps arise.

Child Safety Management Apps            

The core intent of providing apps for tracking and locating children is to increase their safety as they go about their daily lives. The companies providing these apps know how important children are to their parents. The peace of mind it can give knowing their kids will be safe while outside their home is invaluable.

Child safety management apps often include tracking capabilities, geofencing features and alert systems. Citing some names for child safety and location sharing apps will give us a better view of their usage.

Life360 Family Locator   

This app used GPS to track and monitor children. It has an alert system which tells parents when children arrive at school or exit those premises. It has a one-button panic alert feature, which sends emergency notification to parents whenever the kid is loss or just simply scared for some reason.

MobileLocate Family Locator 

This app concentrates on using mobile phones for location tracking and child monitoring. It also uses GPS technology plus cell network data to function as a location tracker. The app is usually offered by mobile device carriers. The company responsible for the app is boasting their 24/7 customer service and hassle free connection.

Turtler Location Sharing App

This newcomer has a promise of using GPS+ Assisted GPS for a better connection signal. Turtler Ltd. is presenting their app as a quicker, easier to use and more accurate product. Its geolocation connection is assisted by telecom tower triangulation. The app features include 2 way calling and texting, safety perimeter set-up, alert system, flexible communication set-up and group location sharing. A main stand-out differentiation of the app is their industry-leading encryption, authentication and data privacy standards to resist any hacking of their services and loss of data to third parties.

The concluding difference

Child safety management apps main features are geofence creation, an alert system for parent and 2 way communications, while spying app main features are text and call monitoring, phone snooping and location tracking. Child safety apps are installed without violating any privacy of the children.

The big difference of the two app types are that the child safety management app does not monitor children as if they have done something bad or will soon do something that is not conforming to their parent’s interest, which on the other hand is the revolving idea on spying apps. The main focus of safety apps is the security of the child once they have left their home or away from their parents care while spying apps are concerned with judging the social behavior of the kids.

What YOU can do:

With this daunting list, you maybe asking yourself how you can keep your kids safe, here are some tips:

  • Approve every app on your kid’s phone
  • Follow your gut instincts, if something feels off with your child
  • Teach self-monitoring to your children
  • Encourage your children to use technology, including their social media accounts, for good
  • Find out what is popular in your region, different apps catch on in different locations
  • Have regular discussions about phone use, apps, and social media with your kids

Stephen Schroeder is the founder of Turtler and started the company after being dissatisfied with all the available options for keeping connected with his toddler daughter in the busy streets of China. He has previously led the SEIRIM web application and development agency in Shanghai. Prior he worked in journalism, advertising and graduated university in Spain.

“Life After Lust”

“Life After Lust”

Interview with Forest Benedict by Lisa Shanklin

 


Recently a new book came out titled “Life After Lust” by Forest Benedict, LMFT, SATP. His passion and dedication for helping others is seen in the life work that he has chosen. I was grateful for the opportunity I had to talk with him about his book, why he wrote it and how it can help all of us. One of his goals in writing the book was to help other parents who might be struggling themselves. He says if parents are hooked on porn, it hinders their attachment to their children, and to help prevent our children from becoming addicted, connection is needed.

Educate and Empower Kids recognizes the need for connection between parents and children. It is our mission to provide resources to parents and educators to encourage deep connection with their kids through media education, meaningful family communication and intentional parenting. We believe this must be done by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online pornography. And Forest is a great example of a father who is teaching not only his children, but so many others about the danger of pornography, the heartbreak that can come from its use and how to deal with it, because it is a part of our world.

In his work as a therapist for Lifestar, he leads several groups for those with addiction, for the spouses of those addicted and for teenagers that are addicted to pornography.  He knows how hard it can be for children to tell their parents about their struggles and for parents to handle things in a helpful way. He says when we find out that our children are looking at pornography, we need to normalize the attraction to it. Children are curious and we need to be open for our children to talk to us. We can teach about how our brains work and what we can do to be healthy.

When we are connected to our parents and feel safe and secure, we are less likely to develop addictions. Forest grew up in a house with an alcoholic father and when he found pornography at age 12, he continued to seek it out until age 24 when he attended an “Every Man’s Battle” workshop. He went through the intensive weekend and has stayed away from pornography use and masturbation since then. He feels blessed to have gone through that experience just two weeks before he met his wife because she did not have to go through the betrayal trauma that many women experience when they find out about their spouse’s porn use, sometimes years later.

“For this generation to stand a chance, we must begin bold conversations about this uncomfortable topic.” We applaud Forest’s courageous efforts to help families start conversations.

 

To have conversations with our children, we need to be intentional and Forest recommends we pay attention to these four areas:

  • Pay attention to their access
  • Pay attention to their habits
  • Pay attention to their interests
  • Pay attention to their emotions

 

We highly recommend the book, “Life After Lust” http://lifeafterlust.com as an inspiring tool for all parents and for any man or woman who might be struggling with pornography use.

 

To help parents start the conversation, we’ve developed a program called 30 Days of Sex Talks  and How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in Spanish. Also, check out our Resources page on our site for free lesson plans and much more to help you on this journey.

 

Lisa Shanklin joined Educate and Empower Kids as the Communications Director in January 2017. She has a degree in Recreation Management and Youth Leadership from Brigham Young University.  While raising her five children, she has been an active volunteer with many organizations including the Boy Scouts of America and the local PTAs in both Baltimore, MD and Atlanta, GA. She served as the President and Executive Director of Women for Decency in 2016 and continues to work with many coalitions for the well-being of our children and families. She resides in Johns Creek, Georgia with her two youngest children.

“The Talk(s)”: Start off easy

“The Talk(s)”: Start off easy

By Dina Alexander

This post originally appeared on the Integrity Restored blog.

Answering my kids’ questions openly and honestly has always been something I’ve prided myself on. Whether it was a question about sexual intimacy or anatomy or whatever, I almost always felt comfortable and capable of answering in a straightforward, calm manner. I often felt an increase of closeness as we talked and shared so I jumped at any opportunity to begin various discussions and teach what I knew. And I still do!

But a few years ago, as I began doing serious research about the dangers of online pornography—especially the dangers posed to children— I was surprised to discover something about myself. I realized that I had put off discussing some vital conversations because of my own embarrassment and unease.

To clarify, I was NOT on the receiving end of some creepy Sunday School lesson about a cake that was touched and smeared and “de-frosted” in order to show some archaic notion of purity. Nor had I grown up in a home where an extra dose of shame was spooned out with every sex talk. Both of my parents were very positive and helpful when it came to sex questions.

However, like many parents, I had put off discussing masturbation, pornography and a few other vital topics because I felt unqualified and worried that I might cause “too much” curiosity. In my embarrassment, I used one of my now least favorite excuses that I hear from parents and teachers, “My kids are too young to hear this.”

Start With the Easy Topics

Instead of dealing with these “heavy” topics first, I stuck to topics that I knew were important to talk about, but were less threatening to me. I started out talking about how amazing our bodies are and how important they are to care for. I talked about predators and how they are usually people we know and what grooming behaviors to look for. Later, I moved on to talking about the mechanics of sex. Since I believe that sex should only occur between consenting adults in a committed relationship, I told my kids this. Thus, using my personal, spiritual values and experience to guide these conversations.

This gradual progression and moving at my own pace turned out to be a stroke of genius. Without realizing it, by starting the conversation first and beginning when my kids were young, I was establishing myself as a source of helpful, accurate information. By calmly and lovingly talking with and posing thoughtful questions to my kids, they were learning that I would not judge them or shame them for any questions they asked.

About three years ago, I was shocked into further action by an article discussing porn consumption among children and teenagers. After further research, I knew this was something I needed to talk to my kids about NOW! This is what I did:

1. I helped them define pornography so they would know what it was when they were eventually exposed.

2. Then we talked about what they should do when they see it. We talked about several physical locations that they were likely to come across porn: the school bus, a friend’s house, on our personal computers (even though we have filters) on a smart phone and through gaming consoles.

3. Then we came up with a plan for what we could do when we these situations happened.

4. More importantly, we talked about how natural it was to be curious. Curiosity is directly programmed into our biology. I wanted my kids to know that God gave them their curiosity and and that this curiosity is essential to their soul, their creativity and their survival.

A Continuing Conversation

We haven’t stopped talking about the dangers of online pornography. In the past three years, my husband and I have layered many other discussions including media literacy, the addictive nature of porn, self-monitoring, and the potential porn has to diminish empathy and destroy intimacy in a relationship. Within these discussions, we have reminded them of God’s merciful and loving nature and reassured them that there is always a way back from small and big mistakes.

As I learned for myself, parents no longer have the luxury to put off any significant discussions—especially as they relate to online dangers or sexuality. As soon as you hand your toddlers and young children internet-enabled devices, they are at risk for exposure. It is time to start talking!

But we do NOT need to be scared. We have opportunities every single day to talk and connect with our kids, to take time to teach them the difference between online, shallow connections and real-life human intimacy. We can teach our kids about using the internet, social media and other forms of media to do good in the world and to build up those around us. With our friends, spouses and partners we can set an example of what healthy intimacy looks like and how to create lasting, healthy relationships.

For more helpful information, conversation starters and great discussion questions for you and your kids, please visit our friends at Educate Empower Kids. Check out their books, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography or 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy, available on Amazon.

 

Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids, an organization determined to help parents create deep connections with their kids and be the first, best source of information when it comes to teaching healthy sexuality and the dangers of online pornography. She is the creator of How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. Dina received her master’s degree in recreation therapy and has taught in various capacities for the past 19 years, including marriage enhancement and art for small children. She has also worked with teenage girls in a residential treatment setting, adults with drug addictions and special needs children. She is a dedicated, whole hearted mom of three children and loves spending time with them and her amazing husband. Together, they live in Texas.

Meet Jessica

Meet Jessica

By Jessica Harris
I was thirteen years old when pornography found me. I hadn’t gone looking for it. While online, researching for school, I found a video website filled with educational videos. Right there, mixed in with clips for children, was a hardcore porn video masked by a blurry picture and benign title.

One click took me from having very little knowledge of sex to witnessing a hardcore orgy. One more click dragged me to a porn website filled with graphic ads, rotating videos, web cam feeds, and a chat room.

That was the beginning of a years-long struggle with pornography- a struggle made all the more difficult by the fact that I am a woman.

My mom caught me a year or so after I started. She was typing in a web address when a porn site auto-filled in the address bar. I was the only child in her home at the time, so she knew it was me. She pulled me into her room, crying.

“Jessica, why are you doing this? Please tell me. I didn’t have desires like this until I was married. Tell me why you’re doing this! Did your friends tell you about it? Did you learn about it in school? Are you just curious? What!?”

I snapped back and told her that I was just curious. She made me promise to stop.

I told her I would. I didn’t.

I learned how to clear the internet history and kept on watching. We never spoke about porn or sex again.

By the time I reached my senior year of high school, pornography had taken over my life. I watched it every day after school, always clearing the history and then typing in typical websites so she wouldn’t notice. At night, I would sit up and watch the cable channels we didn’t get, waiting for porn scenes to break through the static. At school, I would spend my lunch breaks as a teacher’s helper, sitting at a computer reading erotica.

I was losing sleep, struggling to keep my life together, and ridiculously moody. I recognized that pornography was destroying my life, but felt things would be ok if I could just “get it under control.” I quickly found out that I couldn’t control it no matter how hard I tried. I tried to stop and found I couldn’t. When I looked for help, everything out there was for men. So, I continued to struggle alone.

As I went off to college, I hoped I would get caught. I thought if anybody could help girls like me it would be the staff at a college. It wasn’t information I wanted to volunteer, but if somebody asked, I would be able to tell them yes, I was addicted to porn.

Even being afraid of getting caught didn’t help. At college, I would stay up all night watching pornography while my roommate slept behind me. Then I would sleep through my morning class before starting my day.

A few weeks after starting college, I was summoned to the dean’s office. Unbeknownst to me, the internet at the college was monitored. Clearing my history wasn’t enough to hide my porn use, and my internet log-in had been flagged. My internet history report indicated hours of watching and searching for pornography.

After lecturing on the vile nature and harms of pornography, the dean turned to me and said, “That being said, we know this wasn’t you. Women just don’t have this problem.”

They assumed I had given my internet password to men on campus and made me sign an agreement stating I wouldn’t do it again. I went back to my dorm room, completely devastated and confused.

Women don’t have this problem…
Then what was I? What was wrong with me?

After some thought I decided that somewhere women do have this problem- the women in porn. If I couldn’t get help to stop watching it, then I had no choice, I thought, but to join it. It was the only way I could make sense of my life. Just like the moment that had started it all, in one moment, I went from pursuing medical school and the American dream to feeling I had to be a porn star.

I began an online relationship with a man, told him exactly who I was, and gave him the log-in for my school’s intranet. He had access not only to me, but to every other female college student on that campus. It never once occurred to me the danger I was putting myself and hundreds of other women in.

One day, he asked me for pictures.

In four years, I had gone from being a relatively innocent 13 year old who knew little of sex, to a 17 year old sending my pictures to a complete stranger. I had become pornography.

Our relationship continued even after I left the college and couldn’t send pictures any more (my mom still had dial-up). We would continue sexual role play via e-mail for nearly a year. The following Fall I went to a different college, with a different message.

The internet at this college was completely filtered. Attempting to access porn sites would alert the staff. I felt I could finally get it under control, but the thing about pornography is it lives in your mind. You store pictures and videos like a hard drive and they replay at the absolute worst times. I didn’t have access to new content, but I had years of old stored up in my memory.

I thought this was how the rest of my life was going to be- a constant battle to get the images to stop. Then, there was a special all-girls meeting at the school and the dean staff stood at the front and said, “We know some of you struggle with pornography… and we’re going to help you.” It was the first time I had ever heard that before- that women could actually have this problem.
It was one of the scariest things I have ever done, but I confessed that night. The staff responded, not with disgust or judgement but with encouragement. They told me that what I had told them was brave and that they were going to help me.

That open conversation began a long process of finding freedom. It wasn’t as easy as just stopping. It took nearly two years of one-on-one mentoring and community for me to develop healthy emotional coping skills, relationships, and break the hold pornography had on me. I had to learn how to deal with intense emotions- like anger, frustration, sorrow, and even joy- without turning to pornography. I had to learn what it looked like to have healthy relationships with real people.

One of the most damaging lies I had heard in my life was that women didn’t have this problem. Knowing that wasn’t true and that I wasn’t alone was foundational in helping me find freedom and healing. Now I speak out on the reality of women struggling with pornography. Sometimes the most freeing thing for them to hear is they are not alone.

If this story sounds all too familiar or it is one you don’t want told in your house please start the conversations with your children today. These conversations should be open and safe for your child to ask and speak. For more information about how to talk to your children about sex check out our book 30 Days of Sex Talks. Other books that will help you with this critical subject are How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and 30 Days to a Stronger Child.

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2017

The Most Dangerous Apps of 2017

By Kyle Roberts, MA

It’s a new year and with it comes a new list of up and coming apps that are trending among teens.. As parents, it is important to be aware of what is out there to protect our kids from bullying, unwanted sexual messaging, location identification and so much more. We understand, it seems like one more thing on a never ending list of ways we need to protect our kids, but you know as well as we do, a parent’s job is never done—let us help you make it easier.

Last year we told you about some pretty dangerous apps including those that allow kids to hide photos, apps and information from their parents. These apps are still available and widely popular, but now there are even more to be on the lookout for.

To help parents out, we’ve compiled a list of this year’s most popular apps or social media sites for 2017 that your kids may be using, listing a brief summary and any issues of which to make you aware, and what the app icon will usually look like on the phone (Gaggle, 2015). The apps are organized into categories. Remember a lot of these require no age verification and if they do it is a simple check mark…not a real verification.

Social Media Apps

It is important to note that many apps come and go, but social media remains the same and in one form or another and will remain at the top of these lists for the foreseeable future.

It is in this realm where most of us ‘live,’ and since kids are spending more and more time on social media, it becomes an attractive place for predators and bullies to interact with kids. It is on these platforms where we see some of the best in people, and unfortunately where the worst behavior (bullying, sexual harassment, predatory behavior, pornography exposure) is happening. To help mitigate the dangers on social media, we specifically suggest you be friends with your kids. It also helps to know who they are friends with and also get comfortable with the privacy settings of each platform.

Instagram- Fun and creative way to capture, edit and share photos, videos and messages with friends and family. It has become a location for microblogging and is full of accounts that are linked to porn sites and porn stars. Many kids are also creating fake accounts, called “finstagrams.” Sometimes these are simply accounts used for one’s closest friends, but they are also highly used as a means of hiding an account(s) from Mom and Dad.

Twitter- One of the long standing giants of social media, twitter is still a favorite among teens. It is a platform that openly allows pornography and does little to stop trolling or bullying.

Snapchat- We have discussed it in past articles (link: http://bit.ly/2lIQKTW), but it is worth mentioning again as it continues to gain popularity and the level of bullying, sexual harassment, sexting and porn exposure continues to grow exponentially.

 

Live Streaming Apps

Live streaming apps with video often allow or encourage users to self objectify (looking sexy to increase likes or amount of attention) and are linked to pornography exposure and use. They are also a playground for predators.

music.lyis a video social network app for video creation, messaging, and live  broadcasting. Through the app, users can create videos and choose soundtracks to accompany them. The app also allows users to browse popular “musers,” content, trending songs and sounds and hashtags (Wikipedia). Although the app administrators try to keep up with inappropriate or pornographic hashtags, many slip through or change too rapidly for them to be stopped.

Omegle- is a free online chat website that allows users to socialize with others without the need to register. The service randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names “You” and a “Stranger.” Many videos exist of users standing nude in front of their camera to surprise or shock the stranger on the other end.

House party- A group video chat app, you are notified as soon as your friends are on and you can have a group or private, live conversation. Where this opens up an entire new circle of communication and online safety is that if one person in the chat happens to be connected to a user and the others are not friends, those connections are still able to join the conversation because of the mutual connection. Which means that kids who do not know each other have the opportunity to be chatting with people they do not know. Also of concern, is the ability to take a screenshot of the people you are chatting with, without them knowing about it (SociallySafe, 2016).

 

Dating Apps  

Don’t be fooled by the classification, these apps are more used to “hook up” than date. The imagery–mostly provided by the users– is highly sexualized and sexual messages or sexts are requested quickly into introductions.  

Hot or Not- A user must first set up an account of his own, with photos — and must verify his identity with a working email address or a Facebook account and a mobile phone number. The site says it will not accept a profile unless the user is 13 or older and that users 13 to 17 can’t chat or share photos with users older than 17 — but there’s no age-verification process. Most concerning is the ability that girls (and boys) have to self-objectify themselves by posting their picture for boys and men to rate as “hot” or “not” (Conway, 2016).

Down- It’s tag line is “The secret way to get down with people nearby…If you want to hook up, say so!” You have the option to say you are down to hook up (casual sex) or go on a date.

 

Anonymous Apps

It is important to note that when an app or chatting platform has a measure of anonymity it greatly increases the likelihood of bullying, sexual harassment, and other risky behaviors.

After School – The description for this app in the app store says it is an anonymous and private message board for your school. This app originally launched in late 2014. But after reports of threats of school shootings on the app, it was taken down. (Burns, 2014) It was re-released last year with new safety features in place. (Burns, 2015) However, we are still concerned about this app since users can still post anonymously, although there is now an option to post under your real name.

Yik Yak-Allows people to create and view discussion threads within a 5-mile radius

ask.fm– Where users create profiles and can send each other questions

Wishbone- An app that allows the user to choose between two different options, particularly using pop culture. On a deeper level the user can send private messages to friends and create their own cards for comparison questions. This is perfect for online bullying or sexualized messaging.

What YOU can do:

With this daunting list, you maybe asking yourself how you can keep your kids safe, here are some tips:

  • Approve every app on your kid’s phone
  • Follow your gut instincts, if something feels off with your child
  • Teach self-monitoring to your children
  • Encourage your children to use technology, including their social media accounts, for good
  • Find out what is popular in your region, different apps catch on in different locations
  • Have regular discussions about phone use, apps, and social media with your kids

See our book 30 Days of Sex Talks  for ages 3-7, 8-11 and 12+ to find ways to start conversations about topics like social media, sexting, consent, and so much more; including lessons and activities to empower your child with knowledge of sexual intimacy!

References:

Conway, P. (2016, February 6). Tinder and 5 More Adult Dating Apps Teens Are Using, Too. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/tinder-and-5-more-adult-dating-apps-teens-are-using-too#

(2016, December 13). What Parents Need to Know About the Houseparty App. Retrieved February 21, 2017, from http://tweenhood.ca/houseparty-app/

Kyle Roberts has over 10 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations. She received her master’s degree in community counseling from the University of Texas At San Antonio with an emphasis in addiction recovery. When she isn’t wrestling with her little boy, she can be found teaching developmental psychology at BYU-Idaho or working on some DIY projects.

 

Porn addiction is not just a “boys’ problem” anymore. Chances are, your daughter has seen, and may be hooked on, pornography. 

Porn addiction is not just a “boys’ problem” anymore. Chances are, your daughter has seen, and may be hooked on, pornography. 

By Lacy Alajna Bentley

Even knowing your girls could have been impacted by pornography addiction is going to be news for many parents and caregivers. Having a plan will help you feel calmer as you talk to all your children about pornography exposure and addiction. Here are a few steps to take, and questions to ask.

Step 1: Don’t freak out! It may be hard to stay calm. You may get upset because you love your children, and you know they were just hit with an emotional and spiritual semi-truck. It makes sense that you are having strong reactions. If you don’t keep the reaction under wraps though, your child will think you are upset at her. Have your freak out session later with another adult, and well out of ear shot of your child.

Step 2: Own your emotions, and help her language hers. Reassure her you can handle whatever she is feeling. Help her express what she is feeling without worrying about you becoming upset. Porn is intentionally shocking, addicting, and compelling. As much as we hate it, this is business for the porn industry, and they are very good and pulling people in. Most importantly, tell her how much you love her, and that you are only upset because you wanted to protect her. Reassure her everything will be OK, and that you will help her get through this.

Step 3: Ask questions. Ask her how she found it. Did a friend show her? Has she shown it to anyone else? Were any other children around? Ask her what she saw and what she felt. It will probably take a few conversations as she processes what she saw and felt. Let her know that’s natural, and that it’s totally OK to talk to you again whenever she needs. Then ask her if she needs to talk again. She will worry about upsetting you, or want to protect you. That’s not her job, she gets to be the child and ask for your help.

Step 4: Remember what is normal. There is nothing wrong with a child who feels both pulled in and ashamed. We are sexual beings, and have been programed to be drawn to sexualized media. Help her find her voice and tell her story. Let her know it is natural to be curious about her body, sex, and sexuality. Her talking to you is a fantastic step in the direction of sexual health and healthy connections!

Step 5: Use proper terminology and age appropriate language. Pet names for sexual acts or body parts do not help when a child needs to be able to communicate clearly. Practice with another adult, or alone out loud. It is critical you can say what needs to be said without choking on the words. Practice, and allow appropriate use of terminology in your home. Besides, if kids know they can ask you about sex, they will be less likely to go looking for answers in other places.

Step 6: Create a plan together. This plan will include who you will each talk to and when. It includes what will be said, and future expectations you both may have. This is the perfect step to create greater safety for everyone. Children will be afraid of getting other kids in trouble, and may get back lash if parents are not cautious about how it is handled. Many children are exposed through friends. Reassure her you don’t want to get anyone in trouble, but you need to protect her. Be cautious with the confidences she shares, and handle them delicately.

Step 7: Be an example. Follow your own standards. It helps to have the same filters and safe guards for everyone. It takes some getting used to, but Mom and Dad, this is your job. If you turn your phone off at night and model good boundaries with electronics, your daughter will see that as normal. You give your kids a priceless gift when you manage your own media usage.

Step 8: Keep the conversation open and never stop teaching! Ask, at least every month or so, if she has seen anything else. Keep talking about new ways to create personal internal filters. Make sure she knows she can always come to you, and that you care about her. Allow her to talk about what she saw, and if it gets stuck in her head. Teach her about triggers of isolation, boredom, and hurt feelings. Remind her she can come to you whenever she feels these things, so you can give her what she truly needs–healthy connection.

And most importantly, BE THERE when she does come to you, because if you do this right, eventually she will.

Lacy is Founder and President of the up and coming non-profit organization, Women United Recovery Coalition (@WURCTogether). She is also a life coach and public speaker on the harmful effects of pornography addiction, unhealthy relationship dynamics, and overcoming perfectionism. A recovering relationship and Hentai (sexualized anime) addict, and self-proclaimed perfectionist, she seeks to empower women to stand up and be counted in the war on the harmful messages all forms of sexualized media send to the rising generation.
Lacy@WURCTogether.org