Bringing Digital Citizenship Into Our Homes

Bringing Digital Citizenship Into Our Homes

By Jenny Johnson

This is the first article in a two-part series.

When I was a kid, I remember jumping across the bed to hit the record button on my boom box so I could tape my favorite song from the radio. I had to wait for my film to be developed when I took any pictures with my Kodak camera. If I wanted to talk to a friend, I had to call them (and most likely speak to their parents) and was ecstatic the day my parents gave me my own phone line.  

But it’s different now.

Our kids have access to music and videos through YouTube. They don’t have to talk to their friends because they can text or comment on social media posts. Pictures are taken and shared immediately to a Cloud. And this can all be done at their fingertips through a smartphone.

Our children have been born into a generation of technology. They seem to know every new app, device, and website and can learn to maneuver their way through any computer system. They are two steps ahead, and I can’t seem to keep up with them.

In the past, I have panicked at the thought of them sharing too much, seeing too much, and wasting too much time.

Then I heard about digital citizenship.

“Digital citizenship is the ability to participate safely, intelligently, productively, and responsibly in the digital world (DigCitUtah, 2017).” It is using the internet with purpose to help connect with the world and encourage creativity but doing so in an honest, safe, and secure manner.

 

Digital citizenship is an integral part of teaching children how to maneuver the internet.  It prepares them for what to do when someone asks for personal information. It teaches them to cite sources to prevent plagiarizing. It reduces risk for cyberbullying and helps promote a positive footprint in a virtual world. Helping them understand digital citizenship also promotes media literacy which enables them to be a wise customer and deliberate message user (DigCitUtah, 2017).  

So How Do We Start Teaching Digital Citizenship in Our Homes? Here are some simple principles to get you started.

Digital Footprints

Once something has been posted to the internet, it is permanent. It can be copied and shared within seconds without knowledge or approval. Children are sharing content that is affecting their future employment and even college acceptance potential. More and more businesses are looking at online profiles and social media and basing a person’s acceptance to a company on their social media footprint. Personal relationships are being affected by status and photo updates. As soon as your kids are old enough to post any information or create any account (as young as kindergarten) you can start teaching this to your child (Internet Society.org, n.d.).

Teach your kids to be kind. Discuss with your kids the need to consistently post about themselves and others in a positive way. That way, their profile and their digital footprint trail will portray a more honest persona that reflects their true self.

Teach your kids to self-monitor. While we can find apps to help us monitor our children’s internet and technology usage, it is necessary to teach them how to monitor themselves.

Safety

One of the most difficult things for children to understand is that there are real people on the other side of the screen. Pictures are being copied and distributed without consent. Children are becoming victims or even bullies by using media to abuse or harass their peers without understanding the severity or impact of the words they are typing.

Teach your kids what is okay to share and what is not. There are obvious things that should not be shared like a last name, age, and address. But children and teens are eager to share seemingly small or innocent details of their day. Or they may feel the need to vent about a troublesome situation. Kids (and adults) need to understand that they don’t need to share everything online. Not every lovely dessert, party, beach trip, or friend drama needs to be photographed and documented on social media. Oversharing can be embarrassing in the least and dangerous in the most extreme.

Remind them to think before they post. Teach your children to ask themselves questions before posting. Will this post be offensive or hurtful to anyone? Does this portray me or others negatively? Does it share any personal information? Is the picture appropriate? And when all else fails, have them check with you if they need a second opinion.

Continually encourage them to search for ways to inspire and motivate others! Teach kids to share encouraging words, post positive affirmations, and be the good that others look toward. Remember, what is shared online is permanent. Teach them to make it represent their best self.

The internet is an amazing tool for school, work, personal management, and socializing for our youth today. It’s essential to our world and isn’t going away. Teaching responsible digital citizenship is something that needs to be continually reinforced because technology is constantly changing. It’s not a one time conversation.  Every day there are new apps to communicate with, new pictures to post, and new tweets to share.  It is our responsibility to make sure our children are using the internet safely and responsibly while also encouraging creativity and engagement.

Teaching digital citizenship can help children maintain their honesty, integrity, and safety in real and virtual life.

Need help with digital citizenship? Look for our children’s book this coming fall!  You can also check out our book 30 Days to a Stronger Child  for help on how to build an emotionally strong and socially confident child, or download our free lesson Using Technology for Good  to teach your children how to use the internet in a positive way.

Jennifer Johnson is an intern for Educate and Empower Kids and is working towards a degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University – Idaho. She is active in her community and has volunteered in her local school district as a noon duty aide, school site safety council representative, and PTO President. Jennifer was born and raised in Southern California where she currently lives with her husband and three sons.

Citations:

Home. (2017, June 08). Retrieved August 27, 2017, from http://digcitutah.com/

Scott, A. (2017, February 04). What Have We Gained-and Lost- through Technology? Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://educateempowerkids.org/what-have-we-gained-and-lost-through-technology

 

My child wants THAT video game?! 7 Secrets to Help Answer the Big Question

My child wants THAT video game?!  7 Secrets to Help Answer the Big Question

By Melody Bergman

This is the first article in a three-part series addressing video games and the fan culture that surrounds them. In our fast-paced digital world, parents need all the tools we can get interpreting the gaming world (media literacy) and teaching our young gamers how to participate in in a healthy, responsible way (digital citizenship).

I heard the name of the game whispered on the wind. I knew it was coming, and of course it did. My son finally approached me and asked, “Hey Mom! Can I have THAT game?”

We parents might have different ideas about what “THAT game” is, but these days it’s only a matter of time before it comes a-knockin’ at the front door–or even sneaks in the back. Either way it’s now a force to be reckoned with. Now what?

  1. To ban or not to ban? Every home is different. Family values, game ratings, age of the child—all of these will come into play. In general, though, try to keep an open mind. Don’t knee-jerk. Also, be sure to include your child in the decision-making progress. When kids are involved, you are more likely to have buy-in on the solution.
  2. Take your time. When kids have a particularly difficult question—especially regarding digital media—pause and think. If you don’t want to answer right away, then don’t. Instead, say “I need to think about it,” or “Why don’t we take some time to look into it?” At my house we often have several discussions before making a tough decision.
  3. There are no short-cuts. This is going to take some time, but it’s worth it! Don’t be tempted to scan the cover, accept or reject the game based solely on the rating, hand it to your kid (or not), and walk away. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, the rating system for video games isn’t always reliable (McGrath, 2015). It’s our responsibility as parents to do our homework and make the final decision.
  4. Do your research. Ideally, I like to beat my kids to the punch. But this isn’t always possible and sometimes we get blind-sided. Either way … Stop! Take a research break before jumping to conclusions–good or bad. Pop the name of the game into Google and start reading reviews, blogs, gamer forums—whatever you can find. Explore details about the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating system at here.  Also one of my favorite resources, Common Sense Media has a page dedicated to video game reviews especially for parents..
  5. Ask questions. Even if you’ve done some research, don’t assume you know everything. Other parents and gamers have their opinions, but this is your child. Talk to her. Find out what she knows about it, and ask why she wants to play. Ask what friends are saying. Don’t just talk about the video game itself–also address the emotions and context surrounding the game. This should be a discussion (i.e., two-way communication), not a lecture (one-way communication).
  6. Discover together. When I’m talking to my children about media, I often ask questions even though I think I already know the answer. For instance I might ask, “Is there any profanity in that game?” Even if I know the answer, we still talk about it. Mostly I listen. If they are uninformed, we go online together and “discover” information. This way we are learning together. That’s much more effective than me wagging a finger in their faces.
  7. Be creative. Often, we assume we have to tell our children either “yes” or “no.” But life isn’t always that straightforward. Digital media contains massive gray areas, and the next generation will be much better equipped if we teach our kids to think outside the box.

Let’s go back to the original question: “Mom, can I have that game?”

With the last video game query at our house, the answer was: “Yes, BUT only with supervision.” That turned out to be a win-win. Great compromise. Everybody was happy.

But now we have THAT game in our house. And I’m not gonna lie–my little dude is getting a wee bit obsessed. And that is a topic for another day.

For more discussions to help you strengthen and connect with your kids, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, available on here

 

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads (http://mamacrossroads.com). She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Melody has made it her mission to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect their children. Her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.

Citations:

McGrath, Mary. (26 Jan 2015). “Parents’ duty to make call on video games for kids.” American Academy of Pediatrics News. Retrieved from http://www.aappublications.org/content/36/2/28.5

 

App Alert: Sarahah and Your Kids

App Alert: Sarahah and Your Kids

By Jenny Webb, MA

What’s easier: giving feedback to someone face to face, or giving feedback anonymously?

In my job as an editor, I’m sometimes asked to review manuscripts and give my honest opinion about them. It’s always easier when I don’t know anything about who wrote it, and when I know they won’t be able to trace the feedback to me personally. The work of critical evaluation is tough enough without having to worry about offending someone I know!

But as a parent, the opposite is true: if I’m helping my child learn about themselves and reach their potential, that process works best when I carefully consider my child’s individual strength’s and weaknesses and tailor my parenting the best I can to meet their needs through encouragement and love.

Anonymous, critical feedback is useful in specific circumstances, but I cannot think of a single instance in which such an environment would be developmentally appropriate for a child or teenager. That is why I consider Sarahah, a recent app, to not only be inappropriate, but potentially dangerous for children and teens.

Understanding Sarahah

Sarahah is a new anonymous messaging app that has quickly become very popular in the US, especially among teens. It is one of the most downloaded free apps in both Apple’s US App Store and the Google Play store. The app began as a website initially meant to be used by employees to provide honest feedback without fear of repercussions. Developer Zain al-Abidin Tawfiq produced an English version of the app midway through 2017, and it took off

“Sarahah” is an Arabic word that means “frankness” or “honesty,” and it’s clear that within certain contexts honest, anonymous feedback has a place. But Sarahah’s popularity with teens is particularly troublesome due to the app’s potential for anonymous bullying.

Imagine yourself at the age of 14 with a license to say whatever you wanted to someone without them being able to respond (the app does not permit responses) or find out who you are. Yikes. I wasn’t a bully as a teenager, but even so, I don’t think I would have always made the best choices in that scenario, especially if I was upset with someone. Teenage impulsivity + anonymity are a recipe for serious consequences, including intense bullying with the potential to escalate quickly.

Sarahah + Snapchat

In July 2017, Snapchat released the ability to include links  to other websites inside snaps. Teens quickly integrated their Sarahah accounts with their Snapchat social networks, and suddenly their snaps became open invitations for people to send them anonymous messages on Sarahah.

The concerns  about cyberbullying  through Sarahah are real, and the developer is taking steps to potentially address them. But such adjustments take time. The app’s rapid growth in popularity means that, at least right now, it should be on every parent’s radar.

Check in with your child. Know what apps they’re using. And if they include Sarahah, make some time for an honest, face-to-face talk.

Want to know what other apps every parent should be aware of? Check out this article for more helpful information.

Jenny Webb is an editor and publications production specialist living in Woodinville, Washington with her husband, Nick, and their two children.

Is the Media Teaching Your Kids About Sex?

Is the Media Teaching Your Kids About Sex?

By Melody Bergman

Sometimes life is so fast it makes our heads spin, and we just hope and pray that the tools we’re using are actually keeping our kids safe when it comes to media.

But do we really expect filters, age-appropriate ratings, and time limits to ensure our kids won’t encounter sexually explicit material?

What does “age appropriate” mean anyway? As far as I can tell, nowadays all it means is that children of a certain age are expected to be in the audience. Whether we want our children to be in that audience is a different matter altogether.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but some current events have made it clear that “they” (the creators of this stuff: games, videos, ads, and media in general) have a funny way of deciding what is or isn’t taboo anymore. In fact, I’m not sure what is off limits at this point.

Here are some examples of explicit content disguised as “age-appropriate” media:(WARNING: External links may contain content that is offensive or triggering.)

TEEN VOGUE created quite a stir recently by including a graphic tutorial on anal sex in their June 2017 issue. The target audience for the magazine is ages 11-17 (Teen Vogue pushing Anal Sex to young girls, 2017). When confronted by angry parents, the magazine defended their decision to publish the article (Starnes, 2017).

MINECRAFT, rated for ages 8+, is definitely a kids game. But watch out! Players are now adding “sex mods” to their Minecraft games, luring children into virtual sexual encounters (Betters-Midtvedt, 2016; Jenson, 2016).

ANIME is not just an innocent artform, although its cartoon style does ensure passage through internet filters. Beware of Hentai, graphic anime pornography, which gets through filters the same way (Bentley, 2017).

BILL NYE the Science Guy” has a new show on Netflix called Bill Nye Saves the World, and parents should be aware that his content and tone on this “kid-friendly” show have shifted significantly from his old work. Nye just received an Emmy nomination for his “Sexual Spectrum” episode, which is presented in an almost strip-club type format and includes actress Rachel Bloom singing about her vagina, ‘butt stuff,’ ‘sex stew,’ sexual positions, transgenderism, and how sexuality and gender are ‘on a spectrum’ (Prestigiacomo, 2017).

Do these things make us want to throw up? Or huddle in a corner shivering with fear? Or–as I’ve heard more and more parents admit–move in with the Amish? Maybe. But in reality we can make it through this one day at a time. Hang in there!

Here are some tips on combating hypersexuality and unwanted “sex ed” in the media: Follow media coverage on family issues. Frankly, I was horrified to learn I had missed some of the current events listed above until I started researching and really paying attention. Like many parents, I wondered how I can possibly keep up with these things along with the rest of the whirlwind that is life. Lucky for us, there are watchdogs out there already keeping track of these things–we just need to find them and follow them wherever we are on social media. That way notifications will come to us automatically. Here are some options:

Educate and Empower Kids – Us, of course! We’re always watching your back and trying to keep you up to date on these things! (Luckily there is a whole team of us–not just me!)

Common Sense Media – Detailed reviews for parents regarding movies, books, TV, games, apps, and websites.

Protect Young Minds – A blog and website dedicated to protecting children from online pornography (also home of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures book series)

Protect Young Eyes – A faith-based blog dedicated to equipping concerned, but too-busy parents and hyper-connected kids with information about using the internet well.

The Activist Mommy – An ultra-conservative vlogger who educates about current events and topics that are important to families.

Dirty Dozen List – From the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, updated annually.

Be your child’s first source of information. Let’s face it. Unless we tape our kids inside a cardboard box and feed them through a little hole, we’re not going to be able to protect them from exposure to the media. The fact is, if we want to teach our kids about sex before the media does, then we need to start early. This is one job we don’t want to leave to the professionals! Don’t know where to start? We can definitely help with that. We’re always adding new resources on this topic. Here are just a few to start with:

Video: A Tale of Two Sex Talks

Video: When should parents start talking to their children about sex?

Article: “The Talk(s):” Start Off Easy

Article: 5 Basic Tips for Talking to Your Child About Sex

Article: 15 Things I Want My Son To Know About Love And Sex

Article: 15 Things I Want My Daughter To Know About Love and Sex

Book: 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 3-7

Book: 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 8-11

Book: 30 Days of Sex Talks for Ages 12+

Teach your kids to self-monitor. As we all know, we can’t be with our kids at all times, and unfortunately even the best filters can fail. This is when our kids need to have a backup system in place–one that is built into their own conscience so they can access it wherever or whenever they need to. Teaching our kids to self-monitor requires careful time and preparation on our part. As parents, if we spend time teaching our children about sex, pornography, and other explicit material before they are exposed, that will be more precious to them than any piece of software in their time of need. Watch this video and learn our plan to help kids R.U.N. away from pornography:

 

For more details on self-monitoring and other great discussions about pornography, check out our book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, available on Amazon: http://a.co/gf5U2Lf. For a sneak peek at what’s inside, you can also read my book review: “The Handbook is HERE: How to talk to kids about porn.”

Sometimes it’s tempting to feel discouraged and overwhelmed in our digitally saturated, sex-obsessed world. But with the right tools, we can take courage! We can empower our kids with the knowledge that sex and love are beautiful and wholesome before the world tells them otherwise. You can do it Mom and Dad! We’re cheering you on!

And while we’re on the topic of media literacy … Check out our new Kids Activity Page! Have your children put their skills to the test decoding advertisements with fun interactive exercises for different age groups. Are they smarter than the media?

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys and creator of the blog MamaCrossroads (http://mamacrossroads.com). She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Melody has made it her mission to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect their children. Her experiences as a survivor of sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.

 

Citations:

Bentley, Lacy. (2017, May 4). Five Things Kids Need Parents to Know About Anime. Parents Aware. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://parentsaware.info/index.php/2017/05/04/five-things-to-know-about-anime/

Betters-Midtvedt, A. (2016, October 21). Everything Changed the Day I Learned Minecraft Has a Sex Mod. parent.co. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from https://www.parent.co/everything-changed-the-day-i-learned-minecraft-has-a-sex-mod/

Jenson, K. (2016, November 3). Sex Mods??? Is Minecraft Safe for My Kids? Protect Young Minds. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from https://protectyoungminds.org/2016/11/03/sex-mods-minecraft-safe-kids/

Prestigiacomo, A. ‘Butt Stuff’: Bill Nye Gets Emmy Nod For INSANE ‘Sexual Spectrum’ Episode. The Daily Wire. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://www.dailywire.com/news/18642/butt-stuff-bill-nye-gets-emmy-nod-insane-sexual-amanda-prestigiacomo.

Starnes, T. (2017, July 18). Parents outraged over Teen Vogue anal sex how-to column (but magazine still defends it). Fox News. Retreived July 24, 2017, from http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2017/07/18/teen-vogue-defends-teaching-kids-how-to-engage-in-sodomy.html

(2017, July 19). Teen Vogue pushing Anal Sex to young girls. National Center on Sexual Exploitation. Retrieved July 24, 2017, from http://endsexualexploitation.org/articles/teen-vogue-pushing-anal-sex-young-girls/

 

Empowering Kids through Media Literacy

Empowering Kids through Media Literacy

By Sarah Moore

 

 

As kids engage more and more with various media online, it becomes incredibly important for both parents and kids to be media literate. From videos to social media to advertisements, everything is designed to capture the consumer’s attention. Media literacy is the ability to understand how and why the media can influence us. Having media literacy empowers kids because it enables them to decide for themselves how much of an influence media will have over them. Kids can develop media literacy by developing skills such as:

 

• Critical Thinking: The ability to step back and ask what an advertisement is doing and how it is doing it naturally creates a distance that reduces the subconscious influence of most advertisements.

• Deconstruction: Taking apart an advertisement and looking at its individual parts lessens the overall power of the intended message.

• Self-worth: As an understanding on their own self-worth grows, kids (and adults!) are less likely to be influenced by the many advertisements that use aspirational characters.

Developing these skills takes practice, practice, and more practice! We’ve developed a series of short interactive lessons that can be done alone or with a parent or teacher to help kids become more media literate (you can find our Kids Page here). These lessons do this through:

• Repetition: Each lessons has a set of three similar advertisements to work through, thus reinforcing the ideas being taught.

• Discussion Questions: Certain aspects of the advertisements are highlighted with accompanying questions. These can be used as prompts to start a discussion between kids and their parent or teacher, or kids can click on the suggested answers for self-guidance.

• Specific Tools: Each lessons tries to teach specific tools that can be used later to deconstruct other advertisements kids may encounter in their day-to-day life. These range from things as fundamental as design elements to ideas as difficult as aspirational characters.

Hopefully after enough practice kids—and the adults doing the lessons with them—will begin to automatically analyze the media they encounter everyday. Developing a habit of medial literacy will protect kids from unwanted influences and allow them do decide who they want to be for themselves.

 

Check out our Kids Page and keep an eye out for our upcoming book, Petra’s Power to See, A Media Literacy Adventure, coming out this fall.

When Your Child Has a Porn Habit

When Your Child Has a Porn Habit

By Josh Gilman

When my wife and I were expecting our first child, she would sometimes ask me, “Do you ever get scared of raising a child in this society?” To which I always responded, “Are you kidding? As soon as our kid is born we are AMISH!”

While that was obviously a joke, the reality is that it’s often intimidating to be tasked with the wonderful responsibility of parenting in today’s culture. But we don’t have to freak out. Not even if we find out our kids have a porn habit. And I tell you this because I’m living proof of it.

I was that kid. I was the kid from a great family with loving parents who did their very best to protect me, but I still fell prey to the reality of today’s internet and ended up with a nearly crippling porn habit. By every definition of the word, I was an addict. And yet here I am to tell you that a porn habit doesn’t mean your kid’s life is over. Your dream of having a happy healthy child who can grow up to become a loving father or mother isn’t dead. Calm down, take a breath, here is what you need to know:

Don’t shame them. The first thing you need to know is that your child needs you to not freak out. The truth is that nobody enjoys porn. Yes, it fires off dopamine like crazy, and yes, their brain is demanding that they watch it again. But every person who watches it also has that uncomfortable feeling in their stomach. As violent and disturbing as today’s porn is, despite every craving, there is also shame, and when you freak out you are only falsely confirming to them that they are shameful and they are disgusting.

Use positive reinforcement. Instead of scolding, you have an opportunity to come alongside your child and say “Does porn make you uncomfortable sometimes? That’s good! That’s right! I’m proud of you for feeling that way.” As Tim Challies has said, “We have few opportunities to plead with our children, discovering their porn habit gives us one of those opportunities. To plead with them and say, out there, are people who don’t care about others. They want to use people, consume them like product, and they want you on their side. Let’s be different. Let’s fight together for love, for truth. I can help you” (2014).

Offer direction. After we’ve started the conversation, we then have the opportunity to capitalize on this moment to parent our children how we’ve always dreamed, to offer them a different way to live. For the parent of faith, you will not have a better opportunity to contrast the love and forgiveness and freedom they can experience with God versus trying to do it all on their own. For the parent who would like to live a less digitally dependant life, this is when you can seize the moment and clearly explain why you believe that trips to the grand canyon are better without cameras and selfies.

To the parent who finds out their child has a porn habit, don’t panic. You will never have a better opportunity to be the parent your child needs than at that very moment. Use it. It could change their life for good, forever.

For more ideas on this challenging subject, check out our book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography, available here: http://amzn.to/1OjQKfA. It includes simple discussions and a RUN plan for younger kids as well as thought-provoking discussions and ideas for older kids.

Josh Gilman is the Executive Director of Strength To Fight, a Canadian-based organization that equips men & women, boys & girls to live porn-free lives and build porn-free communities. He has told his story across the country so that many others trapped in porn addiction can change their story, and that children can have a life-story that never has pornography in it in the first place. His biggest goal is that his 3 children will grow up with a different internet than the one he grew up with.

 

Citations:

Challies, T. (2014, April 14). Help! My Kids Are Looking at Porn! Retrieved July 8, 2017 from https://www.challies.com/articles/help-my-kids-are-looking-at-porn/.

 

Sex Talks and Sexual Assault…

Sex Talks and Sexual Assault…

This is part two in a two part series focusing on survivors of sexual assault. Here is part one.

By Michelle Harkey, LMHC

Having a child be sexually assaulted is one of a parent’s worst nightmares. Unfortunately, it is far too common, with about one out of three females and one in five males being sexually assaulted. Assisting your child(ren) through the very challenging times ahead may seem daunting. Know that it is worth the very best effort you can put forth and can make a tremendous difference in how well your child recovers.

It becomes even more complex when you, yourself, have also been sexually assaulted in the past. This scenario can be debilitating for you and is much less talked about, so let’s address some of the potential difficulties as well as some ways to help yourself.

It is possible to trigger your own trauma in the midst of helping your child. You may suddenly find that your own thoughts and maybe dreams are dominated by your own sexual assault, or perhaps what is your history and your child’s history gets all mixed up in your mind. It may be that you are feeling more or strangely anxious or depressed, as if from an earlier time. Maybe the amount of uncontrollable rage you are feeling is so much you fear you may do something to hurt yourself or others.

Conversely, you may feel quite removed emotionally from the situation. Maybe you sense that all of this is happening to somebody else entirely or that you’re a spectator in your own life. If your reaction to the revelation of your child’s sexual assault is nonchalant or somewhat muted, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing some form of dissociation. Dissociation was a valuable tool to get through your sexual assault, but it is not so helpful now.

Both of the above opposite reactions can be signs of your own trauma coming up for a deeper (or perhaps first) chance of healing.

Try This: As miserable as this may seem, you can embrace this opportunity for healing yourself. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for your child. Your own healing will help your child heal as well. Check your local library for resources on healing your own childhood sexual assault (CSA), like Courage to Heal. Better yet, contact a therapist or counselor who is familiar with healing from CSA to help the entire family.

Additionally, your own shame or guilt about your sexual assault may come up as you are helping your child work through the effects of his or her sexual assault.

Try This: Recall that your reactions and feelings are not necessarily the feelings and reactions of your child. Your informed support can decrease the likelihood of your child experiencing shame or guilt. Brene Brown’s book can be helpful.

You may be tempted to downplay your own difficulties. Don’t. Just don’t. While it is true you’re your child needs and deserves your time and attention, you also need to have support. Healing from sexual assault is a big task and you’ll benefit from a cadre of supportive people.

Try This: I strongly recommend investing in a professional helper, like a counselor or therapist, who has experience in helping people resolve sexual trauma. Where available, a sexual assault support group is typically one of the best ways to heal from sexual assault of any kind.

Friends and family who understand are valuable, and you may get to train them to be even more helpful. The Allies in Healing book will be useful for this training, especially for your spouse or partner.  Try to limit your contact (at least for a while) with those who are judgmental or demeaning of you or your child in your healing process.

Learn as much as you can about healing from sexual assault. This may be a lot or it may only be this article. Sometimes learning about it can be difficult and/or triggering though, so pace yourself.

Most of all, seek to take care of yourself as best you can. Yes, right now the emphasis is appropriately on your child, but caring for yourself is an important way to make it possible for you to show up in a supportive role for your child. It’s okay to ask for what you need.

There are many resources available online and in print. Try some of these:

https://www.rainn.org/articles/help-parents-children-who-have-been-sexually-abused-family-members

https://www.amazon.com/Listening-Talking-Sexually-Abused-Child/dp/1482772361/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1488160297&sr=8-10&keywords=child+sexual+abuse+for+parents

https://www.amazon.com/Helping-Child-Recover-Sexual-Abuse/dp/0295968060/ref=pd_bxgy_14_img_3?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0295968060&pd_rd_r=6CWZ6MPY37PR43ZBR6NC&pd_rd_w=wWXZe&pd_rd_wg=S1Agr&psc=1&refRID=6CWZ6MPY37PR43ZBR6NC

If this rings true for you or your family, it is time to start the conversations with your children today. These conversations should be open and safe for your child to ask questions and speak openly. For more information about how to talk to your children about sex check out our book 30 Days of Sex Talks(available for 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-11, and 12+). 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. All titles and many others available on Amazon.

Michelle Harkey helps men and women release tension and trauma from their bodies so they can live a fuller life in fulfilling relationships. To do this, she specializes in body-oriented (somatic) psychotherapy/counseling and body-connection coaching. She is also the mother of five children. In her self-care time she enjoys sitting in hot springs while reading; competing in triathlons; and has recently decided to try scuba diving. Michelle has a MA Liberal Arts and a MA Counseling.

The Super Power of Fathers: Helping Kids Weather Negative Influences

The Super Power of Fathers: Helping Kids Weather Negative Influences

By Trishia Van Orden

I recently heard a “Story Behind the Song” segment on the radio where the artist was sharing some of his greatest fears as a father. The artist shared that he wrote his song as a way to help his children and others know that they are perfect the way they are and that they do not need to try to fit into some mold that people create.

After hearing this, I contemplated some of the challenges kids face in our culture and how their fathers can help them overcome these. With so many loud voices in media, social media, and other influences telling our kids what they should look like, what they should wear and how they should behave, I realized how incredibly important good fathers are to their children.

A father has the capacity to influence their children for good or bad. Their influence impacts all areas of a child’s development including; self-worth, prosocial development, education, and emotional and physical development (Osborne, Dillon, Craver, & Hovey, 2016). They are one of the keys to how their child will handle the messages and ideas that they see and hear from others around them.

This can sometimes seem hard as we often have no idea how to help our children see just how perfect they are. The good news is, fathers have time to help their children see just how wonderful, smart, and beautiful they really are!

Here are some ways that fathers can help build their child’s self-worth:

  • Remind your child that they are beautiful.
    • My husband tell our little girls that they are beautiful every day no matter how silly they are dressed, how messy they look, or anything else. He knows and reminds them that beauty is something more than an image. It is the true essence of who we are. Because of his influence, my children our learning to see themselves as beautiful.
  • Stay involved in your child’s life.
    • Many times we get so carried away with our lives that we sometimes forget to be part of our children’s lives. Do you truly know your child? Take some time to play with, talk to, and have one on one time. Get to know your child and what is happening in their life. This is the best way to tell your child you love them,spending time together–without screens.
  • Never tell your child that they are something negative.
    • Many parenting books, studies, and websites have said that when a parent tell their children that they are something, the child internalizes it and essentially becomes it. This means that if you tell them that they are dumb, ugly, bad, or any other negative adjective, they will end up trying/becoming what they are told they are. Instead help them see the good in them. If they are misbehaving simply refer to the behavior and not the person.   
  • Help your child see the good in life.
    • According to the National Eating Disorders Association, people who have positive views on life are less likely to be dissatisfied with themselves and their bodies. Fathers can help their children develop this positive outlook by being optimistic. Point out the good, smile, and set an example of being happy. Doing this will encourage your children to do so as well.

In the end there are many things that fathers can do to help their children, but being involved is most important! Show your children that you love them and care for them and they will be more open to your influence. You are so important to them. Just remember to smile, love them, and have fun.

Happy Father’s Day!!

For amazing discussions and activities that help connect you to your kids, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child, available on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1TEMnUr. The book includes great questions, lessons and challenges to help your kids learn to fill their emotional, intellectual, social, physical and spiritual “accounts.”

Citations:

Osborne, C., Dillon, D., Craver, J. W., & Hovey, I. (2016). Making good on fatherhood: A review of the fatherhood program research. The University of Texas at Ausin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. Ausin: Child and Family Research Partnershi. Retrieved May 25, 2017, from http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/135704/CFRPReport_MakingGoodonFathers_ReviewofPgmResearch.pdf?__hssc=162717731.5.1497333636244&__hstc=162717731.23b1eddfb3dc9816615e74b9abf67dc7.1495731962316.1495731962316.1497333636244.2&__hsfp=2219875683&hsCtaTracking=c8c4

 

Trishia Van Orden and her husband, James are the parents of three amazing little girls ranging from 3 ½ years to 3 weeks old. Trishia received her bachelor’s from Brigham Young University-Idaho in Marriage and Family Studies. She has a love for psychology and one day wishes to open her own Family Life Education Center where she lives. She also dreams of getting her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. Trishia loves to go outdoors and spend time with her husband and little girls.

Soul to Sole, Fighting Hyper-sexualization in Kids’ Dance

Soul to Sole, Fighting Hyper-sexualization in Kids’ Dance

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

Simple Ways to Teach Positive Body Image to Your Kids

Simple Ways to Teach Positive Body Image to Your Kids

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–media literacy. Teach them to be skeptical of what they see and hear in the media, especially when it comes to images. (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