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

Pornhub Launches “Sex Ed” Site

Pornhub Launches “Sex Ed” Site

Pornhub Launches “Sex Ed” Site. Is This a Play to Market to Kids?

By Crissy May* 

I grew up in a family that displayed pornographic pictures around the house, encouraged aggressive sexual talk, and never addressed the healthy side of a sexual relationship. Due to these experiences, I entered my marriage not knowing how to have a healthy relationship with my spouse. I had to relearn everything that I had learned in order to have the wonderful experience of a healthy intimate relationship.  

Think back to when you were a teenager. Where did you go to learn about sex and intimacy? Did you ask your friends or parents? Did you look in books at the library or use the internet? According to recent research done by Steiner-Adair & Baker (2013) as well as Cohn (2009), teenagers are seeking advice and knowledge about sex from the internet more and more each year. According to the latter study, the most prominent source of “information” is online pornography.

Recently PornHub, the most popular porn website in the United States has opened a new webpage on sexual education. The biggest concern that anyone should have about this “educational” resource is the desired outcome of its creators. PornHub’s main concern has always been about promoting business and making money. This means that while this webpage may look like a reliable source for some sexual advice, it can also be used as a way to promote their pornography business. In other words, any teenager who access this webpage may come across content that would encourage the use of pornography which leads to unrealistic and confusing ideas about sex.

When looking at the main page, one might think that PornHub is trying to inform their customers about contraception, sexual autonomy, and consent; however, at a closer look, it becomes clear that its main goal is to encourage unhealthy sexual views.  While none of the articles contain pornographic pictures, some such as “What Happens at Play Parties? Notes from a Study” provide links to suggestive articles about BDSM and sex parties, some containing mild porn. While another article describes sexual positions and encourages the reader to look deeper by using very explicit descriptions. PornHub has also “conveniently” added a link at the bottom of all the pages to their main website; leaving easy access to their pornographic content.

Another way that PornHub draws teenagers into their business is by providing information that is appealing yet essentially incorrect. For example, while searching through The Sexual Wellness Center’s articles on contraception, I came across an article titled “Outercourse”. This article states that outercourse is abstinence since it prevents pregnancy; however it still encourages you to do any other pleasurable sexual acts. This just isn’t “abstinence.” In other words, PornHub is trying to win over teenagers by telling them appealing “advice”; such as one can be abstinent and still have sex.   

It is always important to remember that the safest and most reliable place for a teenager to learn about sex is from their parents. If we, as parents do not reach out and provide a safe place to learn and talk about sex, we are allowing them to become exposed to harmful and demeaning information. We can teach them through conversations about consent, sexual health and identity, and the difference between the pornographic “ideal” of sex and a healthy one.

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.

*Author’s name has been changed to protect anonymity.

References:

Cohn, D. (2009, May). Teens, sex and the internet: A pilot study on the internet and its impacts on adolescent health and sexuality. Drexel University School of Public Health.

Steiner-Adair, C., & Barker, T. H. (2013). The big disconnect: Protecting childhood and family relationships in the digital age. New York City: HarperCollins.

 

Helping YOUNGER Kids (Ages 5-12) Shed Light on Fifty Shades Darker

Helping YOUNGER Kids (Ages 5-12) Shed Light on Fifty Shades Darker

This article is part two in a series. Here is part one for parents of OLDER children.

By Dina Alexander, MS

 

Whether it’s the commercials we see at the gym, trailers on Hulu or musical advertisements on ITunes, the newest installment of the Fifty Shades Franchise continues to find us and our kids.

So what is the plot of this year’s Valentine “love story”? In Fifty Shades Darker, we find the female protagonist in a depressive state because she has broken up with her mentally unstable, abusive lover. Since she just can’t live without the sadist, she gets back together with him and the two of them party, drink, engage in kinky sex, endure a kidnapping attempt, and then become engaged. Her fiancé continues with his controlling, manipulative, smoothing-things-over-with-money behavior and they prepare to live happily every after.

This movie and many other sources of media are teaching misleading and completely false ideas of romantic relationships, love, intimacy and healthy sexuality. But we don’t need to fear! We can prepare our kids by showing them examples of healthy intimacy and healthy relationships. Most importantly, we can engage our kids in various discussions that combat the destructive messages shared in the media around us.

Here are ten discussions you can have with your YOUNGER kids (ages 5-12, depending on your comfort level):

1. If something is popular does that mean it is ‘okay’? What are some things in our history that have been popular that have later been found to be detrimental? (bleeding people for medical benefits, advertisements that told people that smoking was beneficial, etc.)

2. Some people think that most women and girls want to be dominated and told what to do. Do you think this is true? Why or Why not?

3. What is shame? What is guilt? Why do people have these feelings when sexual topics come up? Why do some people thinks sex is ‘dirty’ or ‘bad’?

4. If someone gives you gifts, does this mean he/she loves you?

What does a healthy relationship look like? (romantic or platonic) What kind of behavior should you expect in any relationship?

5. What is intimacy? Why does intimacy make a sexual relationship better? Intimacy can be the best part of a relationship. It is dependent upon trust and can be expressed verbally and non-verbally. It is feeling closer to someone that normally experienced in common relationships. It can exist between two friends, but is usually used to reference a wonderful, romantic, committed relationship.

6. Why are our bodies amazing? Why should we protect them from?

7. What is love? How do you know if you are loved? What is the difference between being infatuated and feeling real love?

8. Why is curiosity awesome? It is totally natural and expected to be curious about one’s body and about sex. This is natural and helpful to one’s survival.

9. How do we say ‘no’ to someone who isn’t treating us well? Can you say ‘no’ to an adult? What are some situations we can say ‘no’? Let’s practice saying “NO!”

10. How does one’s self-confidence affect their decisions in dating and forming relationships? If you don’t see your inherit worth or think you unlikeable, might you be more vulnerable to the flattery of insincere or abusive people?

For more discussions about Fifty Shades, see this article: http://bit.ly/1EWfr2e

Although these movies teaches many negative ideas of sexuality in our culture, you don’t need to hide these subjects from your children. You can direct the conversations around healthy, helpful, honest lessons. If you are not sure how to begin these discussions, Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy. Available for kids ages 3-7, 8-11, and 12+.

Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids. 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.

Helping Your OLDER Kids (Ages 10-20) Shed Light on 50 Shades Darker

Helping Your OLDER Kids (Ages 10-20) Shed Light on 50 Shades Darker

This article is part one in a series. Here is part two for parents of YOUNGER children.

By Dina Alexander, MS

 

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been this month, whether it’s watching TV, Youtube, Hulu or even listening to Disney Pandora, movie trailers for Fifty Shades Darker have preyed upon you and your family.

In the second installment of this sad, twisted tale of coercive infatuation, we find the female protagonist in a deep depression because she has broken up with her abusive lover. Since she just can’t live without the sadist, she gets back together with him and the two of them engage in kinky sex, endure a kidnapping attempt, party, drink and then become engaged. Her fiancé continues with his controlling, manipulative, smoothing-things-over-with-money behavior and they prepare to live happily every after.

With this movie and so many other harmful and destructive messages about love, sexuality, and relationships being overtly marketed to our kids, it is easy for many parents to feel overwhelmed and unsure where to begin in holding back the tidal wave of unhealthy, damaging messages.

When we feel overwhelmed, we must remember that we love and know our kids better than anyone. And therefore, we must be the ones to set an example of healthy relationships and engage them in frequent dialogues that counteract these distorted, dishonest messages.

Here are ten discussions you can have with your OLDER kids (ages 10-20, depending on your comfort level):

1. How can a critically ridiculed book, with a weak plot and ridiculously pathetic characters make so much money? (If it is salacious and/or controversial and/or marketed accurately, anything can make money.)

2. Why does violence become invisible when it is mixed with sex? Why do people assume a woman “wants it” or is somehow to blame in these sexualized plots?

3. Why do so many people turn the other way or embrace abusive, manipulative, coercive behavior when the perpetrator is wealthy and/or good looking? Why do many people allow money/good looks to whitewash poor behavior?

4. How might a person’s life be impacted by 50 Shades or other hypersexualized/pornified media even if they never see it?  How might a young man be affected as he dates and build relationships with women who have viewed this type of media and have expectations of abusive, domineering men? How might he feel being compared to fictitious movie characters who are always good-looking or wealthy? How might a young woman be affected as she builds relationships with men who have viewed this movie or pornography and now expect her to be submissive, or who think that ‘no’ really means ‘yes’?

5. Why do some women sell out other women in books, media, advertising (the author of the Fifty Shades series is a woman)? Why would women try to normalize violence against women? Why do men and women create advertising in magazines, television, and other outlets that create ridiculous “standards” that are impossible or inadvisable? Is this similar to African tribes helping White slavers round up slaves during the era of American slavery?

6. How do you create a healthy relationship? What is respect? How does one show respect for themselves? How does one show respect for others? What is trust and why is it important to any relationship (friendship, romantic relationship)?

7. What is sex? What is its purpose? Why is sex amazing? (It feels awesome, it’s fun and best of all, it builds emotional closeness.) What are the physical aspects of sex? What is arousal? What is an orgasm? What are the emotional aspects of sex? It can foster emotional closeness, closeness and unity

8. What are boundaries? Why do all of us need boundaries? Boundaries are personal limits or guidelines a person forms in order to clearly identify reasonable and safe behaviors for others to engage in with or around him or her.

9. How does an abuser behave? An abuser may: keep track of what you are doing all the time, criticize you for little things, constantly accuses you of being unfaithful, prevent or discourage you from seeing friends or family, or going to work or school, controls all the money you spend, humiliate you in front of others, destroy your property or things that you care about, threaten to hurt you, force you to have sex against your will, blame you for his/her violent outbursts.

10. Why do we continue to allow more and more sexual content and violence into our media? Are we just more open-minded and accepting now? Or are the creators/distributors of this type of media merely concerned with increasing profits (and understand that sex and violence sell)?

For more related discussions, see this article: http://bit.ly/1EWfr2e

Although the Fifty Shades movies has many negative ideas of sexuality in our culture, you don’t need to hide these subjects from your children! You can direct the conversations around healthy, helpful, honest lessons. If you are not sure how to begin these discussions, Check out 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy. Available for kids ages 3-7, 8-11, and 12+.  

Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids. 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.

2016: A Year in Porn

2016: A Year in Porn

By Kyle Roberts, M.A.

Once again, PornHub has released —with pride— their year end stats for 2016.

PornHub boasts:

  • The United States remains the highest consumer of porn.
  • Worldwide we are seeing an increase in incest related searches (see infograph below).
  • Most porn is being viewed on cell phones.
  • Women are increasing the amount of porn they are viewing world wide and the porn search themes remain largely focused on male dominance and pleasure.

One of the most alarming trends of the year is Virtual Reality (VR) porn–you’ve probably seen an increase in advertising for the headsets that hook up to your cell phone. Basically the point of VR is to provide a more realistic experience for the user. PornHub reports launching in April of 2016 with 30 videos and hit 1800 videos by years end. It is quickly becoming one of highest searched term related to pornography use.

We should be appalled by the information in this annual report. It’s time to change the stats in 2017 by changing the conversation. What can you do to help create that change?

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate! In your discussions with your children, bring up pornography; ask them what they think about it, if they have seen it?
  • Create a plan—help your children know what they can and should do if they encounter pornography. We have one you can use or add to, the R.U.N. Plan.
  • Follow up, follow up, follow up–Keep having the conversations and let your children know you are there to talk about anything or answer any questions they may have.

Here are some of our lessons to assist you as you begin the conversations about pornography for children of all ages:
Ages 3-7
Ages 8-11
Ages 12+

Learn more about starting these crucial conversations? Check out our books, 30 Days of Sex Talks, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in Spanish; and 30 Days to a Stronger Child.

All research credit goes to PornHub: http://www.pornhub.com/insights/2016-year-in-review **Trigger Warning** No visual pornography is contained in the link.

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.

 

Goals: Start the Year Right

Goals: Start the Year Right

By Cliff Park, MBA

It’s that time of year when think back on all that we accomplished and consider things we would still like to achieve.  This time of reflection helps us to recognize the many successes from the previous year and sometimes causes us to wonder what more we could have done.  Somewhere in that thinking we stumble across the ever so subtle feeling that we need to set a goal, make a resolution, or just get something done.  It is at that moment most of us feel a slight bit of excitement about the prospect of accomplishing this goal.  Many of us also feel an equal amount of anxiety about whether or not we will actually follow through.  It’s like that feeling a parent gets when they see their child first learning to drive . . .  only to realize their car will never be the same.  Such pride in their posterity such fear for their Ford.

Goal, the very word creates a sense of triumph, while the phrase “set a goal” can strike terror in the hearts of even the strongest of souls.  Indeed, the history of it all is what makes setting goals such a challenging experience.  We quickly heap upon ourselves a pile of unmet goals from years gone by, while forgetting the many positive things we have accomplished over those same years.

What if this year were just a little different?  What if this year you actually started by making a list of things you accomplished rather than a list of things you didn’t?  What if the focus changed just a bit?  I am certain the entire process would yield a far better result.   So this year as you set out to make a goal that motivates, make it with the positive in mind.  Remember to make it “SMART” Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound. Remember to Write It Down. Remember to Make A Plan. And Remember to JUST DO IT.

In parting I would suggest that the greatest goals, those that seem to bring the most sustainable and lasting results, are usually the smallest goals.  Those little things that over the course of the year bring about the most amazing results.  Remember the words of Van Gogh, “Great things are not done by  . . .  a series of small things brought together.” A poet once penned an epic quote that states the same in a very powerful way. Some suggest this quote may refer to the death of Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field:

For Want of a Nail

 For want of a nail the shoe was lost.

 For want of a shoe the horse was lost.

 For want of a horse the rider was lost.

 For want of a rider the message was lost.

 For want of a message the battle was lost.

 For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.

 And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

May your goals for the year be positive, may they motivate tremendous change no matter how small, and may they held you really “nail” it in 2017!

Look for tips on this and other ways to strengthen your connection with your kids. Check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child! Available now in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

Cliff Park sits on the Educate and Empower Kids Board and serves as a CEO for NSI and its affiliated companies and is blessed to work with magnificent caregivers who change people’s lives for the better.  In 2003 he had the opportunity to testify before congress in support of rural healthcare and is proud to be part of such a noble and uplifting profession.

 

Cultivating Gratitude All Year Long

Cultivating Gratitude All Year Long

By Jenny Webb, MA

It’s easy to focus on gratitude during Thanksgiving. After all, that’s what the holiday is all about: remembering to be grateful for the good things and wonderful people in our lives. But as a mom, I’ve got to say—by the time we have the turkey on the table and the pies cooling on the counter, I’m not always in the best frame of mind, and it’s just possible that my kids don’t always appreciate sharing what they’re grateful for as we go around the table before the meal begins.

Luckily, gratitude is not an annual event! It’s something we can actively and consciously cultivate daily in our own lives, and in the lives of our families. Here are three simple ways to foster attitudes of gratitude that you can do today!

gratitude-meme-2016

1) Say it! Make verbal expressions of gratitude a daily occurrence. If your child clears their plate, thank them. If you see them being kind to a sad sibling, express your gratitude in concrete terms, like “Thank you for helping out with Sammy. He’s had a rough day, and I’m grateful you’re able to see that.” Speaking up seems like a small thing, but even tiny expressions of gratitude add up over time, and modeling gratitude is one of the most effective ways to show your kids not only what it is, but more importantly that it’s something you value.

STRETCH GOAL: Try to find five “thank you” moments each day for each child for a week, and see what happens!

2) Count it! Sometimes it’s easy for kids to list off the things they’re grateful for. But other times … it can be a bit more challenging. Cultivating gratitude gives us an opportunity to reframe how we see our lives, including those times when it seems like we have little to be thankful for. The next time your child faces an upsetting challenge, take a “time out” together: sit down, and ask your child the following question: “I know this is challenging, so let’s play the gratitude game: How many good things can you list off right now that you’re thankful for?” Help them reframe their attitude by teaching them to use this coping mechanism when they are feeling overwhelmed, angry, sad, or even hopeless.

STRETCH GOAL: This is one of those challenges we all can benefit from! Next time work is overwhelming, your child is in detention, and dinner is buried under a mountain of unpaid bills, take a minute and write down ten things you’re grateful for.

3) Notice it! It’s hard to be grateful for things we don’t really see. How many times do we race through breakfast, scarcely tasting the food in order to get everyone off to school and work? Or rush from activity to activity without even noticing the weather? It’s easy to say “slow down,” but how can we actually do that? One of our favorite ways involves using our noses—really! When we’re running through the grocery store, we try to take a minute to smell 3 things: often it’s yummy hot bread from the bakery, the fresh herbs over in produce, and the pungent aroma coming from the coffee aisle. It sounds cheesy, I know, but the kids and I look forward to finding our favorite smells, and taking the time to enjoy them helps us to notice the importance of small things.

STRETCH GOAL: Take a family walk around the block with the goal of noticing new things. What plants can you see or smell? Are there birds? Where? How about new people?

In the end, I think the most important thing I can teach my kids about gratitude is to center their hearts on people rather than things. It’s easy to look at our lives and count up the material things we’re grateful for, but ultimately things like clothing or homes or toys will pass out of our lives. And while of course it’s good to be grateful for them, in the long run, if I can help my children to learn to appreciate the gift of a good friendship, or a supportive relative, or an encouraging teacher, they will be happier, healthier people. Cultivating gratitude is a practice that ultimately helps us to see and notice the beauty and value of life itself, and that is something I am thankful for year round!

Our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child, includes a section on gratitude and more! It’s available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle!

Here is our free downloadable lesson for teaching your child gratitude! Check out all of our lessons on our Resources Page.

Jenny Webb is an editor and publications production specialist who has worked in the industry since 2002. She graduated from Brigham Young University with an MA in comparative literature and has worked with a variety of clients ranging from international academic journals to indie science fiction authors. Born and raised in Bellevue, Washington, she currently lives in Huntsville, Alabama with her husband, Nick, and their two children.

Values Audience Needs VidAngel for Positive Entertainment Options

Values Audience Needs VidAngel for Positive Entertainment Options

By Tina Mattsson

In this digital day and age with media coming at us from all directions, it can be difficult for parents to know exactly what is in the movies or shows their kids are watching. Parents often wonder if the content is clean or what kind of message it sends. The research is pretty clear here. Children and adolescence are influenced by what they view in the media.

In 2012 psychological scientists studied whether or not seeing sex in movies can lead to adolescents participating in sex. Their findings are upsetting, although not particularly surprising. “Adolescents who are exposed to more sexual content in movies start having sex at younger ages, have more sexual partners, and are less likely to use condoms with casual sexual partners,” explained Ross O’Hara, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Missouri who conducted the research (“Exposure to Sexual Content”, 2012).

And not surprisingly, “The typical American child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18” (Beresin).

Because of all the many negative influences in the media and the need for positive ways to connect, parents are often looking for more good media to share with their family.  This is where Matthew Faraci and his company Inspire Buzz come into play.

Faraci is president and founder of Inspire Buzz, which markets movies and TV shows to the values audience. There can oftentimes be some confusion as to what exactly the values audience is. Faraci wrote in a Washington Times article, “Are the members of the values audience people of faith? Of course, but “values” encompasses not just faith, but rather everything from “The Blind Side” to “The Pursuit of Happyness” to “The Peanuts Movie” — entertainment that tells inspiring, virtuous stories families can enjoy together.” These are consumers who are looking for positive, uplifting, value-filled entertainment for the whole family. 52 million Americans fall into this category, and it is 1 in every 3 movie goers in the country. They tend to be younger, more tech savvy, more likely to be parents, and a very diverse population.

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Faraci and his wife have four kids under the age of 10. As he points out, it can be time consuming to go through the available media, such as what is on Netflix or other streaming apps or on cable and in theaters, “and comb through it and find the little nuggets in there that you are okay showing your kids.” And as parents, they weren’t just worried about cleanliness and appropriateness of a show or movie, but also the messages being delivered.

“If I’m doing my job right, there is going to be more content for kids and families, and it’s going to be more appropriate, and you’ll be able to watch it, and you won’t have a hard time finding it.”

Shortly after Faraci launched Inspire Buzz, he learned about VidAngel and met the entrepreneurs behind the company. He was blown away by what they had created, a service that finally offered parents what they had been seeking for decades. “You guys,” he told them frankly, “are literally going to change the world.” There are many wonderful movies that have great messages, but they have content that parents may not want their kids to see. He uses the example of the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson. He had previously never showed his kids this movie because of the language. However, because VidAngel allows users to customize, he was able to take out some language but keep the racist language to help his kids understand what Jackie Robinson had to endure.

Faraci focuses on projects he’s passionate about because, “If I’m not passionate about it then I’m not going to get excited about it, and I can’t get my team excited about it.” Another project he’s currently working on and extremely excited about is a movie called The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, which comes out in theaters in January.  (See the trailer here) (Follow it on Facebook here)  Also, Faraci says A Dogs Purpose “is going to be the family movie of the year.” (See the trailer here)

To help affect change in our communities, parents need to start at home by monitoring what their kids are watching or doing. But Faraci points out that another very powerful thing parents can do is to choose great entertainment and be very vocal about it. When there is a movie or a TV show or something on YouTube that you love, be vocal about that by sharing it on social media (Use this lesson to teach your children this and other positive ways to use technology) and also by where you spend your money. In this way, we can get the industry to head more in our direction, “The marketplace goes where the customers are.”

“We think that entertainment is something we go and do. But now in the digital age, entertainment is all around us. Facebook is entertainment. What you’re doing on Snapchat. What you’re doing on Instagram. That’s all entertainment. So if you as a parents are intentional about promoting positive values and things that you see that reinforce those values, you can have a huge impact everyday by just what you put on social media. You have a voice now in a way that people just didn’t have a voice in the past.”

Another way parents can make their voices heard is by getting involved with savefiltering.com. This site was started by former NFL linebacker Bryan Schwartz and his wife Diane Schwartz. They have created a petition people can sign to encourage the movie industry to drop their lawsuit against VidAngel and continue to allow people the right to monitor and control the media that enters their home. They have almost 50,000 people who have signed their petition so far. The hearing for this case is currently set for November 14.

Faraci and Inspire Buzz are on social media. If you are interested in hearing about the great media available, follow them on Twitter  or Facebook.

For more help on teaching your kids about media literacy, check out our free lesson plan.

Curious to learn more? Check out our books, 30 Days of Sex Talks; How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, which is also available in Spanish; and 30 Days to a Stronger Child.

Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education. She is currently pursing a Master’s Degree in Education.

Resources

Catherine McCall (2012, March 4). The Sexualization of Women and Girls. Retrieved November 07, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-child-abuse/201203/the-sexualization-women-and-girls

Exposure to Sexual Content in Popular Movies Predicts Sexual Behavior in Adolescence. (2012, July 17). Retrieved November 07, 2016, from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/exposure-to-sexual-content-in-popular-movies-predicts-sexual-behavior-in-adolescence.html

Beresin, E. V. (n.d.). The Impact of Media Violence on Children and Adolescents: Opportunities for Clinical Interventions. Retrieved November 07, 2016, from http://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Medical_Students_and_Residents/Mentorship_Matters/DevelopMentor/The_Impact_of_Media_Violence_on_Children_and_Adolescents_Opportunities_for_Clinical_Interventions.aspx

Even Parents Who Struggle With Pornography Can Talk to Their Kids

Even Parents Who Struggle With Pornography Can Talk to Their Kids

By Tina Mattsson

Many of us are aware of the pressing need to talk about the dangers of pornography with our kids. But what if you are a parent who struggles with this issue yourself? Even parents who struggle can have a positive influence on their children.

Kyle Flora is the Director of Community Development and Leadership Development with Bravehearts.org (personal communication, May 13, 2016).

Flora stated that a parent’s ability to successfully talk to their kids(s) about the dangers of pornography really depends on where the parent is in their struggle and recovery.  Many addicted parents struggle to start these conversations because of feelings of intense hypocrisy.

For example, a dad who has been a porn/sex addict for 25 years and is not getting help or doesn’t even really recognize he needs help could have extreme guilt. He might wonder, “How do I talk to my kid about why this is bad when I’m lying through my teeth because I don’t believe it’s bad?”

What about the parent who struggles but knows it’s wrong and has had some bright moments in the past, months here and there of sobriety? Even then, the words can get muddled, and they don’t come out as genuine. Flora describes a fog that settles in on an addict’s spirit and brain. “Our neuropathways are just riddled with toxicity from pornography and other types of sexual immorality.” So a dad might think, “Why can’t I think clearly about this?” Flora explains it’s because he has allocated all his “thinking resources and mental faculties to something very different and something very toxic that is ruining every other facet of [his] life.”

Flora believes that “only through a father getting well himself is he going to one, have the courage; two, have the clarity; three, have the wisdom; and four, have the desire to fight for [his] children.” It is very difficult for a parent to have any of those things unless they are healthy or in the process of getting healthier.

As far as a parent sharing their personal experiences with their children, it depends on the age and maturity of the child. And he advises to “call up the true identity of [your child] instead of pointing out the sin.” For example, if a father found something in his teenage son’s room that implied the son might have something he needs to discuss, the father could say to the son, “I know this is going on; I’d love for you to share with me what’s really going on. But before you share with me, I’d like to tell you some things.” Flora further notes that this should be done in a way that empowers the child. Also, graphic detail is not needed because that’s not the most important thing. “The most important thing is that [the child] feels and sees his father being genuine and being vulnerable and being true and being willing to say things or explain things that might feel pretty darn shameful, but he loves his [child] so much . . .” that he’s willing to have this conversation. That in and of itself would show the child that this is safe place for him to be honest and open up about any issues he may have or questions plaguing him.

However, parents can and should discuss what pornography is, positive media versus negative media, online safety, and how to be safe outside of the home with friends and family. Flora has a 6-year-old daughter, and he recently talked with her about images she may encounter, and in a very simple manner he introduced the topic of pornography to his daughter.

Find an easy to use lesson addressing how to talk to your child about pornography here.

According to Flora, the first practical step a parent with an addiction should take if they want to help protect their kids is to get into a real recovery program, with a group around them that can be their support and sounding board.

Flora wants all parents and dads especially to know that no matter how bad of a parent they think they are or no matter how far gone they think they are, they really aren’t. “We are not those guys. We may make poor choices, and we may make very bad choices. But it is the sin inside of us. It is not our identity. The more that we can believe that to be true, the heavier the impact will be on our kids as they see us walk out of shame and guilt into the light and bring our kids to the light with us.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to pornography or sex, check out http://www.bravehearts.org/home/. They offer many different options, including one on one mentoring and group mentoring. Flora is a certified pastoral sexual addiction specialist with a background in international ministry. Bravehearts is faith-based and Christ-centered program and has members from all over the United States and the world participating.

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.

Tina Mattsson has a BA in Journalism with a Minor in English. She is a mother, writer and advocate for children’s safety and education. She is currently pursing a Master’s Degree in Education.