Is My Child Sexting? What Every Parent Needs to Know

Is My Child Sexting? What Every Parent Needs to Know

By: Amanda Kimball

Sexting is the act of sending sexual messages or pictures through a text or online has become a pervasive social norm among today’s youth. The Journal of the American Medical Association published findings that showed more than 1 in 4 teenagers have received a sext and more than 1 in 7 teenagers had sent one. (Rosenberg, 2018) . While many think it’s harmless, that small act can ruin a person’s life. It only takes one bad breakup or one jealous teenager for an image to go from being a private, intimate text, to being an object of public consumption or ridicule. (Lohmann, 2011)

Taking part in sexting can come with serious criminal charges. If the picture shared is that of a minor, it is considered child pornography, and both participants can be charged. In many cases across multiple states, the youth involved are registered as sex offenders and sentenced to jail time. Such chargers can have detrimental lasting effects from being denied a job, to being unable to rent an apartment. Parents can also risk criminal charges if they know about the sexting and do nothing to stop it. In some circumstances, Child Protective Services can become involved (Gordon,  2018).

Educate and Empower Kids recently interviewed Dr. Jared Tonks regarding the subject of texting. He explained that curiosity is a natural part of sexual experimentation that occurs during puberty but new technology has added dangers that previously did not exist. Which makes it especially vital for parents to have conversations about sexting with their children. He stated “It is important for parents to talk to their kids about healthy expressions love-physical, emotional and social. If they do not, then they will learn from examples online, in movies and social media.”

This is not a conversation that should be delayed until kids have questions, parents should initiate the conversations ideally before a child has access to social media and cell phones. A recent review of 39 studies and meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics (JAMA)  sexting is becoming more prevalent especially among older teens and even young children are not immune (Madigan, Ly, Van Ouytsel, Temple, 2018).

Parents need to take a proactive role in teaching their children the appropriate use of technology and what their kids should do if they receive an inappropriate text or message.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Have an open-door policy when it comes to communication, make yourself available for kids to ask questions or to report that something is wrong.  Avoid using shame and anger, as that may prevent open conversations.
  • Transparency rules should be established as soon as a child receives a cell phone. As the parent, you have a right to have access to your child’s phone and social media accounts, expectations, guidelines, and consequences should be explained before the child uses the phone.
  • Discussions regarding appropriate cell phone and social media accounts should be ongoing.  Be sure to talk about digital footprints and making good choices with what we send, and post online. Empower your kids with knowledge so they can be protected even when you are not around.

Act preventatively, talk to your kids today. Here are some great books to start the talks or even continue talking to your children: 30 Days to a Stronger Child or How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography

Or Check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age–A simple, super-helpful guide that gives YOU the words to talk about tough, timely topics of today (like racism, integrity, agency, healthy sexuality, LGBTQI issues, social media, and more).

Amanda has earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She is a mother of 3 children and married to a loving husband of 12 years. She loves to go on walks along the beach with her family during the summer and cuddle up for an old classic movie during the winter. 

Dr. Jared Tonks earned his doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Idaho State University, where he previously earned his Master of Counseling degree. Jared earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University.  Dr. Tonks’ career has spanned over 15 years in wilderness therapy programs, therapeutic schools and consultation practices.


(Template) Cloyd, A. (2014, July 29). Personal interview.

Geordon, S. (2018). What are the consequences of sexting? Verywell Family. Retrieved from 

Lohmann, R., C., LPCS. (2011) Sexting teens, a picture with consequences. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

Madigan S, Ly A, Rash CL, Van Ouytsel J, Temple JR. Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Sexting Behavior Among Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(4):327–335. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5314

Rosenberg, E. (2018). One in four teens are sexting, a new study shows. Relax, researchers say, it’s mostly normal. The Washington Post. Retrieved from 

3 Simple Ways to Teach Kids Independence in a Peter Pan Culture

3 Simple Ways to Teach Kids Independence in a Peter Pan Culture

By Mattie Barron 

As a millennial college student, we rely heavily on tech and the convenience it has to offer. Based on my observations during my time on a college campus, it is apparent that working hard is becoming a foreign concept for some of us. I am seeing more and more young adults who don’t want to grow up and take on life’s responsibilities. This culture of irresponsibility has been around for a while, but more individuals are starting to embrace it. 

Are you raising an unmotivated, irresponsible child? Or are you raising a resilient, independent child who aspires to achieve their full potential? Perhaps your child is somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter which question resonated with you; there is always room for empowering your child to be more independent! 

Here are 3 simple strategies for raising strong, independent kids:

1. Help Your Kids Embrace Responsibility  
Don’t hesitate to teach your child how to help with chores around the house. Teaching necessary life skills and allowing your children to apply what they’ve learned from you will benefit them greatly. Knowing and understanding what needs to be done to take care of a household will help ensure that when your child is ready to leave the household, they’ll be more prepared for the real world.

Idea List: Ways to Encourage Responsibility 

  • Assign a daily chore 
  • Vacuuming, dishes, laundry, etc. Ask them to run an errand for you 
    • Example for older children (teens and above): If you’re out of milk, ask them to go to the grocery store for some 
  • Educate them about money-smarts
    • For older children who may be able to get a job, help them open a bank account and teach them about spending and saving money wisely
    • For younger children, consider an allowance. This could come as a reward for chores done around the house

2. Have Regular Family Activities
Engaging in the outdoors and getting away from the comfort of home is a great way to cultivate teachable moments. If you’re on a bike ride and a tire goes flat, take advantage of the opportunity to teach your children how to handle such a situation. While playing a sport, if someone gets hurt, teach your children about first aid kits and how to treat certain injuries. Encourage them to help offer solutions to such situations. Teaching your children how to take charge of an otherwise undesirable situation will help them be more likely to take charge and know what to do when they are on their own.

Idea List: For Family Activities

  • Go on a family bike ride
  • Get involved in community service
    • Weed a neighbor’s yard
    • Walk dogs at the shelter
    • Babysit for a family
  • Go to a museum or a few local historical sights 
  • Prepare, pack, and share a picnic
  • Go on a family day hike 

3. Allow Your Kids Opportunities to Make Their Own Decisions
As often as possible, allow your kids to make choices for themselves. Allowing your child to make their own decisions will help them grow confidence in themselves. Encourage them to decide what they want to do, eat, or wear. It’s also important to emphasize standards and consequences and set appropriate rules in your home as you encourage your child to make their own decisions. As kids start to push the boundaries and go around the rules, make sure you follow through with the consequences you’ve set. Doing so will help your children understand their actions have consequences. As children begin to recognize the consequences of their behavior, they will begin to understand more of the impact they have on those around them. 

Idea List: Ways to Allow Your Child to Make Their own Decisions

  • Have a family council
  • Let your children decide which chores they will do
  • Involve your child in meal-planning
    • For younger children, give them options for what the meal could be one night and let them decide
    • For older children, consider having them plan and prepare the meals for certain days of the week or month

Raising an independent child in an immature, irresponsible culture is not easy. Independence is a significant and beneficial trait for children to possess, the home is the ideal environment to learn what it means to be responsible. As they develop their independence now, they will better be prepared to tackle life’s responsibilities in the future. 

Check out our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child, for more ideas on how to raise a resilient, independent child. It includes great discussions and activities on topics such as Accountability, Growth, Respect, and much more. 

Or Check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age-A simple, super-helpful guide that gives YOU the words to talk about tough, timely topics of today (like racism, integrity, agency, healthy sexuality, LGBTQI issues, social media, and more).

Mattie Barron is currently a Senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies. She is from Tri-cities, WA and has a passion to help create and ignite strong families. She hopes to work in the school system and aid in the support of children and families.

What to Do About Your Child’s Screen-Time: A Glimpse at the Negative Effects of Extended Screen-Time and What You Can Do to Help

What to Do About Your Child’s Screen-Time: A Glimpse at the Negative Effects of Extended Screen-Time and What You Can Do to Help

By Leah Candland

As a kid, I remember playing outside and being involved in frequent physical activity. I had little to no time with a TV or computer, and tablets and smartphones didn’t exist yet. Many of you can probably relate to that, but our kids live in a very different, screen-saturated reality. Not only is technology more accessible, but the volume of things we are able to do with them seems limitless. Whether it’s social media apps like Facebook, or streaming services like Netflix, it’s easy for our families to lose track of how much time we are spending on our devices. I know I’ve been guilty of this, and sadly this is the case with many kids as well. Rather than spend hours outside, our children are spending countless hours with a screen instead.

A study conducted in November of 2017 found the following connections between screen time and obesity (Robinson, et. al):

  • An increase in food consumption while viewing
  • Further exposure to marketing of high-calorie, low-nutrient based food and beverages
  • A reduced amount of sleep

In addition to this, it has also been found that too much screen time is connected to delayed development in children. While the recommended amount of screen time is no more than one hour of high-quality programming for kids, the average kid takes in two to three hours per day (Thompson, 2019).

So, what can you do? 

Reduce the amount of time your kids spend in front of a screen

 It’s recommended that our kids should spend no more than one hour with a screen each day — and that’s with high-quality programming for kids (Thompson, 2019). Tantrums may happen, so remember to stay calm. It’s important to keep your cool and remain firm. Becoming upset or angry may contribute to even bigger tantrums! Take time to listen to your child, understand and acknowledge their feelings. Once they have calmed down, discuss alternative activities that they can look to when they aren’t allowed to use their devices.

Have a variety of activities for them

It’s important for our children to develop and improve their skills. Whether activities involve physical play or intellectual and creative stimulation, there are a variety of activities that we should be ready to offer our kids. Physical Activities may consist of things such as playing outside in the yard, participating in different sports, or playing different games such as tag or hide-and-seek. Intellectual or creative activities may consist of things such as reading, drawing, painting, or building blocks. It may seem easier to hand them a tablet or turn on the TV, but easier isn’t always better! For more ideas, check out our article Beyond Electronics: Gifts that Teach, Inspire, and Stretch Your Kids.

Take time daily to connect with your kids  

It’s important for us to take time to talk to and listen to our kids. Not only does it help them learn how to communicate and improve their social skills, but it can strengthen our relationship with them, giving us a better understanding of our children. Our article Deeply Connecting with Our Kids: Moving Beyond “How Was Your Day?” offers some great ideas of conversation starters you can try out with your kids, such as:

  • “I saw the funniest meme today. (Share the meme). What is the funniest meme you have seen this week?
  • “If you had to lose every piece of technology except for one thing, what would that one thing be?”
  • “What meme do you think best describes you?”
  • “If you could have one superpower, what would it be? Why?”
  • If you could have dinner with any famous person (dead or alive), who would you pick? Why?”

The more time we invest in our children, the more we can help them. Our kids often mirror our own actions, so it’s important that we lead by example through reducing our own screen time. As we take time to connect with our kids and provide meaningful activities, we not only contribute to their development in a positive way, but can also strengthen our own relationships with them as well.

For more great ideas on how to connect with and strengthen your children, check out our 30 Days to a Stronger Child. It’s a great resource for activities, questions, and ideas on how we can better talk to and communicate with our children!

Or Check out Messages about Me, Sydney’s Story: A Girl’s Journey to Healthy Body Image. An engaging story with great discussion questions at the end, Messages about Me is a great way to instill healthy body image in your child!!

Leah Candland is a wife and a mother to a wonderful daughter. She has a Bachelor of Science in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University – Idaho. She loves spending time with her family and has a strong desire to help parents in building strong, healthy relationships with one another and their children.


Robinson, T. N., Banda, J. A., Hale, L., Lu, A. S., Fleming-Milici, F., Calvert, S. L., & Wartella, E. (2017, November). Screen Media Exposure and Obesity in Children and Adolescents. Pediatrics, 140 (Suppl 2), S97-S101. Retrieved January 29, 2019 from

Thompson, D. (2019, January 28). Can Too Much Screen Time Hinder Child Development? Retrieved January 29, 2019 from

Creating Rules and Boundaries with Your Family

Creating Rules and Boundaries with Your Family

By Kami Loyd

Like most families, my kids are constantly testing whatever rules or boundaries I set. If I tell them they have to eat a vegetable with dinner, they try to convince me that ketchup is a vegetable. 

Our family pattern seems to be a never-ending loop of parents setting boundaries, kids testing and sometimes breaking boundaries, and then everyone dealing with the consequences for the broken boundaries. Thankfully, my children are still young and we are dealing with consequences like timeout for yelling in the house or throwing toys. 

Sometimes, I feel like they should understand already that they will get hurt when they play on the stairs or that we can’t poke the baby in the eye, but they don’t so boundaries must be set. But how can we as parents know what boundaries to set with our kids and when? This is a difficult task for a parent to undertake even though we understand that boundaries are important. 

Here are some tips for setting rules and boundaries with your children:

Be clear and consistent. First, we as parents need to set clear boundaries. Dr. Jennifer Hartstein says:

A rule with tons of layers and too many details is impossible for a child to follow. State the rule clearly, and frame it in a positive way … Using positive language encourages learning and shows children what you want them to do. Negative language can feel punishing and does not encourage change.

If your child is told they must complete their homework before watching television, you shouldn’t change the boundary because you want to watch a Disney movie. Even when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, or annoying for you, you must keep the boundaries clear.

Explain the consequences. Next, we need to make sure our children understand the consequences of crossing the boundaries we have set. Consequences need to fit the broken boundary and the age of the child. Although timeout is effective for most three-year-olds for throwing a toy across the room, it probably will not be as effective for the sixteen-year-old who has broken their curfew. Our children need to know before the boundary is broken what the consequences of the actions will be so they can make the choice whether or not to abide by the boundaries we have set. 

Involve children in the process. One thing that can be especially beneficial as we set boundaries is to have our children help us set the boundaries and the consequences that will be incurred if they break the rules. Older children can particularly benefit from discussing and setting boundaries and consequences. This tactic may take some getting used to for both parents and children because it goes against most parents’ norms. But as we work with our children in this way, they may be more willing to abide by the boundaries we have set. 

Be patient with your kids. As important as the above steps are, we as parents must remember that children will test the boundaries. Boundary testing is part of children growing up. This is because children want independence and one of the ways they practice independence is by testing boundaries. As parents, we must remember this fact as we enforce the consequences that we have established. 

At times it may be discouraging to have children repeatedly disobeying expressed boundaries, but it is essential to remember that the boundaries we have set will help our children throughout their lives. Boundaries and rules are an essential part of life and teaching our children this principle can save them from the harsh consequences adult-life can dole out. 

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

Kami Loyd received her bachelors of Marriage and Family from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She and her husband have been married for four years, and she is the proud mother of four children. Her interests include reading, board games, and most of all her family. She is passionate about helping her children and others find joy in family life.


Hartstein, J. (2017, June 26) The Importance of Setting Limits for Your Child. Retrieved December 26, 2017, from 

Vigilant Parenting in the Digital Age

Vigilant Parenting in the Digital Age

By Mae Pulsipher and Trishia Van Orden

Even when done correctly, parenting is still a big challenge. It seems even more difficult once you add the hurdles that technology presents. Simply telling our children how to act on the internet is just not enough. We need to be aware of the dangers around, as well as be vigilant in monitoring technology use in our homes. This means that we need to dive into the digital world, and become mindful of the negative as well as positive things the internet offers. We also must have many discussions with our children about technology use, including dangers, safety, and digital citizenship.

Social Media and Apps

Social media can be a wonderful thing. It connects everyone around the world allowing us to visit with friends and family, as well as helping us get involved in our communities. While social media has many positive aspects, it also has a negative, more dangerous side. Social media creates an opportunity for cyberbullying to occur. Predators also use social media to groom and prey on children. A more subtle form of danger is that of constant comparison. The simple act of browsing threads leads many to compare their lives with the lives of celebrities, bloggers, and friends, which harms one’s self-confidence. 

To best help our children make smart social media decisions, we need to be familiar with where they are spending their time. Parents might assume their children use Facebook the most, but according to a report by NBC News, Facebook usage by teens has decreased from 68% in 2012 to 15% in 2018 (Edwards & Fox). If they aren’t using Facebook; what are they using? 41% percent of teens use Snapchat while 22% use Instagram as their main social media platform (Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences, 2018). This report also found that  54% of teens agree that if their parents actually knew what happened on social media, they’d be more concerned. 

What do parents need to know in order to be more vigilant in their parenting? One of the biggest issues we face is our kids leading a double life: their “real” self and their “online” self. This can manifest through fake Instagram accounts, “Where [teens] are posting more risque photos or highlighting dangerous behavior” (Smith, 2017). 

Before you let your kids download Instagram onto their smartphone, have a talk with them about how to be safe, smart and kind while using social media platforms. Review our Social Media Guide and develop a plan that works best for your family. A good rule of thumb is to ask oneself what your grandma would think if she saw what you posted. Remind them that “everything on the internet stays on the internet forever,” even if it was posted to a private account or deleted. Platforms like Snapchat, where your child might think the photo disappears forever, are also not immune to this (Cagle). It is important that our children understand that once we post we can never take back.

Important Points to Remember:

Internet Safety

Social media isn’t the only way kids and teens are using the internet. Because of this, parents must stay involved in their child’s internet activities, such as, knowing how long they spend online, what sites they visit regularly, and who they are connecting with. Having regular conversations about internet safety and digital citizenship can be a huge factor in keeping children safe.

On top of this, parents must be aware of the various signs of child grooming by online predators. These signs include your child spending long hours online, especially at night, calling people you don’t know, instantly closing their computer upon your arrival, becoming reclusive and not wanting to spend time with family or friends as well as unsolicited gifts arriving at your home. (Ben-Joseph, 2018). If you have noticed any of these signs, talk with your child immediately. If a predator is targeting your child, document all related online activities and report it to local law enforcement or contact CyberTipline (part of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

One website that seems innocent is YouTube. Many parents allow their children to watch videos on this site unsupervised. However, even YouTube Kids has videos that can range from inappropriate to disturbing. This means a child might be viewing inappropriate messages or even experience grooming without their even being aware. Some great alternatives to YouTube are PBS Kids, National Geographic for Kids, and Highlights Kids. These are trusted websites that have videos, games, and learning experiences that can help your child have a positive online experience. 

Important Point to Remember:

Smart Phones

With the invention of smartphones, the internet and social media have become even more accessible. This can be great when keeping in contact with friends and family, however, it also can create a bigger risk due to internet usage outside the home. Because of this, many parents question when it is appropriate to give their child a smartphone? 

While most experts recommend not giving a child a smartphone until at least the age of 13, we at Educate and Empower Kids believe that it is best to wait as long as possible. Great alternatives to smartphones are simple prepaid flip phones, watch phones or even no phone at all. The key is that your child is able to communicate with home and other important people. They do not need internet capabilities to do this. We shouldn’t let popular trends influence our parenting, especially when it comes to safety. 

While going against the normalcy of allowing your child to have a smartphone is difficult, your child will ultimately benefit. There is an online pledge that can help with this dilemma. Parents and children agree that the child will not receive a smartphone until at least 8th grade. If a large number of families in a general area agree to the pledge, it can create a new “norm” therefore lessening the pressure of not having a smartphone by one’s peers. Even if no one in your area agrees with your ideals, it is important that you be brave and hold fast to what you feel is best for your family. Don’t let those around influence how you raise and protect your kids. 

Important Points to Remember:

Viral Challenges

Another thing that parents need to be aware of, but might not know about, is viral challenges.

A viral challenge is a dare that kids/teens can access online. These challenges can range from simple and silly to extremely dangerous and even deadly. An example of a viral challenge is the Bird Box Challenge. This challenge encouraged people to try and do everyday activities such as brushing teeth, eating, and even driving while blind-folded. 

While some of these challenges might not be real when they are first talked about, “the attention [they recieve] can actually have the opposite effect of what’s intended: All these warnings can raise the risk that teens and young children would learn about the challenge and take it seriously” (Dreyfus, 2019). This is why parents need to be proactive and be involved in their kids’ online activities. Somethings you can do to help stay informed are:

  • Ask your kids if they have heard of viral challenges. If so which ones?
  • Discuss why viral challenges are appealing or interesting. Don’t forget to mention peer pressure and Fear of Being Left Out (FOMO).
  • Follow up by discussing how these challenges could be unsafe. Ask and discuss questions about the dangers a challenge can pose. Say something like, “I know that others have been driving a car blind-folded, but do you think that it is safe?” Discuss why or why not, and help them understand their misconceptions. 

Remember to stay informed as to what challenges are out there. You can find more information about viral challenges on our website or at Common Sense Media

Important Points to Remember:

  • Keep yourself informed by checking multiple sources.
  • Discuss with your kids what challenges they have heard of or participated in.
  • Model responsible behavior. Sometimes parents are filming while their kids are doing these challenges. Make sure that you, the parent, are not encouraging dangerous activities. Research the risks before attempting a challenge.

Making our way through parenting in the digital age can be hard, but if we stay diligent and alert, we can really help and protect our children. Have frequent, open conversations with your kids about their internet usage and presence on social media. The more time you spend discussing these things, the more likely you are to discover any potential dangers. Build a relationship full of trust and love with your child so they will be willing to come to you if any problems do arise.  

Some “teens even feel relieved when their parents tell them it is ok to not be on Facebook or talk with them openly about the risks and benefits of these sites” (Edwards & Fox, 2018). While they may never say thank you, being open and honest with your teens does help remove the peer-pressure felt by having a constant social media presence.

Even though parenting is hard, staying vigilant in all aspects of parenting can help keep your child be smart and safe. Check out our guide to Online Safety and Digital Citizenship for more ideas and discussion points. Our book Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age offers parents more details about online trends as well as other topics pertinent in today’s digital world. 

Mae Pulsipher is a graduate of Brigham Young University – Idaho with a degree in Marriage and Family Studies. She has been married for almost four years and has a sweet two-year-old son. She aspires to be a counselor for children and adolescents so she can help children and teens work through these difficult concepts.

Trishia Van Orden has a Bachelor’s Degree in Marriage and Family Studies from Brigham Young University-Idaho. She has a love for psychology and hopes to one day open a Family Life Education Center where she lives. She is currently writing for Educate Empower Kids and working as a volunteer in a girl’s youth group program. She is a wife and a mother of three beautiful girls.

Alexander, D. (2019, January 08). Parenting in the Digital Age: It’s Time to go on the Offensive. Retrieved from

Ben-Joseph, E. P. (2018, April). Teaching kids to be smart about social media. Retrieved from

Cagle, C. (2019). Snapchat and Teens: What You Need to Know – Educate Empower Kids. Retrieved 12 September 2019, from

More Teens Addicted to Social Media, Prefer Texting to Talking –
Common Sense Media –

Common Sense Media-

How to Find Out if Your Kid Has a Second Instagram Account (Finsta) –

Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Snapchat –

Parents, Here’s How to Make Youtube Kids Safer –

A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat –

How to Not Fall for Viral Scares

Internet Safety

Online Safety Tips for Parents

At What Age Should I Get My Child a Smartphone? –

When to Give Your Child a Smartphone –

An Age-by-Age Guide to Kids and Smartphones –

Kids in the Digital Age: The Challenge of Expressing Emotions Healthily

Kids in the Digital Age: The Challenge of Expressing Emotions Healthily

By Hannah Herring

I grew up in one of those families that always has some sort of debate going on when extended family get together. It’s usually about politics or something of the sort. As a result, I spent hours listening to articulate, opinionated people share what is important to them and talk about their emotions, their fears, their feelings, going back and forth on topics that are important to them. This taught me to love speech and debate, to treasure a good, deep conversation, and to be bold in standing up for what I believe to be true and correct. What these experiences did not prepare me for, however, was the digital age. With the opportunity to communicate from behind a screen, feelings are rarely spoken of in person anymore, conversations take place via colored bubbles, and face-to-face discussions are increasingly uncomfortable.

This new age of digital communication poses new problems that we as parents, leaders, and adults face every day– problems that we have to teach our children how to overcome. We cannot raise a stronger, more capable generation if we allow them to hide behind their devices rather than educating them in how to properly communicate with one another. Strength in social media use comes from deliberate, authentic practice just as strength in human interaction comes from deliberate, authentic practice.

One of the biggest concerns that we face is regarding the healthy expression of emotions. Emojis make it easy to give a blanket statement about our emotions or to lie about them altogether. In our technology-filled lives, it’s not necessarily going to be easy, but it will be worth it.

Help your child to recognize and understand their emotions

Emotions are good! Happy or sad, angry or excited, emotions guide our interactions with everyone and everything around us. Recognizing our emotions is the first step to learning to express them well.

Help your child become comfortable saying, “I’m (fill in the emotion here) because (fill in the reason here).” This provides clarity for the people you are interacting with..Once you have recognized and acknowledged what emotion you are feeling, it’s important to know why you’re feeling that way. Ask your child questions to help them begin to recognize their emotions, express them, and connect the emotion with the reason they are feeling that way.

  • Are you upset because someone made fun of you? 
  • Are you stressed because you have a test coming up?

Role-play situations where it would be appropriate for your child to express their emotions 

Practice! Friendships, sibling relationships, and parent-child relationships are important relationships to know how to communicate within; however, it is also important to learn how to communicate with others outside of the family unit. There may be other situations) where a full expression of emotion may not be appropriate. Such situations include communicating with teachers, public authorities, and the professional work environment. Practice and role-play these situations as well. 

Intense, emotion-filled situations at home, stop and help your child take inventory

Ask your child what they are feeling. What made them feel that way? Even if it sounds irrational to you, validate the fact that they are recognizing their feelings, and verbalizing them appropriately. You might begin the conversation by asking: 

  • “You look like you’re about to cry. Which part of our conversation upset you the most? Why do you think it did?” 
  • [More examples here]

Give them time to think about it and allow them to talk through some of their thoughts and emotions. You can ask things that help them focus on the physical symptoms of their emotions as well.

  • “Did you feel tightness in your chest or shoulders or anywhere else?” 
  • “As we have been talking I’ve noticed that your face is becoming a little less red. Are you feeling better than you did a few minutes ago? Why? Was there anything specifically that helped you to start feeling better?” 

Celebrate the little victories as well as the large ones!

Help kids feel validated, accepted, and understood by practicing communicating emotions and then praise their successes. As they begin to talk about their feelings, be sure to encourage them and note how well they are doing.

  • “You are doing a great job at telling me how you’re feeling. I really appreciate that. Thank you for talking with me about it.” 
  • “Honey, you did a great job at telling me when you were getting angrier. Thank you for stopping me so that we could talk about it.”
  • “I know that you were becoming frustrated because you didn’t feel like I was listening to you. Thank you for kindly reminding me that I need to put away my phone when you are talking to me. I love you very much.”
  • “Your teacher said that there was a pretty big argument at school today but that you handled it really well. I’m proud of you. What happened? Did you use some of the communication tactics we’ve been talking about?” 

You may have to ask more questions in order to help your children more fully understand and be able to talk to you about their feelings. Take what time they need. Don’t put a time limit on them. If they are not used to talking or even thinking about their emotions, it will take more time to start these conversations.

For more ideas on how to teach appropriate emotional expression and to build healthy relationships, try our lesson How to Create Healthy Relationships.

30 Days to a Stronger Child is also a huge help to parents! Check out the section with great lessons that help kids fill their Emotional Account.

Or Check out Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age–A simple, super-helpful guide that gives YOU the words to talk about tough, timely topics of today (like racism, integrity, agency, healthy sexuality, LGBTQI issues, social media, and more).

Hannah is from Utah and is a graduate student at Friends University studying Family Therapy. She plans to go into counseling with an emphasis in addiction recovery and trauma. From a large family, she loves children and their protection and education is top priority.

Lesson: Teaching our Kids Social Media Etiquette

Lesson: Teaching our Kids Social Media Etiquette

Social media is our way to share our lives and keep in contact with others, and ultimately, is a great tool to use to spread good, helpful, honest information. With so much harmful misuse associated with social media, it’s important for children and families to be aware of proper use and etiquette. Social media makes it easy to say or share whatever you want while hiding behind a screen. It’s important to think before we share and to be positive in our social media encounters so that we can counteract the negative.

The objectives of this lesson are:

  • Teach your child the necessary manners associated with social media. Emphasize to them that as they practice and implement proper behaviors in their online lives, they will better understand the importance of using social media as a tool for good.

Download the Lesson Here!

Looking for more helpful resources?

Our children’s book Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good takes children on a journey recognize the power of technology and how they can use it for good!

Our children’s book Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure has a whole section on social media with great information and discussion questions.

Looking for a fun family night activity? Try our Social Media Bingo Game:

Lesson: Teaching Social Media Literacy

Lesson: Teaching Social Media Literacy

The Illusions Among Us

The social media penetration rate in North America is at 70%. Worldwide, the average rate is 42% (Social Media: Worldwide penetration rate 2018, n.d.). Just like in other media, the images portrayed on social media are often unattainable because of photoshop, filters, posing, or staging. We live in a world saturated with illusions–people on TV, movies, billboards, and magazine covers all represent false realities. In many ways, social media is no different. It’s unrealistic to expect to always look your best because you see people on social media who look that way.

Another issue that arises in social media consumption is the expectation that life should always be fun, happy, and full of excitement. This is a lie that social media would have us believe. People constantly post about their fun experiences and omit the rest, leaving others to feel their own life is boring. Everyone has mundane days and that is part of life. Like other forms of media, all pictures in social media are constructed.

Help your children to understand that the edited photos and exciting lives shown on social media are not an accurate portrayal of their everyday life.

The objectives of this lesson are:

  • Teach your child to “deconstruct” or take apart what they see or hear on social media Help them to understand that all media can alter our perceptions of reality.

Download the Lesson Here!

Are you looking for an aid to help discuss media literacy with younger children? Check out our children’s book Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure.

Lesson: Uplifting Others Online and Everywhere

Lesson: Uplifting Others Online and Everywhere

Speech, media, and famous characters are frequently negative or critical of themselves and others. In this digital age, it’s all too easy to be rude, negative, and/or fake online. Unfortunately, this bleeds into our real-life interactions. It’s easy to be fake and to hide behind a facade, or to mimic the harsh interactions portrayed in media. We don’t always know what other people are going through; we should strive to make their lives easier rather than more difficult. We can do that through honest and sincere compliments.

The objectives of this lesson are:

  • Discuss why compliments and other sincere, positive speech, online and face-to-face, are important.
  • Discuss the differences between what media and pop culture say or do versus what actually makes people feel good about themselves.
  • Help your child understand that every text, email, post, or message can affect others in positive or negative ways.

Download the Lesson Here!

Our book 30 Days to A Stronger Child provides even more helpful information, lessons, and ideas to help your children develop into their best possible selves.

If you are looking for more information about digital citizenship and using tech for good check out our children’s books Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good.

How to Identify A Child Predator Online

How to Identify A Child Predator Online

 This is a guide to identify terms, code words, and symbols used by child predators online. 

Term: MAP

  • MAP is an acronym for “Minor Attracted Person/People”. It’s also the name of a pedophilic community who have risen on tumblr. It was created in order to assemble Pedophiles, Hebephiles and Ephebophiles. On top of it, the creation of the term is a strategy for them to avoid being identified as predators right away. The community was made to spread positivity about pedophiles and their attraction toward children. The community is very anti-recovery.
  • Note: MAP can also stand for Multi Animator Project. Use context clues and make sure not to attack someone’s project by mistake.

Term: NOP

  • An acronym that stands for “Non-Offending Pedophiles”. Also a community. Pretty much the same thing as the MAP community.

Term: Non-Offending

  • A NOP or “Non-Offending Pedophile” doesn’t interact with children at all or tries their best to avoid them. A non-offending pedophile does not consume child pornography or medias meant to mimic child pornography (example: Loli pornography, cartoon child porn, etc ).
  • A non-offending pedophile also doesn’t spread positivity about pedophilia or promotes pedophilia.
  • NOTE: A lot of pedophiles call themselves Non-Offending regardless of whether they offend or not in order to avoid backlash. They will also twist words and try to redefine what “offending” means. Keep in mind that an actual non-offending pedophile will do their best to AVOID all contact with children.

A pedophile who purposely interacts with children in ANY way is offending.

Term: CP

  • Short for Child Pornography.
  • Note: CP can also be short for Cheese Pizza. Make sure to use context clues before jumping to conclusions.

Term: Sim CP/Child Pornography

  • A term for simulated child pornography. Simulated child pornography is pornographic medias that feature no real children, but rather what looks like a child in order to simulate child pornography. It legally counts as child pornography despite predators insisting that it isn’t as bad.

Term: AOA

  • Acronym for “Age Of Attraction”.
  • A term used to refer to the age range that a pedophile is attracted to.

Term: Hebephile

  • People who are attracted to minors from 11 to 14 years old.

Term: Ephebophile

  • People who are attracted to minors from 15 to 19 years old.

Term: Anti/No-Contact

  • A term used to describe a pedophile who doesn’t touch children in a sexual manner.
  • NOTE: No Contact is NOT a synonym of “Non-Offending”. Some “no-contact” pedophiles might still interact with children, promote pedophilia, and watch child pornography.

Term: Pro-Contact

  • A term used to describe pedophiles or supporters who advocate for sexual relationships between children and adults.

Term: Virped /Virtuous Pedophile

  • Also a “non-offending” community.

The “MAP” flag

  • A flag coined by pedophiles on tumblr. They made it on pride month in hope that the LGBT+ community would accept and support them. It didn’t work we don’t want them anywhere near us. Still, watch out for that flag in order to identify them.

The “Lesbian MAP” flag.

  • A flag coined by a pedophile on tumblr who’s a lesbian. Very similar to the MAP flag.
  • Note: The Lesbian MAP flag highly resembles the Non-Binary Lesbian flag. Make sure not to confuse the two because NB lesbians aren’t pedophiles or bad people! Here’s a picture of the Non-Binary Lesbian flag:

The Boy Lover Symbol

  • This symbol, a blue spiraling triangle framed by another triangle, is known as the BoyLover logo, used by adults who prefer young boys.
  • Note: The term “Boy Love” can also describe a type of media that features a relationship between two boys/men. Make sure to use context clues and not attack mlm/gay men medias on accident. However, the symbol/picture is exclusively made for pedophiles.

The Younger Boy Lover Symbol

  • This symbol is for pedophiles who prefer much younger boys. Known as the LittleBoyLover logo, it is also a blue triangle spiral like the BoyLover logo, but it is drawn in a child-like scrawl.

The Girl Lover Symbol

  • The GirlLover logo is a heart inside a heart, indicated that the pedophile prefers young girls.
  • Note: The term “Girl Love” can also describe a type of media that features a relationship between two girls/women. Make sure to use context clues and not attack wlw/sapphic/lesbians medias on accident. However, the symbol/picture is exclusively made for pedophiles.

The Child Lover Symbol

  • Pedophiles who do not have a preference of gender use the ChildLover logo, which is a butterfly with four hearts for wings.

The Childlove Online Media Activist Logo

  • Pedophile promotion symbol: This is the Childlove Online Media Activism logo which pedophiles use as a symbol to promote their ‘cause’: that sexual relationships between adults and minors should be decriminalized.

The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA)

  • The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) is a pedophile and pederasty advocacy organization in the United States. It works to abolish age-of-consent laws criminalizing adult sexual involvement with minors and campaigns for the release of men who have been jailed for sexual contact with minors that did not involve coercion.