Teach Your Kids About Online Ripples: Our Actions Always Matter

Teach Your Kids About Online Ripples: Our Actions Always Matter

 

By Dina Alexander, MS

I’ve spent much of my time warning parents about the dangers our kids are facing online. At times I have felt fear, frustration, and even hopelessness as I have watched our culture become more disconnected, lonely, and increasingly cold-hearted.

However, I have come to realize that feeling fear and frustration do not create change—or at least not the kind of change I would like to see. We can move beyond just stemming the tide of digital dangers and warning each other of rough waters ahead. The time has come to turn the tide and create real digital change in our homes and communities through a more positive approach.

The best way to do this is to empower our kids to see their influence and potential to impact the world through technology. As we have evolved into a world full of technology, every human is now affected by its power and influence, especially our children!

Ripples:

All of our actions online and in “real life” create ripples, or small waves of change around us. Each time we text, send an email, post on social media, interact with others on a game, or create a new piece of technology, we create ripples.

Do your kids understand this first, great law of digital technology?  

We matter. Our kids matter. And everything we post, text, or email matters. Our ripples affect those around us for better or for worse.

The following discussions will help your kids understand that their online and “real life” actions always matter:

Potentials of Technology

What are some things you can do with a smartphone, tablet, or computer?

What can you learn, teach others, and create?

What are more ways we can help and uplift others to create positive ripples with technology?

How can small actions online change friendships and family relationships?

How could you change the world using technology?

Discuss Healthy Boundaries

Are you the same person online that you are in “real life?”

What is a healthy amount of time to spend in front of a screen each day?

If you have a phone, what are some things you use it for?

How much texting or posting on social media in one day is too much?

What is “oversharing?”

Should we have device-free time? For example, do you put away phones and     tablets at dinner time?

For kids AND parents to consider:

How are our “real lives” and “online lives” merging into one “life”? Is your “real life” and “online life” merged into one identity?

Staying Safe

When should a child be able to own a smartphone or use social media?

What is appropriate behavior with devices in our home, at school, and at work?

What is appropriate use and behavior on social media?

What behavior is not okay?

How can we protect ourselves and our personal information from predators?

How else do we stay safe online?

The technology around us has so much potential, and we can teach our kids to be better, learn more, reach out to loved ones, and be more involved in our communities with it. But first they must understand that our ripples affect those around us for better or for worse. We can ignore situations or actively participate. We can choose to uplift or tear down. We can choose to post useless or useful information. We can choose kindness in the face of an argument or we can choose to escalate.

Need help with these discussions? For a great story, including discussions and activities, for kids ages 6-11, check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story about Using Technology for Good. For older kids, try our free, downloadable lesson on Using Technology for Good  available on our Lessons Page.

 

Dina Alexander is the founder and CEO of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She is an amazing mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in Texas.

 

Preparing Our Kids for Courtship in the Digital Age

Preparing Our Kids for Courtship in the Digital Age

 

By Caroline Hilton, MS

The dating scene has dramatically changed for millenials and it is likely to continue to digress for Generation Z. We live in a NOW society, with little ability to wait for that planned date, wait to be courted, or wait for sex with the right person. This lack of self-restraint has led to an influx of singles–especially teens– experiencing difficulty in understanding how to progress through the phases of courtship.

According to Dr. Patrick Carnes, in Facing the Shadow (2010), sexual addiction is often based in intimacy and courtship disorders. A healthy relationship will naturally move forward through a series of courtship stages as follows:

  • Noticing  This first stage of courtship is important; it is where we single out the desirable traits in others and weed out the unappealing traits.
  • Attraction  We feel the attraction towards the other person; here, attraction applies in both physical and emotional ways.
  • Flirtation  Flirting allows messages and cues to be sent to our person of choice to let them know we are interested in them and attracted to them.
  • Demonstration Here, we actively begin to demonstrate our traits, abilities, and skills to the other partner hoping for a reciprocal response.
  • Romance  Romance is the “ability to experience, express, and receive passion” (Carnes, 2010). To receive and experience romance, we must have a strong sense of self-worth and know that we are worthy of being loved.  
  • Individuation  An individual must have their own identity in the relationship. The relationship cannot be one’s whole identity. It is the ability to be who you are and not feel like the other person wants you to change–also, giving your partner the same courtesy.
  • Intimacy  According to Carnes, intimacy is: “Being known fully and staying anyway” (Carnes, 2010). Intimacy requires healthy attachment and the risk of being vulnerable.
  • Touching  Touching includes both intimate and erotic touch. Touch has to include boundaries and respect for it to feel safe for both partners.
  • Foreplay  Foreplay allows a couple to express intimacy and passion through touch without intercourse as the goal.
  • Intercourse  “More than the exchange of body fluids, this is the ability to surrender oneself to passion” (Carnes, 2010). Intercourse is about giving up control and being vulnerable.
  • Commitment  In this stage, partners commit to each other; for this to occur, there has to be a high level of trust in the relationship–otherwise, a partner will seek out “trusting attachments” such as alcohol, drugs, or risky sex.
  • Renewal  Courtship in a relationship should never end. Partners should continue to court and flirt with their partner and keep the passion alive.

With so many kids being exposed to pornography and hyper sexualized media at a young age, and with so many turning to pornography to get answers about sex, we should be very concerned and ready to speak up to our kids!

Pornography, in and of itself, demonstrates this lack of courtship and intimacy quite bluntly as it skips or cancels out the majority of these intimate phases altogether. Pornography portrays pleasure and instant gratification and not the emotional bonding and connection that will help a relationship to thrive in the long term.  

Here are some ways we can help our children realize their worth and teach them that they deserve to be courted:

  • Have conversations with children about their self-worth.

 

 

  • Discuss the natural progression of a healthy relationship with your children as discussed above.

 

 

  • Demonstrate healthy patterns, like continually dating your spouse–or, if you are a single parent, having appropriate dating relationships.

 

  • When appropriate, let your children see these phases in action. For example, it is good for them to see parents flirting or holding hands.

 

As we create an awareness about these things in our our own homes and families, we can positively influence our children’s future. The rewards of naturally flowing through the courtship process will be well worth the wait and lead to relationships based on intimacy, trust, and real connection.

For more information on talking to children about healthy relationships,intimacy, and healthy boundaries, check out our books, 30 Days of Sex Talks:Empowering Your Child with a Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy available for 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-11, and 12+. Available on Amazon.

Caroline HIlton received her Bachelor’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development from Brigham Young University in 2011. During that time, she completed an internship at a residential treatment center for teenage girls dealing with a variety of challenges such as addiction, trauma, and eating disorders; this sparked her desire to work in the mental health field. She attained her Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is a single mother of two children who keep her very busy!  She enjoys art, cooking, and the outdoors.

Citations:

Carnes, P. (2015). Facing the shadow: starting sexual and relationship recovery: a gentle path to beginning recovery from sex addiction. United States: Gentle Path Press.

NCOSE 2018 Dirty Dozen List: Warnings & Tips for Parents

NCOSE 2018 Dirty Dozen List: Warnings & Tips for Parents

 

By Melody Bergman

 

Every year, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) launches the Dirty Dozen List, calling out the 12 biggest contributors to sexual exploitation in mainstream America. Here is the list for this year:

NCOSE 2018 Dirty Dozen List

(You can find more info about each target on their individual pages.)

Amazon: https://endsexualexploitation.org/amazon

Comcast: https://endsexualexploitation.org/comcast

Steam: https://endsexualexploitation.org/steam

iBooks: https://endsexualexploitation.org/ibooks

HBO: https://endsexualexploitation.org/hbo

Roku: https://endsexualexploitation.org/roku

Backpage: https://endsexualexploitation.org/backpage

YouTube: https://endsexualexploitation.org/youtube

Poster Boys of #MeToo: https://endsexualexploitation.org/posterboys

Snapchat: https://endsexualexploitation.org/snapchat

Twitter: https://endsexualexploitation.org/twitter

EBSCO: https://endsexualexploitation.org/ebsco/

The Dirty Dozen List is a great tool for parents, because it helps us put these companies on our radar. But NCOSE also goes one step further, providing us not only with information, but also with practical ways to take action and help protect our families.

Helpful info and tips for parents from the Dirty Dozen List:

SNAPCHAT: If you have teens or Millennials, you’re probably familiar with this app, which is one of EEK’s 10 Dangerous Apps Every Parent Should Know About. Snapchat was created so that users can send an image–or a “snap’’–that presumably disappears within seconds. Although this app can be used for innocent purposes, simply for kids to keep in touch with each other, it has a bad reputation for being a “sexting” app used to exchange nude selfies.

In recent years, Snapchat has gone to the next level, partnering with Square to create Snapcash, which monetizes the app. Therefore, it is now possible to pay for sexy snaps, which are actually custom-made porn–and in the case of minors, child porn. As a result, the company is profiting off the sale of sexually explicit material. (According to NCOSE, “The app went from reported revenue of $3 million in 2014 to projected revenue of $50 million in 2015. A major contributor to this growth is the development of the feature Snapcash.”) Another problem is that there is no way for users to opt out of sexually explicit content or to report the person who is sending it.

Take action: On the Dirty Dozen page for Snapchat, NCOSE makes the following suggestions:

Tweet about it. Here’s a sample tweet, with a hashtag NCOSE has created around the Snapchat/Dirty Dozen campaign: @Snapchat please provide prominent in-app reporting systems for users to report those that send or promote sexually exploitive content #NoThanksSnapchat

Email Snapchat executives. NCOSE has written an email to Snapchat executives asking them to improve their policies. All you have to do is sign. Fill out the form here.  

YOUTUBE: YouTube (and Google in general) have been on the Dirty Dozen list for several years running. And while they have taken steps to clean up their act, such as creating YouTube Kids, it just isn’t enough. As NCOSE puts it, “It appears that whenever they can get away with it, YouTube allows inappropriate content to remain on its platform in order to generate views and more profit.” We continue to see sexually explicit content side-by-side with cute cat videos, and current reports reveal that inappropriate videos are still available to kids, even on the new “safer” app.

Take action: On the Dirty Dozen page for YouTube, NCOSE makes the following suggestions:

Tweet about it. Here’s a sample tweet from NCOSE: @YouTube please turn on Safe Search automatically to prevent accidental exposure to graphic material on YouTube

Sign the petition. NCOSE has created a petition asking YouTube executives to improve their policies. Sign the petition here.  

STEAM GAMES: Many parents might not recognize this company, but your kids may be using its products without even realizing it. Steam is a distributor that sells video games for PC, Mac, Linux, mobile devices, and even TVs. They also specialize in connecting gamers through community forums on their websites. The problem is that even though they have about 35 million users who are minors, they have unregulated content that is violent and sexually explicit. Categories featuring nudity, violence, exhibitionism, and even rape are available to kids simply by clicking “View Page” or after reading a short “warning” screen.

Take action: On the Dirty Dozen page for Steam, NCOSE makes the following suggestions:

Tweet about it. Here’s a sample tweet from NCOSE: Hey @steam_games protect kids. Create an opt-in 18+ category, so they’re not automatically exposed to sexually graphic games. #parentingtips #onlinesafety

Email Steam executives. NCOSE has written an email to Steam executives asking them to improve their policies. All you have to do is sign. Fill out the form here.  

Here are some helpful guidelines for parents:

  1. Get educated and be involved. Learn about Snapchat and Snapcash, YouTube, and the video games they are playing. Understand how these social media and websites work.
  2. Have regular discussions with your children. Talk about digital safety and your rules surrounding social media. For example: Make sure they are communicating only with people they know and that they realize the pictures they send don’t just vanish forever. Remind them, “Once on the Internet, always on the Internet!” Use our template to create a Media Guideline for your Family, and then stick to it!
  3. Consider using the social media tools that your children use. If your child is on Snapchat, then you need to be on Snapchat. Follow your kids’ accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and everywhere else they are. When you reach out in this way, you not only learn how tech and media are used, but you also show your children you care about their world, and that you want to connect and communicate with them.
  4. Teach kids to #UseTech4Good. Sometimes in our digitally saturated world, it’s tempting to focus on the danger that lurks in media, apps, and tech around us. But there is so much good, too! As parents we can teach our kids to use technology for more than just chatting, browsing, and mindless surfing. As a family, make it a point to seek out ways to use tech to serve or compliment others, and to have amazing educational experiences. Check out our article, 10 Ways Kids Can Use Technology For Good, for ideas.

As we look around, there are so many companies peddling dangerous content for our families. But there are so many opportunities to educate ourselves and fight back! We can use these times to reach out into our communities and make a difference. But more importantly, we can use these times to talk to our kids and to fortify our families and our homes.

For more ideas on teaching kids to use media responsibly check out our book, How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography, available here. It includes simple discussions and a RUN plan for younger kids as well as thought-provoking discussions and ideas for older kids. Also, be on the lookout for Petra’s Power to See, A Media Literacy Adventure--coming later this month!

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Media Savvy Mamas, and a member of the Prevention Task Force for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families.

Helping Children Develop Healthy Sexual Attitudes

Helping Children Develop Healthy Sexual Attitudes

By Caroline Hilton, MS

Have you ever wondered when and how sexual tastes and preferences are formed and where they originate? Arousal templates serve as a basic guide in the way that we approach sexuality. However uncomfortable it may be to think about your teenager having an arousal template, it is important to accept the reality that every human being, including your teenager, has an arousal template set up as a compass that will influence their sexual preferences, tastes, and relationships. Accepting this reality and creating open communication in your home are the key first steps in helping your child develop healthy sexual attitudes.

Dr. Patrick Carnes defined an arousal template as “the total constellation of thoughts, images, behaviors, sounds, smells, sights, fantasies, and objects that arouse us sexually. This constellation encompasses vast categories of stimuli that come from our early experiences with family, friends, religious affiliations, media, and teachers” (Facing the Shadow, 2015).

Arousal templates are formed through making associations of sensory input (such as sights, sounds, smells, experiences or feelings) and sexual arousal.  The preferred sexual tastes and behaviors of adults can be compared to the classically conditioned responses of Pavlovian theory. One fascinating study in the 1960’s showed a group of men images of nude women alongside images of boots. These men eventually became sexually aroused by just the images of boots themselves (Rachman, 1966).

Childhood trauma can also impact how an arousal template develops. The amygdala is an important center in the brain that controls fear, safety, and sexual arousal. In a healthy relationship, sexual arousal should be based on connection, intimacy, and safety (Salu, 2013). However, when childhood abuse occurs, sexual arousal may become a confusing conglomeration of fear, pleasure and pain.  

The good news is that arousal templates are permeable and changeable. When sexual addiction becomes an issue, individuals would need treatment. A trained professional can help to change the recovering addict’s arousal template to be more inclusive of healthy behaviors and to eliminate those behaviors that are based in trauma or negative experiences.

Consider these examples of how arousal templates may be formed.

  • The man whose mother was emotionally and physically abusive to him as a child may prefer romantic relationships where the female is the aggressor and more dominant.
  • The woman who was sexually abused as a young girl by a more powerful male may be more inclined to take on a seductive and dominant role in sexual relationships to maintain control and power.
  • The man who was frequently exposed to his mother walking around the house nude as a child may be aroused by voyeurism and inconspicuously spying on women who are dressing or changing.
  • The man who was raised in a rural environment in a third-world country and frequently witnessed nude women peeing by the river may have a fetish of golden showers as part of his arousal template.
  • The young girl who frequently witnessed her parents screaming and arguing and then masturbated to soothe herself to sleep may only be able to become aroused when she is sworn at and treated aggressively by her partner.

As parents, we should want our children to grow up to experience fulfilling and satisfying sexuality. Here are some ways to help children develop a healthy arousal template:

  • Teach them appropriate boundaries with others. Starting at a young age, teach your children appropriate social boundaries, how to communicate with others, and how to respect the physical space of others. Our 30 Days os Sex Talks for ages 12+ and our 30 Days to a Stronger Child have great lessons on relationship boundaries and social boundaries.
  • Protect them from sexual predators and abusive situations. Be cautious in who you choose as caregivers for your children. Most sexual abuse abuse cases deal with a friend of the family, not a stranger to the family. Above all, trust your intuition!
  • Create open communication about healthy sexuality. Talk about sex in age-appropriate and positive manner. Make it clear that your children can always ask questions. If you are negative about sex, they will learn to associate sex with shame which can lead to developing a maladaptive arousal template.
  • Focus on intimacy. Help your child understand that sex is most valuable and most satisfying when it is based in heartfelt connection and closeness. Show your kids through words and actions what healthy and kind relationships, based in mutual respect, look like.

Understanding the power of arousal templates and creating open dialogues in your home will help your child to not only develop healthy sexual attitudes, but have a satisfying sex life based in intimacy and connection.  For more ideas regarding what to talk about, simple discussions and definitions regarding sexuality education, check out our books 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy (available for 3 age groups: 3-7, 8-11, and 12+). Available on Amazon.

 

Caroline HIlton received her Bachelor’s degree in Marriage, Family, and Human Development from Brigham Young University in 2011. During that time, she completed an internship at a residential treatment center for teenage girls dealing with a variety of challenges such as addiction, trauma, and eating disorders; this sparked her desire to work in the mental health field. She attained her Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She is a single mother of two children who keep her very busy!  She enjoys art, cooking, and the outdoors.

Citations:

Carnes, P. (2015). Facing the Shadow: Starting Sexual and Relationship Recovery: a Gentle Path to Beginning Recovery from Sex Addiction.

Rachman, S. (1966). Sexual fetishism: An experimental analogue. Psychological Record, 16, 293-296.

Salu, Y. (2013). The role of the amygdala in the development of sexual arousal. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 16.

Raising Resilient Kids in a Chaotic World

Raising Resilient Kids in a Chaotic World

By Tina Mattsson

A few nights ago, my 11-year-old daughter shook me awake in the middle of the night. “Mom, are we going to get into a war with ISIS? Is ISIS going to bomb us?” These are confusing questions to be asked while still half asleep. It took me a few seconds to even comprehend what she was asking. And then it took me a few more seconds to figure out why she would even have those questions. We had a very brief discussion about how we are safe and everything is okay, and I sent her back to bed. Because come on, it was 2 a.m.! I’m not usually on my best parenting behavior at that time. The next morning, I realized the first step was to stop having the news on in the background. The next step was to have a longer discussion with my daughter to figure out where these fears were coming from and to help her process her emotions.

We often think of childhood as a carefree time. Everything is puppies and rainbows and playgrounds and friends and happy. But children can face the same emotional fears and uncertainties as adults. Issues can range from making new friends at a new school to divorce, and even to more serious issues such as abuse and neglect. Kids don’t even need to experience these issues first-hand to feel stress from them.

According to the American Psychological Association, “Building resilience—the ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress—can help our children manage stress and feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. However, being resilient does not mean that children won’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common when we have suffered major trauma or personal loss, or even when we hear of someone else’s loss or trauma” (Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers, n.d.).

What are some ways we can help our children through difficult times?

Turn off the TV – This is a simple one. And it was the very first thing I did when I realized my daughter was afraid of ISIS after hearing about the attacks in Paris.

Listen to your children – If they need to talk through their worries, listen to them. Practice actively listening. In other words, put down your phone and look at them as they talk. Then repeat back to them what you are hearing to confirm. Example: “I hear you are worried that you may not have anyone to sit with at lunch since you are new to the school.”

Share your feelings – It’s okay for your children to know you are sad or uncertain. Feelings are normal. Showing your kids you have the same feelings as they do can help normalize their feelings.

Don’t minimize fears – Allow children to talk through their issues. It can be tempting to hush our kids and convince them all is well because it’s hard to watch our kids feel fear or uncertainty. But doing that tells them their feelings aren’t valid.

Validate your children – We may realize the junior high drama is meaningless and will be over tomorrow, but to our children, this is the most important issue in their life right now.

Do something fun together – Try to get their mind off their concerns. Go on a walk, read a book, or cook dinner together.

There is no doubt that our kids will face difficult times in childhood. Some will be minor and some can be life-altering. But if we can help them successfully navigate their concerns and uncertainties, we can raise resilient kids. And their skills of resilience will serve them through the rest of their lives.

For more ideas on creating a truly resilient child who can successfully face the challenges your kids will encounter, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child. Inside, you will find ideas, discussion questions and activities that will strengthen your child emotionally, socially, spiritually, intellectually, and physically! Best of all, the activities and discussions will bring you closer together.

Another great guide is the Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers from the American Psychological Association. It offers these tips as well:

Stick with your routine. Young children especially crave routine. If you normally read a book together at bedtime, make sure you keep that habit in place. If you have a night set aside as family night, continue to utilize that time together.

When children have questions, answer them honestly but simply. Then add reassurances that leave no room for doubt such as, “I will always take care of you.”

Help your children keep perspective. “When your child is a victim of the shifting social alliances that form in middle school, help him or her understand that other children may be feeling just as lonely and confused, and help her see beyond the current situation—alliances that shift one way may shift back again the next week in middle school.”

Make your home a safe place both physically and emotionally. There are immense social pressures on our kids and teens at school. Home should be a safe haven for them. Our kids should feel comfortable coming to us as parents for any issue, big or small.

 

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.

Citations:

Resilience Guide for Parents and Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved November 23, 2015, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx

 

Parenting in the Digital Age: It’s Time to go on the Offensive

Parenting in the Digital Age: It’s Time to go on the Offensive

By Dina Alexander, MS

We have come to live quite defensively when it comes to our kids and technology. Many of us have locked down aspects of the internet through blocks and parental controls on our home computers, phones, and Netflix. We try to stay up to date on the latest apps and tech trends. But we don’t seem to know if we are winning or losing “the battle.”

It’s easy to get bogged down with fear and frustration with every new social-media-bullying headline we see. We feel anxious when our kids ask to get a social media account or start texting friends—and with good reason! Our friends with teenagers have all shared a horror story of their kids being exposed to sexual content online, getting left out, being bullied, or worse.

As in any facet of parenting, I’ve come to realize, we can no longer parent in a defensive position. There is a better, more positive approach to raising children in the digital age.

It’s time to go on the offensive.

Yes, we need to talk about dangers and keeping our kids safe online (and offline). But that is just one step in a much richer, fuller process in our modern parenting.

It’s time to empower ourselves and our kids to the possibilities all around us!

It’s time to connect our wisdom with their tech savvy in order to build better relationships and a better future.

As my kids and I explore the possibilities of technology, we see new opportunities everywhere. My daughter is continually expanding her positive quotes account on Instagram, my son emailed the president of a university he hopes to attend one day (and received a response), and I have been able to reach out to experts in a variety of fields via Twitter. Our family members are also working on a technology driven Eagle Scout project, talking to friends across the country via video chat, building villages on Minecraft, working on family history, and connecting with teachers and classmates through Google Classroom and other apps.

All of these uses for technology have potential hazards, but they also have tremendous potential. Potential for good!

Using Technology for good is called positive digital citizenship.

Positive Digital Citizenship: Using technology to make a positive impact on others (family, school, community, etc.) through tolerance, kindness, authenticity, and ingenuity.

How do we start practicing and teaching positive digital citizenship to our kids?

Here are 6 simple strategies to practice and discuss with your family:

Help your kids see potential in all technology. Start looking for ways to use phones, tablets, etc., as tools and instruments, not just as a way to pacify or entertain us.

Help your children see themselves as agents for change. Remind them that they can change the world for the better!

Look for opportunities to use technology to help others. Be an example and teach your kids to give sincere compliments to others on social media. Show them how it can make more of a genuine impact to send an email or text to one individual at a time.

Volunteer in your community using Just Serve or beextra.org. Try a new app called Golden Volunteer Opportunities. Or be bold and create a petition for social change at change.org.

Openly discuss rules and guidelines for cell phone and social media usage for kids and parents in your home. Make rules together, especially when designating tech-free zones and screen-free times like dinnertime. Our book, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography, includes several ways to do this.

Create a cell phone contract for your child or download one from the the internet—there are many out there. Look it over, discuss it with your child, and have your child commit to following the rules laid out in the contract. Give your child the opportunity to make wise choices and make mistakes while they are still living with you, under your guidance.

Actively use technology to bring your family closer together. Message your teen or partner with words of encouragement or share something important with them while at school (without disturbing class time of course). If your child likes to game, find games that can be played together as a family and that build and create rather than kill and destroy.

Take the next step in changing the world around you. Look for opportunities to co-create new technology, new positive online trends, new platforms, new devices and anything else you can imagine together with your kids.

Approaching technology with our kids can no longer be done from a fearful, reactive position. We can start teaching our kids to use technology positively, actively, and with a purpose—not merely to be acted upon. We want our children to have a stake in the digital world and we can guide them there.

For a fun and engaging way to talk about using technology for good, check out Noah’s New Phone: A Story about Using Technology for Good available on Amazon or try out this lesson with your kids.

 

Dina Alexander is the founder and president of Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org), an organization determined to strengthen families by teaching digital citizenship, media literacy, and healthy sexuality education—including education about the dangers of online porn. She is the creator of Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good, Messages About Me: A Journey to Healthy Body Image, How to Talk to Your Kids About Pornography and the 30 Days of Sex Talks and 30 Days to a Stronger Child programs. She received her master’s degree in recreation therapy from the University of Utah and her bachelors from Brigham Young University. She is an amazing mom and loves spending time with her husband and three kids. Together, they live in Texas.

 

New Year’s & Body Image: 5 Tips for Teaching Kids

New Year’s & Body Image: 5 Tips for Teaching Kids

 

By Jenny Johnson and Melody Bergman

It’s January. And just like every year, the media has made the switch from silver bells and red bows to exercise plans and miracle diets. Everywhere we turn–whether it’s on the radio, TV, or internet–someone is hinting that we should lose weight fast.

But do we think about how these messages are affecting our children?

Fat. Skinny. Tall. Short. Ugly. Beautiful. How do our children see themselves when they look in the mirror?

“Body image” is the term we use to describe our perceptions about the physical aspects of our bodies. As we all know, these feelings can be both positive and negative. And they are heavily influenced by our daily diet of media–like the New Year’s ads that bombard us this time of year.

Children and teens already struggle with comparisons to their peers, whose bodies may change later, earlier, or at the same time as their own. In today’s world, kids are finding it even more difficult to maintain a positive body image. With airbrushed photos and photoshopped body parts, media has learned to create a “perfect” image. In turn it has created unrealistic expectations and unhealthy goals for children.

However, this is not just a problem in mainstream media, it’s a huge problem on social media too. In past generations, peer pressure was limited to looking cool in the hallway or out on the town. Now kids feel a constant pull to capture “perfect” moments, post them on social media, and rack up the “likes.” That’s the new peer pressure–which in large part involves finding the perfect angle in selfies, complimentary poses, and flattering filters.

While historically body image has been classified as a female problem, boys are now struggling too. Guys are often faced with male images in the media that are “tough” or “cool,” and they don’t feel like they measure up. For instance, they judge their own muscles and strength against athletes and even video game characters, which creates feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

So what can parents do to combat these negative perceptions?

Here are 5 tips for teaching kids about healthy body image:

1) Be an example.  Your kids hear you.  If you are critical about your own body, they will notice.  Be kind to yourself.  Compliment yourself. Talk about your strengths and be positive about your imperfections.

2) Limit exposure. Children spend on average 7.5 hours a day on a screen. The majority of this time is spent on television, video games, and social media (Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders, n.d.). Kids are being influenced by social media, TV characters, advertisements, celebrities, and friends. Monitor their media usage and make sure an excessive amount of time is not being spent objectifying themselves or their peers.

3) Compliment your kids often.  Promote their self worth by encouraging the great things they do as opposed to how they look. Thank them for their helpful, meaningful behaviors (doing dishes, giving hugs, sharing a talent). Help them understand that body types can vary between individuals and that they are beautiful the way they are.

4) Help them love the body they have. Remind your kids of all the amazing things their bodies can do: run, swim, sleep, see, hear, speak, sing, dream, hold hands, skip, laugh, etc. Help your child understand that the human body is a miracle and that it has value and beauty that transcends society’s cheap standards.

5) Teach media literacy. When you see a photoshopped image, you may realize that it’s not real. But does your child know the difference? Teach your kids about how the media creates illusions to manipulate them. Give them the “Power to See.” Watch for our children’s book, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure, coming soon! Also, check out our Kids Activity Page  for some hands-on practice deconsructing real ads!

There are so many images and voices surrounding our children. As parents, we can be a positive influence and strive to make our voices rise above the media storm.We can make a difference. We can help our kids understand who they are and teach them to feel confident about themselves.

Want an easy, fun way to talk to kids about body image? Check our new children’s books:  Messages About Me: Sydney’s Story (for girls) and Messages About Me: Wade’s Story (for boys), both available on Amazon.

For more information and great discussions about positive body image, check out our book, 30 Days to a Stronger Child or our lesson on Body Image.  Or visit Proud2BMe.org, a community created for teens to promote confidence and positive body image.

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

Melody Harrison Bergman is a mother and step-mom of three awesome boys, founder of Mama Crossroads, and a member of the Prevention Task Force for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and has been writing and editing since 2002. Her mission is to motivate leaders and community members to educate and protect children and families. Her experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and former spouse of a sex addict bring unique perspective to the fight against pornography and sexual exploitation.

Citations:

Media, Body Image, and Eating Disorders. (n.d.) Retrieved November 14, 2017, from  https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/media-body-image-and-eating-disorders

 

For Parents: How to Have A Family Council

For Parents: How to Have A Family Council

 

Finding time to spend together as a family can be a difficult task, especially as your kids get older. But it is important to be able to spend some quality time each week or twice a month talking with each other, creating deeper relationships and bonds, and working to problem solve–a monthly or weekly family council is a great solution. The family unit can strengthen each of its members to be able to withstand the problems that occur within everyday life.

A family council is when all members of a family gather together to problem solve. This is not a time to make a checklist of chores but instead a meeting to produce ideas and garner familial responsibility. It is at time where all members can freely share thoughts without discouragement or disagreement and work together to solve a problem that is affecting the whole unit.

These gatherings are not a one time thing. Creating a habit of open family communication will allow you to grow close together and will lead to other valuable insights and conversations. If you want to further empower your child, start using these “family gathers” to teach about healthy online behavior, media literacy, and the changes that happen during puberty using our book 30 Days of Sex Talks, Empowering Your Child with Knowledge of Sexual Intimacy

This is also a great time to make plans as a unit to do something fun together like a family trip. very member can help with this endeavor by budgeting and contributing ideas.

Click Here to Download this Lesson!

Four Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child This Year

Four Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child This Year

 

By Kami Loyd

It’s a new year, and with that comes a time for new beginnings and new goals. Along with getting more exercise, losing weight, and many other goals forgotten before spring break, a great goal to set is to improve our relationships with our children. But this goal is so important we don’t want to forget it or quit it early in the year.  We can break this quitting cycle, and we can do it together! Here are four ideas that will bring you closer to your children and improve your relationship with them now and in the future.

1.Spend one-on-one time with your children. One of my fondest memories of growing up was going on a daddy-daughter date where my dad took me to the mall, let me pick out a new fish for his fish tank, and bought me an Orange Julius. It was not an overly expensive or logistically challenging “date,” but it’s one I remember many years later. Most of us have busy lives, and carving out more time for our children amid the myriad of tasks and responsibilities we have can seem daunting. But this one-on-one time is so important and can make a huge difference in their lives. These dates should be focused on our children, which means we should make sure we put away our screens and engage with our children directly.  

Carey Casey with the National Center for Fathering has found children especially benefit when their fathers chooses to spend one-on-one time with them. Children start to  recognize they are important to their fathers and open up to them. This can help children continue to connect to their fathers knowing that they can talk to them about any of the issues they are facing.

2.Have family dinners without electronics. In our screen-time dominated society, taking time for our families away from screens is essential. Family dinners can provide the time we need as we leave our phones away from the table and focus on each other. These electronic-free dinners have been an important aspect of my marriage because they give my husband and I time to reconnect with each other as well as with our children at the end of each day.  Family dinners are so important that The Family Dinner Project has found physical, mental, and emotional benefits such as stronger self-esteem, healthier eating habits, and more family connectedness for the whole family. As families take the time to eat together, whether or not the meal is homemade, they will begin to experience the benefits for themselves. Setting a weekly menu at the beginning of the week can give you more time on weeknights to devote to having family dinners instead of deciding what to make. Another suggestion is to have the whole family put their electronics into airplane mode, which would stop annoying telemarketers and other distractions during dinner.

3.Tell them you love themThis idea seems like common sense, but many times as parents we forget to tell our children we love them in words and actions. Children need to know they are loved no matter what they do or say. Much of what children hear from others is how they aren’t good enough. Letting them know they are loved can change their outlook. According to the National Center for Fathering, only 3-4 percent of current dads were told on a constant basis that they were loved by their fathers. So be different! Help your child to know you love them. Find out what their love language is, and “speak” to them in those ways.

Telling your child you love them can be as simple as giving them a hug, writing a note for their lunchbox, or sending a text message to express your affection for them.

4.Have frequent, open conversations with your children. As a child, I knew I could talk to my parents about almost anything going on in my life. This gave me the confidence to talk to them about my struggles in school, bullies, and what I could do to stay away from peer pressures like underage drinking and sex. Open conversations may seem difficult to undertake, but they can benefit parents and children. Asking questions such as “What did you play at recess?” or “What was the neatest thing you learned today and why?” can help you learn more about your kids and help them feel you really care about their answers. For even more amazing conversation starters, check out 30 Days to a Stronger Child available here.

Each of us wants to have mentally, emotionally, and physically strong children, and this time of year is a great time to make new goals to build your relationship with your child. Set these goals today, and see your relationship grow!

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

Citations:

Casey, C. (n.d.). 3 Benefits of One-On-One Time. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from http://www.fathers.com/s6-your-kids/c32-preschoolers/3-benefits-of-one-on-one-time/

David, H., & Bacharach, B. (1965, April 15). What The World Needs Now Is Love [Folk Rock song performed by Jackie DeShannon].

Moody, L. D. (n.d.). Discover Your Love Language. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

National Center for Fathering. (2017). The Power of “I Love You” from Dad. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.fathers.com/s12-championship-fathering/the-power-of-i-love-you-from-dad/ ac

The Family Dinner Project. (2017). Benefits of Family Dinners. Retrieved September 20, 2017, from https://thefamilydinnerproject.org/about-us/benefits-of-family-dinners/

 

Connecting Families through Daily Rituals

Connecting Families through Daily Rituals

 

By Jenny Webb, MA

Here’s the thing about parenting: I often want to go big or go home. I want to make grand gestures so big that they will ensure my children know they’re loved and important, not just today, but every day for the rest of their lives. I want to cook a dinner so amazing that no one’s hungry for the rest of the week. I want to earn a bonus at work so huge that I can quit my job tomorrow and take us to Disneyland for a month.

You may have noticed the flaw in my logic.

In most circumstances, parenting doesn’t work that way—you can’t “fill up” your family through a single grand gesture. They’re still going to need your love, encouragement, and support (and food!) tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that.

But life can get busy, and schedules can fill up. It’s easy to fall into the trap of playing parenting “catch-up” by offering a future reward for present postponement: “Oh, wow, guys, we aren’t going to be able to have dinner together all week this week. Tell you what: I’ll take you out to a movie on Saturday to make up for it. Ok? And you can get popcorn! Ok! Now quick, get out of here and go clean your rooms up before school!”

Hmm.

I do this way too much.

So this year, I’m focusing on finding daily “ritual moments”—small moments where I can connect with my kids in a meaningful way by developing a new pattern in my behavior. While bigger events like outings or vacations can provide wonderful opportunities to connect with our families, that connection often occurs because we are stepping out of our daily routine. What I’m after are ways to foster connection in our daily routine because, let’s face it: that’s where we spend an awful lot of our time together.

10 Ideas for Family Rituals

These daily ritual moments don’t have to be big. In fact, they’re more effective if they’re simple, flexible, and reasonably consistent.

1) Best and Worst

At our dinner table (or during our bedtime routine if it’s been one of those days), we take 2–3 minutes to go around and say our “best and worst” moments of the day. It’s simple and short, but it can offer insights into moments we otherwise wouldn’t hear about in each others’ lives.

2) Express Gratitude

At bedtime, especially when our kids are younger, we like to ask them to name three things they were thankful for that day. When they’re snuggled down in their covers and all ready to fall asleep, a positive focus on gratitude helps them to feel safe, secure, and blessed.

3) Family Walks

Weekends have their own rhythm, busy with sporting events and birthday parties, sure, but also (hopefully!) a little more time to do something together, like walk around the block after Sunday dinner.

4) Hello, Goodbye!

How do you greet each other? How do you say goodbye to each other? These moments are so quick and common it’s easy to overlook their potential for connection. But establishing some sort of pattern for your family is an easy way to help kids feel like they’re part of something special and that they belong together.

5) Do a Happy Dance

When dinner is over and no one wants to do the dishes, we’ll often strike a deal: dishes after a family dance party. It’s not as hard as it sounds! For us, a family dance party means turning on a special song (right now, it’s “Uptown Funk”) and then dancing together like lunatics around the kitchen. That’s it. Three minutes, song’s over, we’re laughing, and we move on to our chores.

6) Stretch Your Morning Routine

When my eleven-year-old asked me to wake up with her each morning to do ten minutes of pilates, I was not thrilled. I really like sleep, and I’m not a morning person. But just making that commitment to be there, together, for those ten minutes gives us a good moment together each day.

7) Eat It

We all know that family meals can be an important daily ritual and provide a setting to converse and connect. But other moments involved with our meals can connect us too. Maybe you sprinkle sugar on their morning oatmeal in the shape of a smile. Maybe your family always has pancakes on Saturday … night. Maybe you just trim the crusts off their sandwiches. Whatever it is, help them realize it’s something that makes your family special, together.

8) Write It Down

A written note in their lunchbox on Wednesdays. A text before their big game. A family message board in the kitchen with space for extra “I love you” messages. Give them a nickname or invent a silly sign-off phrase (“love, your Dad, aka, The Awesome”). Just let them know they are loved.

9) Cheer(s)!

How do you recognize success as a family? If someone has big news, invent a silly family cheer to celebrate. (Ours is ridiculous: “Oh yeah, Oh yeah, We’re the Webbs, We’re Awesome, Oh yeah, Go Webbs!” See? Not a great cheer, but the kids love it.) Or, celebrate at dinner by clinking glasses in a celebratory “cheers!” My kids are always begging for that one.

10) I Love You—I Know

Invent small ways to say “I love you” and “I love you too” that work for your family. It can be a silly phrase (we use “I love you more than peanut butter!”), or a simple gesture (my daughter favors making a heart with her hands and loves it when we follow suit). Or just a hand squeeze: three times for “I love you” and four times for “I love you too.”

You’re likely already doing a lot of these things already. Or maybe not; maybe different ideas work better for your family culture and patterns. The point here isn’t so much what we’re doing, but rather recognizing when we’re doing it. Small moments can bring connection by creating a sense of identity and community within your family. Find those daily ritual moments, and mindfully engage with those you love. Sure, there will be grand gestures somewhere along the line, but let’s enjoy our “regular lives” together too!

For more great ideas on connecting with 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.

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 Seattle with her husband, Nick, and their two children.