5 Ways to Become a More Media-Savvy Parent

5 Ways to Become a More Media-Savvy Parent


By Rachelle Motte

My 10 year old couldn’t sleep the other night because she saw a scary picture in my Facebook feed. An actor I know who specializes in the grotesque shared a picture of himself in stage makeup. Fortunately, I was able to help dispel her fears. I told her about my actor friend, about how much he made me laugh once at dinner, and about how delighted my college roommate was when he gave her his autograph.

Because I knew how to interpret the picture (“there’s Doug in stage makeup!”), I was able to help her place it in its proper context and begin to move past her fear.

That solved the sleep problem. But what about next time?

I need to know how to put difficult images in context for myself if I’m going to help my daughter interpret them, deal with the feelings they evoke, and move on with her life. In other words, I need to work on my own media literacy.

This skill doesn’t come automatically, especially if your school days (like mine) came before the internet exploded. You and I grew up in a culture formed around the written word, but times have changed.

Word and Image

“Images and icons are fast displacing words as the dominant communication system of our culture,” writes former advertising account planner Shane Hipps. (Hipps, 2009, p. 17) “Images have an incredible capacity to generate needs in humans that don’t naturally exist. Every part of our lives is influenced and shaped by the power of the photograph.” (Hipps, 2009, p.75)

As if one major cultural shift weren’t enough, we spend more and more hours per day viewing these images on screens. Harvard Magazine noted in July, 2012, “Kids between 8 and 18 are spending more than seven hours a day on screens, often using more than one media platform at a time.” (Brown, 2012, p. 58)

These shifts from words to images, from paper to screens, have changed more than just our media habits: “The flickering mosaic of pixilated light re-patterns neural pathways in the brain,” writes Hipps. “These new pathways are simply opposed to the pathways required for reading, writing, and sustained concentration.” (Hipps, 2009, p. 78)

Be Intentional

There is good news. If you’re aware of these issues and committed to examining and discussing them with your kids, then the growing importance of images and screens needn’t spell doom for your family.

Here are 5 ways you can become a more media-savvy parent:

1) Pay attention to the kinds of media you and your family use. Most adults spend, on average, about 9 hours a day looking at screens. (Wallace, 2016) Do you use these screens actively, or passively? Do you use your tablet out of habit, or would something else fit your needs better? Do those earbuds keep you from building relationships with the other people in the room? (For more great discussions about media and using tech for good, check our Noah’s New Phone: A Story About Using Technology for Good.)

2) Take a closer look at advertising. My kids and I like to “rank” each billboard we drive past. What’s it really selling—a product, or an experience? Next time you see an ad, stop and think for a moment. How does it make you feel? Do you need the product, or do you want that feeling?

3) Become an active movie viewer. Next time your family sees a movie together, commit to spending 15 minutes or so talking about it afterward. What did the movie tell you about the filmmaker’s beliefs? Did the film’s message line up with your own beliefs and values? How can you tell? (For more great discussion questions like this, check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure.)

4) Look at great art. You see thousands of images each day—in magazines, online, and on TV, just for starters. What might happen if you also looked at a beautiful piece of art for a few moments each day? Try it for a week and see what you think.

5) Become an early adopter. Don’t wait for your teen to find the next biggest app on her own; get there first, and talk with her about how to use it responsibly. Check back here often for news and updates that will help you stay on top of it all.

Repeat these steps often as your child grows. She’ll ask different questions at 12 than she does at 10. She’s growing up in a world that’s very different from the one in which you and I did. My daughter and I will both need to grow our media literacy skills if we’re going to thrive in this world—and so will you.

For an amazing opportunity to teach your kids how to read images, advertising, social media, fake news, and other media in our culture, check out our new children’s book, Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure. Available on Amazon.


Rachel Motte is a freelance writer, journalist, and editor whose writing has appeared at CNN.com, in Eagle Forum’s Education Reporter, at EvangelicalOutpost.com, in Jonah Goldberg’s 2010 anthology, Proud to be Right, and in numerous other print and internet publications. She is an alumna of Biola University, the Torrey Honors Institute, The Leadership Institute, and the World Journalism Institute. 


Hipps, Shane, (2009). Flickering Pixels: How Technology Shapes Your Faith. Zondervan.

Brown, Nell Porter. (2012, July) The Whistle: An Entrepreneur’s Multimedia ESPN for Kids, “The next generation of sports fans” Harvard Magazine. Retrieved December 11, 2016, from http://harvardmag.com/pdf/2012/07-pdfs/0712-HarvardMag.pdf

Wallace, Kelly. (2016, December 6). How Much Time Do Parents Spend on Screens? As Much as Their Teens. CNN.com. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/06/health/parents-screen-use-attitudes-tweens-teens/

Introducing: Petra’s Power to See

Introducing: Petra’s Power to See

EEK Releases New Book Teaching Kids How to READ Images and Media


By Dina Alexander, MS

As my kids’ ages have entered double digits, certain messages in media have been brutal on them. Every time they pick up a phone or open a laptop they are confronted with images of men, women, and teens who are filtered and staged–often in physically unattainable ways–and whose lifestyle taunts at something better, something cooler than my kids can get in “real life.” And I haven’t even started talking about the damage of TV or online ads:

I’m only talking about their social media feeds.

As I think about my kids and the inescapable messages all around them, I realize that most of us parents are waiting too long to start talking about media messages in advertising, music, books, magazines, news stories, games, apps, websites, video clips, and elsewhere.

Although I have talked with my kids about these influences many times, I find myself wishing I had started talking about media literacy with them when they were young enough to be influenced by Disney movies or Hot Wheels commercials instead of Instagram or YouTube.

In the last couple of years, my kids and I have started discussing various media and learning together to deconstruct the hidden and overt messages around us in apps, movies, videos and elsewhere. It has not only been a fascinating experience, but it has also empowered us to see through many of the confusing and harmful messages in media.

And now I want to help you teach your kids to be more media savvy! And not just with advertisements, but with their interactions in social media, gaming, and news–real or fake.

What would you give for your kids to be able to read and decipher the real messages in images and media in our culture?  

If you would like to start building these habits within your family then you’ll want to check out Petra’s Power to See: A Media Literacy Adventure . The story centers around a girl named Petra as she ventures through the city to learn about the media messages all around her. She and her dad come face to face with clear and hidden messages in different media such as advertising, social media, movies, and fake news.  

As with all of our books, Petra’s Power to See provides tools for you to create simple discussions that educate your kids about the world around them and truly empower them to be better consumers of media.

By taking a positive, yet realistic view of media, this book helps kids to see that while there are many forms of wonderful, healthy media in our culture, there are also useless and harmful messages out there.

Petra’s Power to See also helps kids to not be fearful of media, but to be critical and deliberate in their consumption and perhaps a little more understanding of why their parents have rules aboutmedia and tech use.

To further assist parents, we have included a helpful chapter on sensitive topics like pornography and violent media. There is also a workbook with discussions and activities and a Media Guideline that families can use to create rules and boundaries together. 

Living in an image-based culture, where we get most of our information from video and photographs (versus our parents who received most of their information in a written form), it is so important for kids, both young and old, to become truly literate: media literate. 

Try this book. It is a great opportunity to have excellent discussions, learn together, and be more media savvy. Together we can do this!

From Petra’s Power to See




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.

Why Kids Are Leading Double Lives

Why Kids Are Leading Double Lives

One Teen Explains How Kids Navigate the “Online Self” vs. “Real Self”


By Sydney Alexander, age 17

It seems that as I grow up, the more I notice the effects of social media. It’s not just hindering our ability to communicate with one another, but even our desire for real connection with other people. You can see this as we have learned to advertise certain aspects of our lives while keeping others in the dark. We’ve learned how to show the world how happy we are, while the sad aspects of our reality are hidden. Adults seem to follow this pattern, but it’s even more exaggerated in teenagers.

A parent might expect you to act one way: dressing modestly, using clean language, and speaking with respect to those around you. But as I have come to notice with my own friends and even occasionally myself, it’s very easy to show several different faces of who you are to different audiences when you have the comfort of a screen.

On Instagram we often see peoples’ beautiful accounts with smiling families and savoured moments. And although that may be the case for some teenagers, most of us have what is called a “spam” account, or  “finsta.” These are usually full of silly selfies, occasionally inappropriate, and usually language parents wouldn’t approve of. Only the closest friends are allowed to to follow this account.

Of course this isn’t the case with everyone, but for the most part these accounts are created to show a more “raw” self–someone who doesn’t need to follow parents’ rules. The real, or “rinsta” account has become more of an advertisement for the public: a place for your very best pictures, and poetic captions full of humor and happiness–the account your parents can follow.

This duality obviously transfers over into our actual lives. We go to school all day, and it becomes easy to “be” that other person we have created on social media–slipping in bad language, sneaking immodest clothes to school, anything really. When we get home from school, due to the fact that many families spend less and less time together, teenagers can easily put on that Instagram smile and do as they’re told in that short time with their families. It reminds me a lot of a toddler throwing a tantrum in front of their parents, and as soon as the parent walks away, the child is fine, with no more tears.

Teenagers are not that different. I know many many girls who have a separate personality in front of their parents: their language is clean, kind, and respectful, they dress modestly and speak highly of others and themselves. Then I see the very same girls at school using bad language, vaping in the bathrooms, and hanging out with boyfriends that their parents haven’t even met.

Teens only see their families for a small portion of their day so naturally it’s easy to hide a lot of who you are when parents aren’t supervising. If families were spending more time together, and if parents monitored their kids, there would not be such a disconnect between our “online self” and our “real self.” Parents would easily see right through that fakeness, and really see what their children could be going through–whether they’re being bullied or being the bully, whether they’re following family rules only at home or at all times.

So what can parents do to help their kids be real and merge their online persona with their “real life” face?

First, parents need to set an example of being real. Show us how to be online without filtering photos and only showing our families smiling on vacation or dressed up for holidays. Let people see the real you. Show us how to speak kindly even when we are behind a screen and not face-to-face with others. When you disagree with someone online, do so in a manner you would only do if the person was right in front of you–and then show your interaction to your kids.

Next, everyone needs less screen time–parents included. We get it; you don’t want us glued to our phones. But don’t just tell us to get off our phones and then turn on the TV. You don’t have to provide a show or entertainment for us. Instead, we should have time together that means something. My dad and I like to go on walks and just talk. It helps him understand me better and helps me understand him better. This is something simple that I love to do with him.

Show an interest in us. Talk to us. We are not going to share the important stuff with you if you won’t listen to the “little stuff.” Because here is the secret: It’s all “big stuff” to us. Honestly, what helps me feel best understood and known to my parents is talking about my entire day to them at the dinner table. My siblings and I all go through our day and yes, some days it does seem long when there is homework waiting–but it helps my parents understand how I’m doing.

LISTEN TO US. Parents need to learn how to listen to their children without it becoming a lecture, or them giving advice. Sometimes we really just want to be heard by you. We need to feel like our parents really are on our side.

Finally, we need more affection. I don’t know many kids who get enough hugs, high fives, goodnight kisses, or whatever your family likes to do. Research shows that kids are less anxious and emotionally happier when their parents are affectionate with them. Our brains literally change as a result of affection (Schwartz, 2018). Think about ways that you can incorporate more hugging into your daily routines–and not just for your younger kids, but for your teens too!

For more ideas on how to connect with your kids, check out Educate and Empower Kids’ book 30 Days to a Stronger Child. It has lots of discussions and activities that you can do with younger kids, older kids, and teenagers.


Sydney Alexander enjoys playing piano and creating art such as photography and painting. She is in National Honor Society at her school, and is a student aid for the special needs class as well! She is learning Spanish and enjoys writing poetry. She can be found on Instagram under the handles@lookinmylenses (photography page) and @sydneysquotes (inspiring quotes account).


Schwartz, S. (2018, January 30). How a Parent’s Affection Shapes a Child’s Happiness for Life. Retrieved March 05, 2018, from https://www.parent.com/how-a-parents-affection-shapes-a-childs-happiness-for-life/

Crianza en la era digital: es hora de ir a la ofensiva

Crianza en la era digital: es hora de ir a la ofensiva


Por Dina Alexander, MS

Hemos venido a vivir bastante a la defensiva cuando se trata de nuestros niños y tecnología. Muchos de nosotros hemos bloqueado aspectos de Internet a través de bloques y controles parentales en nuestras computadoras, teléfonos y Netflix. Tratamos de estar al día con las últimas aplicaciones y tendencias tecnológicas. Pero no parecemos saber si estamos ganando o perdiendo “la batalla”.

Es fácil empantanarse con miedo y frustración con cada nuevo titular de acoso de medios sociales que vemos. Nos sentimos ansiosos cuando nuestros hijos solicitan una cuenta de redes sociales o comienzan a enviar mensajes de texto a sus amigos, ¡y con razón! Nuestros amigos con adolescentes compartieron una historia de terror de sus hijos expuestos a contenido sexual en línea, excluidos, acosados ​​o algo peor.

Como en cualquier aspecto de la crianza, me he dado cuenta de que ya no podemos ser padres en una posición defensiva. Hay un enfoque mejor y más positivo para criar a los niños en la era digital.

Es hora de ir a la ofensiva.

Sí, necesitamos hablar sobre los peligros y mantener seguros a nuestros niños en línea (y fuera de línea). Pero eso es solo un paso en un proceso mucho más rico y completo en nuestra crianza moderna.

¡Es hora de empoderarnos a nosotros y a nuestros hijos a las posibilidades que nos rodean!

Es hora de conectar nuestra sabiduría con su conocimiento de tecnología para construir mejores relaciones y un futuro mejor.

Mientras mis hijos y yo exploramos las posibilidades de la tecnología, vemos nuevas oportunidades en todas partes. Mi hija está continuamente expandiendo su cuenta de cotizaciones positivas en Instagram, mi hijo envió un correo electrónico al presidente de una universidad a la que espera asistir un día (y recibió una respuesta), y he podido contactar a expertos en una variedad de campos a través de Twitter. . Nuestros familiares también están trabajando en un proyecto Eagle Scout impulsado por la tecnología, hablando con amigos en todo el país a través de video chat, construyendo pueblos en Minecraft, trabajando en historia familiar y conectándose con profesores y compañeros de clase a través de Google Classroom y otras aplicaciones.

Todos estos usos para la tecnología tienen riesgos potenciales, pero también tienen un tremendo potencial. Potencial para bien! 

Usar la tecnología para siempre se llama ciudadanía digital positiva. 

Ciudadanía digital positiva: utilizar la tecnología para tener un impacto positivo en los demás (familia, escuela, comunidad, etc.) a través de la tolerancia, amabilidad, autenticidad e ingenio

¿Cómo comenzamos a practicar y enseñar ciudadanía digital positiva a nuestros hijos?Aquí hay 6 estrategias simples para practicar y discutir con su familia: 

Ayude a sus hijos a ver el potencial en toda la tecnología. Comience a buscar formas de usar teléfonos, tabletas, etc., como herramientas e instrumentos, no solo como una forma de tranquilizarnos o entretenernos.

Ayude a sus hijos a verse a sí mismos como agentes de cambio. ¡Recuérdales que pueden cambiar el mundo para mejor! 

Busque oportunidades para usar la tecnología para ayudar a otros. Sea un ejemplo y enséñeles a sus hijos a dar cumplidos sinceros a otras personas en las redes sociales. Muéstreles cómo puede tener un impacto más genuino enviar un correo electrónico o mensaje de texto a un individuo a la vez.

Sea voluntario en su comunidad usando Just Serve [https://www.justserve.org] o beextra.org [http://www.beextra.org]. Pruebe una nueva aplicación llamada Golden Volunteer Opportunities. O sea audaz y cree una petición para el cambio social en change.org [enlace para el artículo de Tis ‘the season]

Discuta abiertamente las reglas y pautas para el uso de teléfonos celulares y redes sociales para niños y padres en su hogar. Establezca reglas juntas, especialmente al designar zonas sin tecnología y tiempos sin pantalla como la hora de la cena. Nuestro libro, Cómo hablar con sus hijos sobre la pornografía, incluye varias formas de hacerlo.

Cree un contrato de teléfono celular para su hijo o descargue uno de Internet; hay muchos por ahí. Revíselo, discútalo con su hijo y pídale a su hijo que se comprometa a seguir las reglas establecidas en el contrato. Dele a su hijo la oportunidad de tomar decisiones acertadas y cometer errores mientras aún viven con usted, bajo su guía.

Utilice activamente la tecnología para acercar a su familia. Envíe un mensaje a su adolescente o compañero con palabras de aliento o comparta algo importante con ellos mientras esté en la escuela (sin molestar el horario de clases, por supuesto). Si a su hijo le gusta jugar, busque juegos que se puedan jugar juntos como familia y que creen y creen en lugar de matar y destruir.

Da el siguiente paso para cambiar el mundo que te rodea. Busque oportunidades para co-crear nueva tecnología, nuevas tendencias positivas en línea, nuevas plataformas, nuevos dispositivos y cualquier otra cosa que pueda imaginar junto con sus hijos. 

Acercarse a la tecnología con nuestros hijos ya no se puede hacer desde una posición temerosa y reactiva. Podemos comenzar a enseñarles a nuestros hijos a utilizar la tecnología de manera positiva, activa y con un propósito, no meramente para actuar en consecuencia. Queremos que nuestros niños tengan una participación en el mundo digital y podemos guiarlos allí.

Dina Alexander es fundadora y presidenta de Educate and Empower Kids (educateempowerkids.org),una organización decidida a fortalecer a las familias mediante la enseñanza de ciudadanía digital, alfabetización mediática y educación sexual saludable, incluida la educación sobre los peligros del porno en línea. Ella es la creadora de el nuevo teléfono de Noah: una historia sobre cómo usar la tecnología para el bien, mensajes sobre mí: un viaje a una imagen corporal sana, cómo hablar con sus hijos sobre la pornografía y los 30 días de conversaciones sexuales y los programas de 30 días sobre un niño más fuerte. Recibió su maestría en terapia recreativa de la Universidad de Utah y su licenciatura en la Universidad Brigham Young. Ella es una madre increíble y le encanta pasar tiempo con su esposo y sus tres hijos. Juntos, viven en Texas.


Free Kid-Friendly Filtering

Free Kid-Friendly Filtering


By Katelyn King

I continue to be amazed by the ever evolving world of technology. It seems crazy how my “real life” is merging closer every day with my “online life.” I remember my excitement when I got started with Myspace and Facebook as a teenager. You’d think I would be used to this evolution and merging by now. But the speed of change in our tech-driven world can be intimidating–even to millennials.

As a mom with two young children, I find myself worrying about what my children will grow up with. When is it okay for them to jump into this digital world? But the truth is that our young children are already living in the digital world. Even if we don’t buy them tablets or gaming devices they are constantly surrounded. They see our smartphones, tablets, computers, gaming devices and most of us even have our TVs connected to the internet.

We need to stop being afraid of our kids living and interacting in the digital world. I’m not saying give them free reign at a young age, but there is so much good in the digital world and I want my kids to embrace it!

In the meantime, there are a lot of great FREE resources to help protect our younger children.

Although nothing can be quite as effective as parental supervision, here are six resources to help you keep kids digitally safe.

  1.   YouTube Kids 

YouTube has great educational videos and fun shows and videos for your kids, which is awesome. However, one problem is that YouTube automatically loads another video when the current video finishes. If you are not paying attention, a video you may not want your child to watch will start to play. This has happened to me. To solve this problem there is YouTube Kids! It’s a great app that filters content and you can even set a time limit. Download the YouTube Kids app and look at the YouTube Kids Parental Guide to change settings.

  1.   Netflix Settings

Netflix has a system where you can set age appropriate suggested shows and movies to be on your browsing menu. You can also create different profiles for you and your individual children. To do this, go to the account summary page and select Manage Profiles. You can give each one a name and choose from three age options:  adults, for older kids and below, and for little children only.  This option does not filter what your children can watch, but it limits what kinds of shows are suggested. If your kids know how to use the search feature in Netflix, they can still look up anything on Netflix.

Netflix does have a PIN system that can stop anyone without the PIN from viewing shows and movies with certain ratings. To use this feature, go to the account summary page and select Parental Controls. In this menu, you set your PIN and select which ratings the PIN will apply to.

  1. Amazon Prime Settings

There are a lot of great shows on Amazon Prime. There are also a lot of shows you do not want your kids to click on. Sometimes an inappropriate show will have an appealing name and your child won’t realize they are clicking on something that they shouldn’t. But Amazon Prime has a setting where you can set rating limits and create a PIN that needs to be entered for anything higher than your setting to watch. This feature can be accessed in the settings menu through Preferences. Inside this menu you can set up your filtering preferences with parental controls.

Amazon Prime has also have teamed up with a group called VidAngel that plays clean versions of shows and movies. This feature does cost more though.

  1.   Browsing Filters

Our children want to be able to search the web and we want to make sure they are safe. So filters are a must! There are some amazing free filters out there that help block porn and set time limits. Some of these filters are Qustodio, OpenDNS, Family Shield, Kidlogger, Spyrix Free Keylogger, and Zoodles. Here is an article that summarizes the advantages of these programs and links to download them.

Also check out our series of articles to learn about filtering: Internet Filters: A Vital Tool for Your Home and Internet Filters: The Whole Home Solution.

  1. Safe Search Engines

Our young children often need to do research for school and even for things they just want to learn more about. Sometimes during these searches, they will  have a link or ad pop up that is not appropriate. Google has a great children’s search engine called Kiddle. It helps filter out things you do not want your children to see and has articles targeted for younger ages.

Another great google search tool is Google SafeSearch. It “filters sexually explicit videos and images from all Google search results, as well as anything that may link externally to explicit material” (McKenna, 2016). Here is an article that explains how to set it up. Some other safe search engines that are available are KidRex and Junior Safe Search.

Even with all of the available resources, we as parents need to be vigilant. We need to spend time talking to our children about what they are doing online and monitoring their activity. We can set an example by showing them great websites that educate, uplift and inspire. We can do our best to keep up with the latest technology that can keep our kids safe and facilitate learning. We can help them learn which websites have helpful, informative information and how to avoid dangerous or useless information.

Just as we were taught to be good, decent “citizens,” we need to help our children become true digital citizens in our digital world. And filtering their devices at a young age can be a huge help in healthy internet usage. By protecting their young, undeveloped brains and only allowing them to consume the best of media, we are giving our kids a huge advantage in the world.

As they get older, they will be exposed to potentially harmful information and imagery, so ongoing dialogues are a must. Help them know what to do when exposed to unhealthy media and encourage them to come to you to when they do see something inappropriate. For more ideas and conversation starters, check out How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography and our 30 Days of Sex Talks series.  


Katelyn King is a wife and mother of two children. She is a Brigham Young University-Idaho graduate, with a Bachelor’s degree in Marriage and Family Studies, and she is an advocate for parent child relationships.


Marshall, G. (2017, August 02). The best free parental control software 2017. Retrieved August 20, 2017, from http://www.techradar.com/news/the-best-free-parental-control-software

McKenna, Chris. How to Set Up Google SafeSearch. (2016, June 22). Retrieved August 20, 2017, from http://www.covenanteyes.com/2016/06/13/setup-google-safesearch/

YouTube Kids Parental Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2017, from https://support.google.com/youtubekids/?visit_id=1-636388596481353102-115656554&hl=en&rd=1#topic=6130504

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!


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.


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.


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.


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