Does your 3-year-old ever play with your phone, iPad or computer? Does your 5-year-old have access to the internet when they’re at the home of a friend or family member? If you answered yes, the time has come to warn your preschoolers about pornography.
I know it sounds crazy, but raising kids in the digital age means helping your son or daughter safely navigate an often predatory, sex-saturated world. Even in games like Minecraft (geared to kids ages 4+), children are confronted with sexual situations. And their curiosity often gets the better of them. That’s why it’s so important to prepare kids early to reject pornography.
And it’s not as difficult as you think!
When I published Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, I knew that parents were hungry for a comfortable way to begin talking to their children about the dangers of pornography. It was obvious that kids as young as 7 years old needed to be empowered to protect their precious minds from pornography addiction.
However, soon parents were asking me to create a simpler book to help them warn their preschoolers. In Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds, parents find it easy to define pornography in an age-appropriate way, teach a simple Turn, Run & Tell plan, and begin conversations about privacy, appropriate picture sharing, and how to “forget” bad pictures.
Throughout my travels and speaking engagements, people often ask why I started writing these books in the first place. The answer comes from a heartbreaking story that has become all too common.
Several years ago, I received a late-night phone call from a traumatized LDS mother who told me about her 17-year-old son. He had been sexually molesting his younger siblings—imitating the pornography he’d been viewing from the time he was in elementary school.
The next morning I searched for a children’s book to explain the dangers of pornography addiction and provide an action plan for how to keep kids safe online. But I couldn’t find any. So I published Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids to fill this much-needed resource gap.
Now it has expanded into a series, including translations into multiple languages. It’s so exciting to see these tools helping parents teach kids to reject pornography.
As I continue reaching out to parents and families, many of them have similar questions. Below are some of my answers, including tips on how to use the books, and other resources my team and I have created.
What is the best age to begin talking to a child about pornography?
The best time to start talking to a child about pornography is when they first have access to the Internet. Even very young children can understand these major concepts: bad pictures exist, they’re called pornography, they can hurt your brain and if you ever see any, tell a parent or trusted adult if you ever see them.
Elder Quentin L. Cook in his 2012 general conference talk, issued this warning:
“I recently had an insightful conversation with a 15-year-old Aaronic Priesthood holder...[He] earnestly asked if the Apostles knew how early in life teaching and protecting against pornography and impure thoughts should start. With emphasis, he stated that...even before youth graduate from Primary is not too early.”
How is your new book different from your original Good Pictures Bad Pictures?
Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. also has beautiful watercolor illustrations and my illustrator, Debbie Fox, added a fun feature into it—19 hidden cameras for kids to find! Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is a hardcover book so it’s more durable for younger kids. And it’s much simpler—I don’t go into the brain science like the one for older children.
It begins with lots of examples of good pictures and then simply states, “Some pictures are good. But some pictures are not good. They’re bad for you.” From that point, the book gives kids a simple definition of “bad pictures,” explains the importance of keeping private parts private, makes the analogy that bad pictures are “picture poison” and then provides a simple 3-step plan: “Turn, Run and Tell” that prepares kids to deal with accidental exposure to inappropriate content.
What if talking to my kids about pornography makes them more curious to see it?
Kids are curious! Their brains are hardwired to be curious and that’s exactly why parents need to talk to their kids about pornography earlier rather than later. You want to be the one to answer their questions—proactively, on your own terms. It’s much safer for them to be curious about pornography with you by their side than for them to be curious when they’re alone on the internet or with a friend.
I join many experts who believe that the days when parents could avoid the subject of pornography in the hope of not fostering curiosity are long gone. It’s not a matter of if our children will see pornography; it’s a matter of when.
Why is it so hard for parents to begin these conversations about pornography?
I have found that even parents who know a lot about the brain-damaging effects of pornography (even therapists!) have difficulties knowing how to begin the conversation with their young kids. This isn’t surprising. How do you talk to kids about an adult issue that involves sex and yet make it appropriate for kids? How do parents warn young kids before their child becomes interested in pornography and while the child still sees the parent as a credible source of information?
This is why it took almost three years to write the original Good Pictures Bad Pictures! We wanted to make sure parents could read this book to kids before they had the sex talk because as we all know, young kids have access to the Internet and are getting exposed to the hardcore material at younger and younger ages.
Both Good Pictures Bad Pictures books will help accomplish these crucial tasks for parenting in the digital age:
First, give your kids an age-appropriate definition of pornography
They’ll recognize pornography when they see it and have the words to report exposure to you. Your kids will know you want them to come and talk with you and ask you their questions. It’s so important to set yourself up as the expert on these topics instead of their friends or Google!
Second, explain the harmful consequences of viewing pornography
It can hurt your brain with an addiction and it can hurt how you view other people. Staying free from pornography is the way to keep your brain and mind healthy and safe!
Third, empower kids with a specific plan
They’ll know exactly what to do when they are exposed to pornography! The feedback I receive is kids get excited about protecting their brains. In our original book, we use the words CAN DO as an acronym for the plan which makes it easy for kids to remember and inspires confidence that they CAN DO what they need to do to minimize porn’s impact on their thoughts.
The first part of the plan (CAN) helps kids respond appropriately the moment they are exposed to pornography. The second part of the plan (DO) helps kids neutralize the shocking memories that seeing pornography creates. Get a free PDF copy of the CAN DO Plan on our Protect Young Minds blog.
My new book, Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr., gives even younger kids a “Turn, Run and Tell” plan. Using either of these plans will empower kids to fight back against accidental exposure to harmful, explicit pornography.
Every child deserves the tools to build a porn-free life!
With all these strategies in place, kids stand a much better chance of rejecting pornography when they see it and are curious about it.
Besides your books, what other resources have you created to help parents?
My team and I have pulled together practical tools and advice from experts to answer your most agonizing questions so you don’t have to face this challenge alone. Whether you’re looking to prepare kids with a plan to prevent addiction, help and heal kids who have already been exposed, or share and speak up to educate your community, we have resources to help you.
Protect Young Minds keeps proactive parents current with news and helpful tips (www.ProtectYoungMinds.org)
Our Quick-Start Guide empowers parents step-by-step with a plan to protect their kids
Our Smart Parents Guide helps kids begin to heal from pornography exposure or use
Our Ambassador Kit supports advocates who want to give every child in their community the tools they need to build a porn-free life
Dozens of more FREE downloadable guides like our popular 3 Secrets to Porn-Immune Kids are available.
Visit www.ProtectYoungMinds.org for more information and FREE parenting guides to help parents and other caring adults protect kids from pornography’s influence.
Kristen A. Jenson is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books including the best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. She is also founder of ProtectYoungMinds.org, a website dedicated to helping parents empower their kids to reject pornography. Kristen has testified before the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee on the public health crisis of pornography. She is a frequent speaker and guest on podcasts, webinars and radio broadcasts, and is a leader in the Prevention Task Force of the National Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation.
Young children deserve to be armed early against internet dangers. Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. makes it easy for parents to protect their young kids ages 3–6. Using gentle, age-appropriate messages, children will learn to Turn, Run & Tell when they are accidentally exposed to inappropriate content.
Written by best-selling author Kristen A. Jenson of the original Good Pictures Bad Pictures book, the Jr. version is a comfortable, effective way for proactive parents to empower their young kids with their first internal filter!