Title: Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids
Authors: Kristen A. Jenson and Gail Poyner, PhD
Have You Talked with Your Children About Pornography?
The holidays are upon us. Wish lists are being scribbled out on pieces of paper, kids are mentioning left and right what they’d like from Santa, Mom, and Dad. No doubt smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are at the top of many lists.
While no time ever seems like a good time to talk about pornography, I think now, is actually the perfect time. Especially as we are considering what to buy for Christmas. Children will be home over the holiday break. And if we choose, we can make time to sit down with them and discuss internet usage, family rules, and… what to do when they come across pornography.
No one likes to talk about pornography.
No one wants to talk about pornography.
But it’s a dialogue we need to have with our children. Earlier than we may think.
Did you know the most common age for kids to begin looking at pornography is between 7 and 12? Many American children begin viewing hard-core internet pornography at the age of seven and even younger, long before most parents consider discussing the dangers (xi).
Pornography has Changed
Pornography isn’t what it used to be when we were children. It is much more deviant, harmful, and often depicts rape. Did you know 90% of internet pornography portrays violence against women?
Pornography is easily accessible from any internet-enabled device. It’s anonymous. It’s affordable (90% view it for free), and even if your child doesn’t own a smart phone, they likely have friends who do.
In recent years, the explosion of pornography has felt like a black mass of tar hanging out in some distant corner of my world. I know it’s there. I know it would be easy to step into, even by accident. So I don’t go anywhere near it.
But when it comes to my children, I have real concerns. How will I make sure they don’t get caught in its pernicious trap? How can I teach them their brain is the very best filter? Since it is becoming a matter of when, not if they are going to see it, how will I help them get those images out of their mind and ensure pornography doesn’t become a habit?
These questions have left me feeling somewhat discouraged, worried, and even fearful.
Ignorance is not Bliss
Three years ago, The LDS Church News printed the following in an editorial,
“Few informed people expect any child to grow toward adulthood without viewing lewd images. The days when parents could avoid the subject [of pornography] in the hope of not fostering curiosity are gone. Indeed, avoiding the subject has brought with it a generation of addiction.”
I am an active member of my church. I have a strong sense for what is right and wrong. And I am doing all I can to teach my five young children to make good choices – to turn away from anything that will harm them physically or spiritually. But I have been surprised again again by good people, even friends, who have lost themselves, their children, or their marriages to pornography.
I have read articles about filters, helpful talking points, and the dangers of pornography. Still, I have come away from the topic feeling helpless and unarmed. Unsure as to how my husband and I can prepare our children to fight the insidious nature of pornography and help them navigate the rapidly increasing demand for internet use among young children. I have wanted to talk to my kids about pornography, but I had no real tools to offer them.
Help is on the Way
Then I received an email from Kristen Jenson, author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures. She had read an article I wrote a few years ago about the impact of images on our brain and wondered if I’d be willing to review her book. She told me the premise of it and why she had written it.
After watching too many young children become ensnared by pornography, she looked and looked for a resource that would help parents teach their children about the dangers of pornography. There was nothing out there. So she decided to write her own book and brought on her co-author, Dr. Gail A. Poyner, a licensed psychologist who has counseled many porn addicts in her practice. Jenson told me their book featured a 5-step plan to inoculate your child against the epidemic of pornography.
I was listening.
I read it.
And within 24 hours of reading it, I used Jenson’s 5-step plan with my oldest daughter who had seen a disturbing commercial for a horror movie in the middle of a football game on daytime television.
We discussed what she could do next time she saw an image she didn’t like or knew was bad.
The Five-Step Plan
First, Close her eyes. Time is of the essence. The longer one is exposed to an image, the harder it is to forget it. Second, Alert a trusted adult. Third, Name it. Call it what it is: pornography. Fourth, Distract her mind. Sing a song, read a good book, recite a scripture or a poem. And last, Order her thinking brain to be in charge of her feeling brain (43).
It’s that simple.
CAN DO™ is the acronym for the five steps. Easy to memorize and understand.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures goes through each of these steps in detail, explaining the neurophysiology behind each.
It teaches with simplicity, that we have two brains. A thinking brain (prefrontal cortex) where we make decisions and weigh things morally. And a feeling brain (limbic system), which is driven by needs, feelings, and chemicals.
It teaches children (and parents too) that we can train our thinking brains to be stronger than our feeling brains.
This Book will Empower Your Family
Jenson and Poyner’s book resolved my feelings of fear connected with this difficult subject, and replaced them with a feeling of empowerment. For the first time, I feel confident talking about pornography with my kids. Wherever they go now, with or without me, I know they have tools to combat its influence.
Since then I have read the book with all three of my daughters, ages 7-9. And I plan to simplify it slightly to teach my twin boys, age 5. It is not necessary to have “the sex talk” before reading the book. Subject matter is presented in clear, tasteful ways, making hard topics accessible and understandable for young children.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures is a read-aloud book about a mom and a dad who work together to educate their son about pornography. A boy sits down with his mother to look at a family album of pictures. The mother mentions that these are good pictures. “They remind us of how important our family and friends are.” Then she says to her son. “Did you know there are bad pictures too?” (1).
That question begins the discussion of pornography. How to define it. Where he is most likely to see it. Why it is so addicting (more so than drugs and alcohol). And why it will actually damage his brain, his spirit, and his relationships with others.
A Child’s Brain is Especially Vulnerable
Here are a few true stories that spurred Jenson to write the book.
An eight-year old girl who received the “sex talk” from her parents, then got an internet-enabled device for her birthday. Her innocent curiosity prompted online searches, which quickly led to the violent and degraded world of hard-core pornography. Previously a happy and outgoing girl, she became withdrawn and depressed before her mother discovered her porn habit (xi).
A seven-year-old boy was shown a pornographic magazine by his older cousins. After that shocking initial exposure, he felt compelled to seek out more nude pictures though he knew nothing about sex. Later, the internet proved a slippery slope to decades of addiction (xi).
Another seven-year-old boy was molested by his foster sister, initiating his premature interest in sex. As a preteen he found internet pornography. But it wasn’t until he was 17 that his parents found out the devastating truth that he’d been molesting his younger siblings for years, all the while hiding his porn addiction (xii).
These examples make my stomach churn. I don’t even like including them here. But before we begin to think something like this could never happen to us, or to our child, we would be wise to admit, it could happen to us.
But I believe we can curb that initial exposure if our children have tools and a plan for how they will react. Additionally, they need a parent who has calmly discussed the issue with them and can now be their ally.
Jenson calls this porn-proofing our kids.
“When it comes to kids and pornography, ignorance is risk. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture, so raising kids with sexual integrity requires early warning. Why? A child’s brain is more vulnerable because it rapidly forms neural connections. Viewing pornography can reprogram a child’s brain and initiate an addiction that is often harder to overcome than drugs and alcohol” (xii).
Jenson and Poyner describe pornography as a “sinister counterfeit” – something that teaches kids that sex is a self-gratifying and often violent diversion, instead of a way to build a loving committed relationship. Watch this video to see illustrations from the book and hear Jenson talk about its content.
A Pre-Emptive Strike
Jenson and Poyner’s message is one of prevention.
In a recent email, Jenson shared this insightful comment with me,
“We need to get in early enough with young kids to make a difference in their attitudes and to arm them with a strong spiritual and cognitive defense. If we want our children to love good books, we make sure they learn the cognitive skill of reading so they can access and benefit from those reads. In the same vein, if we want our children to stay pure and free from pornography, we must teach them the cognitive skill of using their thinking brain to reject porn in order to achieve that spiritual goal. Staying free from pornography is much harder now than it was five years ago. We’ve got to give kids actual tools then can use to defend themselves.”
Good Pictures Bad Pictures is the kind of gift that will keep on giving. For generations.
Dr. Poyner mentioned recently that she treats children who not only have become involved with porn, but have escalated that behavior to molestation of other children, including siblings. To say their futures are in jeopardy is an understatement. She said that helping kids avoid pornography is “giving them their future.”
In the Spirit of Giving
With Christmas just around the corner, you might be interested to know that Jenson and Poyner, with all their knowledge and experience, do not recommend giving kids their own mobile device. They urge parents to give their children access to a mobile device they have purchased for the family where parents retain ownership and passwords.
You may want to consider giving the gift of this book. To children, grandchildren, or friends.
Jenson is offering readers who purchase the book a $5 discount code through December 25th.
Click on this link for the Good Pictures Bad Pictures e-store
Enter the password: PPKGPBPGCP
Enter the Discount Code: TMLQ8GL8
I am so grateful to Jenson and Poyner, for their hours of research, their motivation, and their committed dedication to fighting pornography. They have created a comfortable way for me to talk about it with my children.
I don’t feel afraid anymore. I feel equipped and armed. And so do my children.
Listen to April Perry’s interview with Kristen Jenson on Power of Moms radio by clicking here. A great discussion on how to protect children from porn.
Author Becky Edwards also reviewed Good Pictures Bad Pictures. Her review is here.
Jenson’s blog, pornproofkids.com, is a tremendous resource. It offers all kinds of ideas on strengthening internal filters, children’s rights, how pornography can hurt the brain, and how you can protect your child’s digital footprint.
Jenson has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a master’s degree in Organizational Communication, and is a mother of three.
Poyner is a licensed psychologist, mother of six, and grandmother to fourteen. In addition to running her own therapy services, she provides mental health services for disaster victims.
As a point of additional information, Good Pictures Bad Pictures is also available on Amazon. And is now available in Deseret Book bookstores.
Kristen A. Jenson says
Thanks so much for your review, Catherine and Power of Moms! This holiday season, let’s give the proactive gift of protection! Parents can arm their kids and help them install their own internal filter before they get hooked and while kids still see their parents as their main, trusted source of information. Thank you for helping to get the word out about a tool that can help parents do this.
Emily C. says
Thanks for such a detailed, hope-filled review. We’ve talked briefly with our 7 and 11 year old but it sounds like Good Pictures, Bad Pictures would provide help for additional, on-going discussions and the action plan for when (not if) they’re exposed to anything. I’d love to win (and appreciate the discount offer in case I don’t win)!
Linda Eyre says
Hoorah! Thanks for this crucial reminder about the dangers of pornography for young kids and a way to actually talk about it with a book to help us know what to say! We’ll use this recommendation often! Great writing as usual. Love it!
This is fantastic! I Love having concrete tools to use, this would work with even my teens!
Kim Daley says
A very good idea! We need to talk with our kids about these topics. I totally agree about the WHEN not IF they are exposed to porn. It will happen. I’m glad to see books and resources becoming available to help is mothers arm our kids against these things.
Excellent article Catherine!! Very pertinent for any family. I love the concept of teaching children “steps” to fight pornography and especially the first step-“closing eyes”. Looks like an excellent read. Sincere thanks for your review. You do so many good things for all of us in the world. Would love to read this special book to my family. Thank you!!
A Russ says
I’d love a copy for children/grandchildren.
This sounds great! I’d love to have an easier way to talk to my kids about pornography- right now it just seems so scary and daunting.
Angie Center says
I’m so thankful that I listened to this podcast. It was so insightful to me and I was excited to share with my husband the things I learned that we will be implementing into our home. I would love to win a copy of this book. Thanks for the chance to win!
I am terrified of broaching this topic with my oldest, a five year old boy, but this book makes it seem doable!
Wonderful review! Very excited to have this book as part of our family reference library and to share it with friends! Thanks!
Suzanne Chapman says
O Cath, You have always been an “angel unaware” in helping find resources to combat this world. As my hubby and I strive to raise 5 children (4 boys), the lure of pornography scares us since it has already destroyed the lives of 2 beloved family members. Just this week, our Thanksgiving feast had a dark cloud over it as a nephew’s addiction landed him in prison. Talking about pornography in appropriate ways is the best way we can think to combat/ prevent addiction, but these are conversations that I never dreamed of having to have when I began motherhood just over a decade ago. I’d love this resource to help me know what to say, how to say it, and to help it become a comfortable topic. Pornography flourishes in secrecy and this book is a tool to help bring it into the light. Thanks for the review.
Congratulations Suzanne! You won a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures! Please email us @ [email protected] with your full name and email address by tomorrow 12/11!
Suzanne Chapman says
Michelle Davis says
with a houseful of young kids, this book will be a great resource for us.
Elodie Taylor says
What an insightful article Katherine… It is an issue I have been worried about for my boys who are growing up and out of our home most of the day… and definitely something I want to address more deeply with them… I would love to get that book!
This book sounds great!
This book sounds like a great tool – I’d love to have a copy!
I would love to win one of these books!
Bridget Lee says
Thank you for writing this book and giving us tools to help teach our children. I have been talking with my kids for several years now about “bad pictures” but had mostly gotten to the tell mom or dad step. This is so great and I look forward to reading this!
Lillie Ricks says
Sounds like an amazing resource!!! I would love a copy.
Mary Bailey says
So grateful you are a step ahead of my on this parenting roller-coaster! This is a resource that I’m going to purchase for my family. (Unless I win it…) I’m so grateful to know about it so that I can begin to prepare myself for the hard topic/discussion of pornography I know I will need to have with my boys in the near future.
Christy young says
Sounds like a great book! I’ll need to put it on my goodreads list! I’ll make it a goal to read with my 8 yr old!
I would love to win this book. Pornography is a very real thing, especially now, and I want to be able to have tools to teach my family so that we can combat it together!
I don’t need to be entered in the giveaway, but I just want to say that I own this book and think it is an excellent resource! I am grateful to have it.
Jennifer G. says
We have had family discussions on this topic, but I’d love to have this book to teach my children how to be in control of their thoughts, even if bad pictures try to infect those thoughts.
Something I had hoped not to deal with just yet but as the commercials become less and less appropriate, the lines are blurring..can’t wait to read.
I have talked to my kids about this, but would love to win a copy. I know I need to have more conversations with them about this topic, especially since they spend a lot of time with family members who don’t share my values and I worry about what they might be exposed to.
Congratulations Jessie! You won a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures! Please email us @ [email protected] with your full name and email address by tomorrow 12/11 to receive your book!
This is such a difficult subject. I would love to have a better dialogue and plan for our family. Thank you for informing us about such a great resource!
I would gain great comfort in having this book at this time in my life! Thank you!
This would be a great tool for me to talk to my girls about pornography. Thank you for sharing.
I am very interested in winning a copy of this book. Reading the review gives me hope for a way to talk to my children about pornography and I am excited to get started!
I already had this book on my to-buy list and would love to read it with my kids. What a great tool to help us teach our children how to deal with some of the harsh realities of our world. Thank you!
This has been on my mind lately, too especially after reading about now kids between ages 7 and 12 are being exposed to pornography. Yikes. Would love a copy to prepare and prevent. Thanks so much for this wonderful review!
Pornography is a subject that is very important to me. I have a dear friend who lost her marriage to pornography. I want to do all I can to arm my children with the tools they need to respond appropriately to images. I would love to win a copy of this book to help me teach and protect my children.
Congratulations Star! You won a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures! Please email us @ [email protected] with your full name and email address by tomorrow 12/11 to receive your book!
Melissa Black says
I have recently seen pornography almost destroy a family that I am very close to. It was a devastating discovery and made me fear more than ever that my four year old twin boys and my one year old girl are growing up in a world where pornography is so easily accessible and exposure is often unavoidable. I am trying to have faith and be proactive, but it is still a daunting problem to tackle. We have already talked with our boys about it, but I would love to have the book as another resource. This is a discussion that will be ongoing in our family.
Congratulations Melissa! You won a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures! Please email us @ [email protected] with your full name and email address by tomorrow 12/11 to receive your book!
Just emailed my info. Thanks!!!
The book sounds like a great resource to help have a difficult discussion with our kids.
Margot Hakanson says
I would love to win one of these books. I have three boys and want to keep them safe!
Kristi Linton says
Thank you! I recently heard about this book through my sister-in-laws and was excited to finally get my hands on it over the holidays at one of their homes. I’m sold! If we win one of these, great. If not, we’re headed to the e-store! 🙂 Thank you so much for making this available!
Such an important subject to talk to your kids about, would love a copy of this book!
This is so, so important in our day. Thank you for being willing to take the stand that pornography is wrong in a time when so many individuals and companies are supporting it. What a wonderful resource to have for our kids.
Thank you for the great review. I would love to win a copy, but I’m buying it too (I can always give one as a gift).
I have been wanting to get this book for quite awhile now. I have 4 (almost 5) boys, and this is a topic that has really concerned me for a long time. I am so grateful someone is providing tools to help teach young children how to protect themselves!
Hooray for sensitive people who see a need and do something about it, and in the process, bless many lives. Compelling review, Catherine. I will purchase this book, and if I happen to win a copy, then comes the hard part of figuring out which of my many friends to gift it to. (Good problem to have!)
I would LOVE a copy of this book. thank you for covering this topic on Power of Moms.
Elizabeth Smith says
What a wonderful review! Just this week I had heard about this book from my parents’ stake president.
I’d love to win a copy!
Stephanie Bruce says
This sounds like such a great resource. I’ve wondered about having this conversation with my kids. With or without the book, I’m inspired to discuss it with them!!
Chris Hansen says
I would love to have a copy!
Congratulations Chris! You won a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures! Please email us @ [email protected] with your full name and email address by tomorrow 12/11 to receive your book!
Chris Hansen says
Thank you! I look forward to using it with my (soon to be) five children.
I would love a copy of this book to read with my kids.
My kiddos are 8 and 10 and though we’ve had the *talk* with my daughter, I’m realizing we need to do the same with my son. I love that there is a book out there to help!
Hello, I was watching a long video interview I believe you did with Kristin Jensen and Gail Poyner discussing the book. If you have this video link, would you please send it to me or post it again? Thank you.