Recently my husband and I were discussing how to teach our kids to protect themselves. How to protect themselves from dangerous people or dangerous situations… even with people who they know or have known and feel safe with…
We’ve been trying to figure out how to equip them to avoid the potential for molestation or being introduced to pornography at a very young age. It is sad but true that our kids very well may be exposed to one of these things. When you look at the statistics it is frightening:
- 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 20 boys is a victim of child sexual abuse;
- Self-report studies show that 20% of adult females and 5-10% of adult males recall a childhood sexual assault or sexual abuse incident;
- During a one-year period in the U.S., 16% of youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
- Over the course of their lifetime, 28% of U.S. youth ages 14 to 17 had been sexually victimized;
- Children are most vulnerable to CSA between the ages of 7 and 13.
These are only stats of REPORTED cases. And then when you look at the possibility of a child being assaulted by someone they know, it’s even scarier. 3 out of 4 children are victimized by someone they KNOW WELL. They need to be aware. They need to be taught to watch out for “tricky people” more than to watch out for strangers. They need to know what is appropriate and what isn’t and what they would do or say if an adult or child that they know tried anything with them. This is equipping, not stealing.
9 out of 10 boys were exposed to pornography before the age of 18, and 6 out of 10 girls before the age of 18. How does this affect children in their developmental years? A youth’s heavy involvement with pornography has been shown to significantly lower self-esteem and greater feelings of loneliness and depression, and raises the likelihood of teen pregnancy… you can read more here and here if you can stomach it.
In our discussions about equipping our kids the idea of “not wanting to steal their innocence” often comes up. I get that argument, I really do. No parent wants to scare their kids or take away any sense of innocence they have. But I’ve personally come to this conclusion:
I would rather “steal” my child’s innocence by telling them of the dangers they could face than have someone else steal it by giving them an unpleasant and harmful experience. I, as their mother, will be far more gentle and loving than that kind of experiential knowledge would be. The memory of me telling them of these dangers would not ever come close to the pain that molestation could cause them for the rest of their life.
I’m definitely not talking about using language or ideas that are above their age level, all things should be presented in an age appropriate way. Just as I tell them not to touch fire because it’s hot, I want to tell them how to keep themselves out of dangerous situations. Just as a woman who is equipped with self-defense knowledge is less attractive to an attacker, a child equipped with knowledge of how to protect themselves is less attractive to a predator.
Often the lack of knowledge about pornography creates a curiosity that can lead the child to seek it out on their own. An innocent web search on his ipod led this 7 year old on a bunny trail of searches that ended with a porn video. Here’s what the mom has to say now:
“This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war. It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children. I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah. I don’t care. I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.”
Her advice is this: uninstall browsers or the ability to search on all your kids devices, have ONE central computer that is in the middle of everything in the home and use filtering software. Can we be certain that they will not encounter pornography even with all these safety measures in place? No, we can’t.
Sadly my boys encounter soft porn every time we go to the grocery store. I have spoken often with the manager of my local HEB about the placement of these magazines right at my boys’ eye level…but nothing changes. Other people do not see the dangers like I do and they don’t care for my children as I do.
So what’s the answer? We equip our boys and girls with skills to handle the traps and snares the world will undoubtedly throw in their path. We teach our 9 and 13 year old boys to “bounce their eyes”. They are aware of what this is and they are aware of what it can lead to; they are aware that pornography is addicting and it ruins lives. Will they always choose to bounce their eyes? I don’t know, I sure hope so and I pray they will. But as they get older it becomes a matter of the heart, right now they are babies and it’s a matter of protection. It’s my job to teach them.
When my husband was in 5th grade he was having a blast, as young boys do, skating in a parking lot. Laying in that parking lot was a magazine, one you would not want your 5th grader seeing. It was right there, almost slapping him in the face. Because he had been warned (despite his natural curiosity) he immediately threw it down and left. Also at the same age while he was at a friend’s house they asked if he wanted to see a magazine they had. He said, “No!’ amongst the jeers from his friends and being called a prude.
Thank God that he had been told of the inherent dangers of viewing porn! This was WAY back in the day when there were only magazines assaulting our kids, these days with the advancement of technology it is far, far easier for children to have access to questionable content.
Do I want to “steal” my child’s innocence? In short, no of course I don’t, but I will tell them these hard truths:
If it means that they will be better equipped to protect themselves,
If it means they will be aware when a child or adult tries to harm them sexually,
If it means that they aware of what could turn into a dangerous situation,
If it means that they will avoid pornography like their father did because they had been warned.
I wish we lived in a world that was safer, one where we never had to have these conversations. One where kids could be free to be kids and be safe.
Things just aren’t the same. We place our hope and our prayers and our children in God’s capable hands, AND we choose to equip our children with the knowledge to keep themselves safe as well. I realize this topic could ruffle some feathers, so I’ll ask if you choose to comment or disagree (which is fine) please stay civil and respectful. How have you helped your kids stay safe in this area?
Resources to help you talk to your kids about these topics:
Focus on The Family on Talking to your Kids about Sexual Abuse– this is a good basic approach but does not provide any information in teaching your children to avoid situations
Tricky People Are The New Strangers– great tips for parent and kids to be aware of tricky people and situations and to avoid them
Here are some links to books to help talk about our bodies and safety. If you don’t like something in the book throw that part out. I’m not endorsing these, just passing on information. Please read reviews for yourself and pick what works for your family.