Raising Courageous Kids to Confront a Sexualized Culture
In our recent live workshop with Sam Black, Vice President of Business Development at Covenant Eyes, Sam shared some practical tools parents can use to protect their kids against the increasingly sexualized culture that surrounds us. Sam’s biggest takeaway? It’s all about an “ongoing conversation.” Here’s what he taught us:
We live in a world where lost innocence is common.
Sam shared the shocking stories of 13-year-olds comparing notes on pornography, and kids as young as 8 years old being exposed to pornography often by accident or due to harmless curiosity.
These kids and their stories, Sam told us, are not the exception but the unfortunate norm, and this is very difficult for many parents to accept.
There is often a disconnect between what we believe as parents and what the reality is.
It’s easy to think my kids are different, or my kids would look away, or our rules on technology are enough to keep them safe; however, Sam warned against this all-too-common denial. Good kids, really good kids, can be just as susceptible to the traps of a sexualized culture. Kids at church, Sam explained, are sometimes the ones sharing the sexual activity they find online.
Even when parents take technological precautions, Sam shared the shocking statistic that 71% of kids say they hide their online activity from their parents. In light of these unsettling truths, what can you do as a parent? This is where Sam brought us back to his key takeaway: “It’s all about conversation.”
Create an environment for good discussion.
If we are going to combat a highly sexualized culture and prepare our kids to respond appropriately, we must open the lines of communication between parent and child. When your kids have harmless curiosity, you want to make sure you are the source they run to with questions—not their friends or Google. To achieve this, you need an environment for good discussion. These were Sam’s tips on how to create this culture of discussion:
1. Start early.
As soon as your child is old enough to know where their “bathing suit area” is, you should be having age appropriate conversations about outside sexual influences. These conversations with little ones can be very tricky, so Sam recommended resources like the books Good Pictures Bad Pictures and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.
2. Be intentional.
Pick a topic to discuss each month. Write it on the calendar, Sam urged! Don’t let it be random or accidental. When we simply let these conversations happen at random, we run the risk of never talking at all until it’s too late. You can choose to discuss topics like the apps many of our kids are using, what romantic or sexual things your kids may have been exposed to in a movie or TV show, what your kids’ friends are watching or talking about, etc. It’s a great idea to ask your kids for ideas about the topics they want to discuss.
3. Don’t lecture.
Instead of lecturing or giving a one-way presentation about these topics, open the floor to a discussion with your child. If you want your child to feel safe to talk to you, make yourself approachable and let your kids know that nothing is off limits with you.
The tendency for many of us is to react in shock when a child harmlessly asks about a sexual topic. Often, a child will ask about something if they simply overheard it on TV or from a friend. If this harmless question is met with a reprimand, that child will learn not to ask you again and ask Google or other available sources of information the next time.
Instead of reprimanding a child for asking about an inappropriate topic or shaming them for even mentioning a certain word or phrase, turn the situation into a safe space for discussion. Speak in a gentle voice and remind the child that you are glad he or she brought the question to you.
This is complicated terrain, but Sam Black encouraged us to remember that raising courageous kids in the face of a sexualized culture is possible. It just takes practice!
Alpha Omega Publications partners with a variety of experts and guest speakers to bring you exclusive free online workshops. We encourage you to view our upcoming events, and we hope you can attend one of our encouraging and informational workshops soon!