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How to Talk to Your Kids About…Strangers

As parents, we know we need to talk to our children about strangers, but it is hard to know how to talk to our children without scaring them.

Start by helping your children understand what a stranger is. A stranger is anyone that your family doesn’t know very well. They don’t have to look mean and evil like TV portrays.

When I was explaining strangers to our daughter, she said, “but we don’t know policemen, so are they strangers?”

Ah, after talking about bad strangers, be sure you explain that there are also Safe Strangers. Safe strangers are those people that our children can go to for help. Firemen, policemen, and teachers are good examples.

Once your child understands what a stranger is, talk about dangerous situations.

Explain to your children that anytime an adult…

  • Asks your child to keep a secret
  • Asks them for directions or help
  • Does or says something that makes them uncomfortable
  • Encourages them to disobey you or do something wrong

They need to get away and tell an adult immediately.

Next, role-play situations that your child might be faced with. (Helping your children understand that in these situations, it is okay to say “no” to an adult). Some examples might include…

  • A stranger asks your child if they want a ride home
  • A stranger stops to ask if your child has seen their missing dog
  • A stranger asks your child for directions
  • A stranger asks your child if they want a treat or candy.

Talk to your child about what to do if they are ever faced with one of these situations.

  1. Never get close to the car, or the stranger. Keep your distance.
  2. Yell “No” as loud as you can and run away from the stranger.
  3. Tell an adult, or safe stranger what has happened right away.

Practice possible dangerous situations so your children know what to do. This will give them more confidence if the situation ever presents itself, and will give you a little peace of mind as you send them out the door each day.

No Forced Kisses for Your Kids: A Holiday Safety Tip for Families

As parents well know, the holiday season is both incredibly exciting and potentially overwhelming for kids, sometimes all rolled together into one. At gatherings with families and friends, expectations about affection, attention, and teasing can create unnecessary stress and discomfort. By accepting our children’s different personalities and thinking through our boundaries ahead of time, we can teach our kids important life skills and make holiday parties and reunions more fun.

Most of us can remember being pressured to just “suffer through it” from our own childhoods. Who doesn’t recall being forced to kiss “Great Aunt Edna” as a kid, or getting scratched by Uncle Bob’s beard as he leaned in for a squeeze? Or, being told to just ignore the teasing and roughhousing of our cousins?

As a mother, I can relate to the embarrassment that a parent might feel when a child doesn’t want to give a big hug to Grandma when she walks in the door—especially if Grandma has been eagerly anticipating the visit for weeks and months. But through my work teaching personal safety as a Kidpower instructor, I have learned that supporting our children when they set boundaries is a very important practice.

Backing up a child who doesn’t want to be kissed or hugged does not mean that Grandma, or Great Aunt Edna, or Uncle Bob or Cousin Sara are doing anything wrong, but it does demonstrate that touch and play for affection or fun is your child’s choice in all situations. The holidays are a perfect time to work on “boundary setting” with our kids, so they feel confident and empowered as they move through different ages and stages of life.

When possible, try to bring relatives into this conversation ahead of time, letting them know that you are practicing with the kids to help them learn to set boundaries—and who better to practice with than people who know and care about the kids. That way, when a child sets a boundary with Grandma, she can feel that she’s part of a positive practice rather than left out. Some parents report that this is a difficult conversation to have, but I maintain that is an important one, and an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and exploration. Many parents feel that their culture has expectations the children show adults respect through affection.

At Kidpower, we have found that this is truly a cross-cultural phenomena across a wide variety of backgrounds, and an issue that is worth addressing: how can we come up with ways for children to show respect to their elders in ways that feel nurturing and respectful to the child as well? One point I like to emphasize about child safety is to ask “How can we expect our children to set clear boundaries about touch when they are on their own, if we do not support them in doing so when we are together with our families, standing right there in a position to advocate for our kids and back them up?” In practice, this may be as simple (yet powerful) as saying, “Do you want to give Grandma a hug, a high-five, a kiss, or a wave? ….Not right now? Okay… Maybe you’ll want to blow a kiss or do a high-five later.”

Some kids are social butterflies and will thrive on the opportunities to be the center of attention. Be prepared to help them to notice the boundaries of others and to remember to follow your safety rules about Checking First before changing the plan, even in a family gathering. Other children are more reserved and are best off being allowed to warm up at their own pace. They might need your involved advocacy to redirect unwanted attention away from them and your help in setting boundaries when well-meaning adults try to pressure them.

Even if a relative is offended when a child does not want to kiss or hug them, this is an important time to keep in mind the bottom line—kids need to learn from an early age that touch or play for affection or fun should be the choice of BOTH people, safe, allowed by the adults in charge, and not a secret. This core safety rule should be respected in all situations. (Editor’s Note: remember…this is not just a “keep my child safe “during COVID” rule – this is a teach my child a skill that will keep them safe “for LIFE” rule).

Touch or play for affection or fun should be the choice of BOTH people, safe, allowed by the adults in charge, and not a secret.

It’s confusing for kids to try to set aside their feelings of discomfort for certain kinds of affection or teasing in the name of good manners, since it gives young people a contradictory message about their boundaries. Keep in mind Kidpower’s founding principle: A child’s safety and healthy self-esteem are more important than ANYONE’s embarrassment, inconvenience, or offense. Or, more simply stated: Put Safety First.

Here are additional Kidpower resources about how to use boundaries to make our holiday gatherings truly joyful:

6 Layers of Protection That Keep Your Child Safe Around Water

How many layers of protection does the child in this photo have? Coat to prevent against the elements? Check. Securely buckled into an approved car seat? Check. Extra blanket for warmth? Check. A car that has passed stringent safety tests? Check. But the most important layer is the one you can’t see – he is constantly being taught to always buckle up when he is going in a car – by your actions and possibly by your words. We can make our children’s environment safe by using car seats, safety belts, airbags and cars with good crash-test ratings, but unless we teach a child why those things exist and how to use them, we are only doing half the job of protecting them in the future.

‘Layers of protection’ is the buzzword of choice for drowning prevention. It makes sense for exactly the same reasons we teach children to buckle up. Young children are learning self-control and cause-and-effect – our job is to keep them safe while they are learning, but also to teach them how to be safe, and why, at the same time.

To keep your child safe around water, here are the basic layers of protection you need.

  1. Never leave a child unattended in the bathtub. Personally my rule-of-thumb is that they must excel on a swim team or choose to shower instead of bathe before this rule ends.
  2. If you have a pool, fence the pool. Not the yard, the pool. Look at installing self-closing gates, door alarms and pool alarms as an added layer of protection. Safety Turtle is a great portable choice for holidays and trips to Grandma’s.
  3. Always watch your child near water. Assign an adult to be a ‘Water Watcher’ for 10 minutes, give them a whistle, badge or a sign to hold to remind them that their only job is watching the kids, then rotate so that no one loses focus or misses out on the adult fun.
  4. Empty and turn over buckets, wading pools and anything else that can collect water. Think about covering any ornamental pools or bird baths while your children are under five.
  5. Learn CPR, because drowning happens in under 2 minutes in under 2 inches of water. Accidents do happen. Your local Red Cross or Park District will have classes.
  6. The most important layer though is teaching your child how to be safe around water. Talk to them about why there are fences, why you are watching them, why they need an adult around whenever they are near water – back up your actions with explanations. There is a book about water safety that young children (under 5) love, that can help you with this conversation. It’s called ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’.

With everyone of these actions you are sending two positive messages that will keep your child safe their whole life: Water is fun and you need to act responsibly and safely around water.

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Jabari, which means “brave” in Swahili, is a cute and lovable lion cub. Like most young children, he’s energetic, enthusiastic, curious, and sometimes even a bit mischievous. But Jabari always wants to do the right thing. Children will easily relate to him and want to emulate his positive behavior. Through Jabari’s stories and adventures, children will learn how to be safe in the water. And parents will learn the biggest lesson of all: Always watch your children while they’re in the water. ‘Jabari Makes A Splash’ is available on Amazon.com.

Do NOT let A Predator Make Your Child a Victim

As Parents we want to protect our children from all harm and evil! We can’t! But we can be informed and keep our children savvy and enlightened!

Predator pic1There are predators out there and our children are their targets. What I’m going to talk about will shock and horrify you. It will make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Some of you might even want to stop reading here because this is the subject of horror movies and nightmares. This is something most of us would rather die than imagine happen to our children. But I implore you to continue, this is too important to ignore.

As a medical professional, I have seen firsthand the toll something like this can take on a child. The effects are devastating and life long. The incidence of crimes against children is on the rise. I’m sorry to have to tell you that unfortunately the times we live in are too dangerous to turn a blind eye.

I have some staggering statistics that are probably going to make you sick. I also have some tools to EMPOWER YOU and your CHILDREN! You do not need to be a helpless victim!

According to family watchdog an online Sex Offender Registry

  • 1 of 5 girls and 1 of 6 boys will be molested before their 18th birthday.
  • 90% of all sexual assaults against children are committed by someone whom the victim knew.
  • The typical sexual predator will assault 117 times before being caught.
  • The re-arrest rate for convicted child molesters is 52%.
  • That your child will become a victim of a sex offender is 1 in 3 for girls & 1 in 6 for boys. **Source: The National Center for Victims of Crime
  • Over 2,000 children are reported missing every day.

Background on Registered Sex Offender Laws:

The U.S. Congress has passed several laws that require states to monitor registered sex offenders; the Jacob Wetterling Crimes against Children Act, the Pam Lychner Sex Offender tracking and Identification Act and Megan’s Law.

On March 5, 2003, The Supreme Court ruled that information about registered sex offenders may be posted on the Internet. Good for us!

Let’s take advantage of these laws!!! This is Not about Vigilantism! This is about being INFORMED! This is about KNOWING where REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS in YOUR AREA LIVE and WORK!!

Here are some excellent places to start:

  • National Sex Offender Public Website where you can search by name
  • National Alert Registry
  • Search for Sex Offenders in your area if there are offenders in your area there is a key to show you where they work and where they live. You can click on these boxes and a picture of the offender will pop up.
  • iTouch also has 2 great applications! 1 is free. It allows you to download 3 free searches of Registered Sex offenders in your Area. For a Small one time fee you can download the full program which lets you search whatever zip code you want! This would be very useful while traveling!
  • The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children “NCMEC” is a WEALTH of information!! As the nation’s resource center for protecting children they have NUMEROUS free online downloadable publications that EVERY parent needs to take advantage of! Their prevention and safety education programs and materials contain information and tips that will help you keep your children safer. I suggest you go to this site at your leisure and READ READ READ!! It could very well save you some heartache!

For decades, children were taught to stay away from “strangers.” But this concept is difficult for children to grasp and often the perpetrator is someone the child knows. It is more beneficial to help build Children’s confidence and teach them to respond to a potentially dangerous situation, rather than teaching them to look out for a particular type of person.

Here are some tips to help you take some first steps to help them avoid becoming a victim:

  • Make sure you know where each of your children is at all times. Know your children’s friends and be clear with your children about the places and homes they may visit. Make it a rule for your children to check-in with you when they arrive at or depart from a particular location and when there is a change in plans. You should also let them know when Predators - NCMECyou’re running late or if your plans have changed to show the rule is for safety purposes and not being used to “check up” on them.
  • Never leave children unattended in a vehicle, whether it is running or not. Children should never be left unsupervised or allowed to spend time alone or with others in vehicles as the potential dangers to their safety outweigh any perceived convenience or “fun.” Remind children to never hitchhike, approach a vehicle, or engage in a conversation with anyone within a vehicle they do not know and trust. Also they should never go anywhere with anyone without first getting your permission.
  • Be involved in your children’s activities. As an active participant you’ll have a better opportunity to observe how the adults in charge interact with your children. If you are concerned about anyone’s behavior, take it up with the sponsoring organization.
  • Listen to your children. Pay attention if they tell you they don’t want to be with someone or go somewhere. This may be an indication of more than a personality conflict or lack of interest in the activity or event.
  • Notice when anyone shows one or all of your children a great deal of attention or begins giving them gifts. Take the time to talk to your children about the person and find out why that person is acting in this way.
  • Teach your children they have the right to say NO to any unwelcome, uncomfortable, or confusing touch or actions by others and get out of those situations as quickly as possible. If avoidance is not an option, children should be taught to kick, scream, and resist. When in such a situation, teach them to loudly yell, “This person is not my father/mother/guardian,” and then immediately tell you if this happens. Reassure them you’re there to help and it is okay to tell you anything.
  • Be sensitive to any changes in your children’s behavior or attitude. Encourage open communication and learn how to be an active listener. Look and listen to small cues and clues indicating something may be troubling your children, because children are not always comfortable disclosing disturbing events or feelings. This may be because they are concerned about your reaction to their problems. If your children do confide problems to you, strive to remain calm, reassuring, and nonjudgmental. Listen compassionately to their concern, and work with them to get the help they need to resolve the problem.
  • Be sure to screen babysitters and caregivers. Many jurisdictions now have a public registry allowing parents and guardians to check out individuals for prior criminal records and sex offenses. Check references with other families who have used the caregiver or babysitter. Once you have chosen the caregiver, drop in unexpectedly to see how your children are doing. Ask your children how the experience with the caregiver was, and carefully listen to the responses.
  • Practice basic safety skills with your children. Make an outing to a mall or park a “teachable” experience in which your children practice checking with you, using pay telephones, going to the restroom with a friend, and locating the adults who may be able to help if they need assistance. Remember, allowing your children to wear clothing or carry items in public on which their name is displayed may bring about unwelcome attention from inappropriate people looking for a way to start a conversation with your children.
  • Remember there is no substitute for your attention and supervision. Being available and taking time to really know and listen to your children helps build feelings of safety and security. 1

In conclusion, YOU HAVE A RIGHT to keep your children safe!

  • You have the right to know if Registered Sex Offenders are in your neighborhood! Be aware! Predator pic-addl
    • Check the registry by location for sex offenders located near Daycare centers, Schools, Camps, Church or anyplace you may be leaving your children, even Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
    • Check the registry by name for Church Officials, Teachers, Neighbors, Counselors, Private instruction Tutors, Bus Drivers, after school Activities leaders, Coaches etc.
    • Check them often. Take nothing for granted. Everyone is suspect.
  • Consult NCMEC’s prevention and safety education programs and materials for additional steps you and your children can take to help them feel empowered, and to know what they can do if they find themselves in a situation where they feel scared or compromised.
  • Finally, observe and listen; and TEACH CHILDREN to recognize and respond to anything that scares them. Children are very perceptive by nature. You are not ruining their childhood by talking to them when they are young. You may just be saving it!

Sex offenders place themselves in situations where children are! They make themselves appeal to children. This is NO Accident! Be SAVVY. We have the tools to fight these predators! LET’S USE THEM!

Leslie Mayorga R.N. BSN

1 “Know the Rules…General Tips for Parents and Guardians to Help Keep Their Children Safer” National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

Helping a Child Who’s Afraid of Dogs Through Their Fear

Timid boy is holding of the mother on the garden.About two months ago, we discussed the ‘overly confident’ child around strange dogs….. We discussed teaching them the appropriate ways to approach, and the right questions to ask before petting any dog they did not know. Now I want to discuss the flip side of that….. The shy, quiet, or fearful child. I would like to teach you some skills to help your child through this for two reasons…. The first, no one wants to see their child afraid of something….especially if it is something you might happen to love! The second reason is because, contrary to what might be popular belief, a child who is afraid of dogs is just as much at risk as the child who runs up to a dog they do not know and throws their arms around it.

How is my child at risk just because they are afraid? Here are some typical behaviors that a fearful child will tend to display that can easily provoke, stimulate or arouse a reaction from a dog.

  • First – when a child gets fearful, often their initial reaction is to scream and run away. Why is this so bad? There are two reasons:
    • First ….the dog may think they are playing, and give chase, which makes the child scream more, and run faster which usually ends in the child tripping and falling and getting hurt while they are trying to get away, or the dog jumping on them in their excitement, which can result in them accidentally scratching the child, or again causing them to fall and possibly get hurt, (you tend to see this more with puppies).
    • The second reason is not usually as innocent, and can be just as, if not much more dangerous, (you usually see it in older dogs). Have you ever seen the animal shows on television, where they show an animal hunting its ‘prey’? Now I don’t want you to think that I am equating your little loved one with prey, but your child screaming and running away can easily turn on the “pursuit” instinct in a dog that already has a high natural prey drive, like a hunting dog. And your child getting pounced on and pinned will not be something easily forgotten.
  • The next one on the list…. Hiding. Children who are afraid of something will typically look for a quick place to hide…. Which for most smaller children will be a low-to-the-ground hidey hole that they think will keep them safe like under a bed, a table, behind a couch….…. Like playing hide and seek. They think if the dog can’t see them, they won’t find them, therefore they are safe. But children usually do not understand that the dog is relying much more on their nose and ears to find the child than their eyes. Then the dog sticks its (more often than not… curious) nose into their hidey-hole, and we are back to the scream-run-chase scenario.
  • Trying to push the dog away or throwing something at the dog to make it move away can lead to a dog feeling threatened… especially if you do not know the full background of the dog, and if there were any abuse issues… like a dog who came from a rescue group or shelter. A dog perceiving any action as a threat can become a potential threat to your child. Most dogs when threatened go into fight or flight mode. While a dog that “runs off” (flight) will probably not reassure your child that dogs are “safe” to be around, a dog that enters “fight” mode and starts growling may be particularly terrifying, even if they never come any closer.
  • Offering the dog a treat as a friendship gesture, then getting afraid of the teeth when the dog opens their mouth to take it, and pulling their hand away quickly….with the treat still in their hand! This is a typical tactic many parents and well-meaning dog owners will try, “Here…. Give the doggy a treat so he will know you are his friend!”. The problem with this is that we are not thinking like the fearful child at this moment. What is the scariest part of the dog to the child? The mouth which contains the teeth!! So you hand the child something and instruct them to go directly to the most dangerous part of the dog, and ask it to open its mouth to receive the treat…. Thereby showing the child all of those big teeth!!

    “Grandma!! What big teeth you have!!” said Little Red Riding Hood…
    …and the wolf responds, “The better to eat you with my dear!!”

    Crazy right?? The other problem with this scenario is when they pull their hand away with the treat still in it, more often than not the dog will try to jump up to get the treat from them.

So let’s use the Little Red Riding Hood analogy as a segue into the next part of this; What causes some of these fears?

There are many reasons a child might be afraid of dogs. The reasons can range from a simple thing like lack of exposure to them, to the more common one…. one of their parents is afraid.

And then there are things that the kids hear, like the old story of Little Red Riding Hood as I wrote above, or even being in the room when the news is on where they may hear of a ‘child being attacked (or mauled) by yet another dog!’

I have also heard parents say things randomly to their kids that I must admit, shock me…. Because they do not realize the impact the words can have on a young impressionable child. For example, not too long ago, when I was in a pet store, they had an adoption event going on. Mom obviously did not want to stop and play with the pups there at that moment, but the child did. So to make the child leave the pups alone, she said, “If you go near that dog…. It will bite you!” To me, that is the equivalent of telling a young child, “If you act up, the police are going to arrest you” and then wondering why the child grows up with a fear and dislike for police officers! So I caution you to choose your words wisely around kids…. They often take things quite literally and at face value.

So if you have a fearful child, how can you help them to overcome this? There are many things you can do to help your fearful child overcome a fear of dogs. Arrange a “meet and greet” with a neighbor’s or a friend’s dog – one where you know the owner (is attentive) and the dog (is relatively calm).

  • I do not recommend your child’s first experience to be with a puppy or a giant breed dog. As adults, when we think of puppies, we think of harmless playful babies that our kids will enjoy. But for the fearful child, this is not ideal for a few reasons. For one, they are very unpredictable and usually full of much more energy than an older dog. They also tend to jump up on you a lot causing some accidental scratches on young tender skin. happy family with labrador retriever dog in parkAnd their rapid quick movements may frighten your already fearful child more than help them. Also, don’t forget they are teething, and will nip at or on anything to relieve the pain… which usually ends up being fingers. Of course a giant or large breed dog may be intimidating to a small child just because of their size alone. For these reasons, I recommend their first encounter with a dog be with a quiet middle sized breed of dog who has had some training and manners. One that will be calm and gentle with your little one.
  • Talk to your child before the meet and greet. Make sure they understand some simple rules such as no screaming or running around the dog. If they change their mind about the meet and greet at any time, or become afraid or uncomfortable, let them know it is never too late to stop it, and that all they have to do is calmly tell you they want to stop, and you will hold their hand and calmly walk away with them.
  • Make sure when the initial ‘meet and greets’ are done between your child and dog, that the dog is on a leash. Even the most well behaved, calm, older dog can spook or react incorrectly to something, so to protect your child, remember…. Leash equals control!
  • If lack of exposure is the reason for their fear, remember to start off slowly. Don’t push them too far or too fast when they are not ready…. Again, you do not want to make the fear worse.
  • If one parent has any fear at all of dogs, I recommend that they not be present during the initial meet and greet. Our kids look to us for cues quite frequently when they are not sure how to react to something, if they see you afraid, they might become afraid too.
  • When you bring your child up to the dog, do not walk up to its face. Remember… the face contains the mouth which contains the teeth. However, the tail and back of the dog carry no threat to your child. So have the dog’s owner put their dog in a DOWN/STAY position, and have them sit next to the dog distracting him, while you accompany your child around the back. Make sure the owner knows it is okay for the dog to look, and not to hold the dogs head. This is an unnatural thing for the dog and may make them want to pull away from being restrained, scaring your child with their sudden movement in the process. Now, let your child gently stroke the dogs tail. You can ask them some age appropriate questions, like for a young child, “Is the tail soft? What color is the tail?” Or for an older child, check in with them, “Is this okay? Are you feeling comfortable?” etc. If they are comfortable, you can encourage them to gently move their hand up to stroke the back, then the neck, etc. Do not bring them around to the face of the dog unless you are sure they are comfortable with all of the other things.
  • The last thing you can do is make sure the dog knows how to gently take treats, and then place a treat in the palm of your hand, fingers spread out wide, and let them see the dog ‘lick’ the treat from your hand. Then ask if they want to try it. If they do, assist them with it by holding their hand in yours. What this will ensure is that they don’t pull their hand away with the treat, making the dog jump up to get it back. If they say they don’t want to, praise all the work they have done that day and tell them how proud you were that they were so brave, and try again soon.

COVID 19 Update: Due to the recent pandemic, we recommend the following changes to maintain the CDC’s safe social distancing guidelines
Instead of having the friend/dog’s owner hold their dog’s leash, have them in the room at the recommended 6 feet separation from your family, and have mom or dad hold the leash of the dog. This way the owner of the dog can watch their pup from a safe distance for any shift in body language, while mom and/or dad can work with their fearful child.

Remember this is something your child will get comfortable with over time…so take the time to practice with them, gradually introducing them to different dogs. Keep in mind, you always want to check with the owner how the dog is doing “on that particular day” before you start or resume practicing. Even the sweetest, gentlest dog can have an “off” day…(read more about recognizing dog’s body language here) and the point of this is for your child to be comfortable, so remember to check in periodically with them during the process. Better to walk away feeling great and with a sense of accomplishment, then to stay and feel disappointed.

Kids and Online Nudity: How Much is Too Much?

**Editors Warning**: several of the pictures in this article contain adult content.
Reader discretion is advised.

One of the biggest complaints from parents about technology is the amount of nudity that is available online. This is particularly true when it comes to many popular social media apps used by teens and even pre-teens. If there was ever a case for pushing things to the edge, but not over the edge, this issue might be the best example for them. Or is it the worst example? I guess it depends on your point of view.

How Kids See It

Part of the problem is that many kids don’t see it as a big deal anymore. Nudity is something that many minors are exposed to, in one form or another, far more often that in the past. It’s not seen as any kind of taboo or threat, by many of them.

Sure, many of today’s parents remember looking at adult magazines when they were children. But it wasn’t as readily available, often limited to finding someone else’s hidden stash. The availability has made it seem acceptable.

Just recently, rapper Cardi B released a new song which can be seen as opening endorsing hard core pornography as acceptable. The lyrics make frequent use of language that most parents would find objectionable. When this is considered mainstream, there is little doubt why children will be influenced by it.

Why Parents Should be Concerned

Technology, mainly cellphones, have given minors the ability to send/receive such pictures whenever they choose. Even worse, they could be pictures of themselves! How would you react to finding pictures of your own child on their phone, as this mom did? Children see more risqué content exposed to them on a daily basis than their parents ever did at that age. Sexting is now, by many, considered getting to “first base” with someone. It’s become the new norm, for better or worse. I say worse, no doubt.

Why This Matters

You may have seen some nudity when you were a child. So, why is it such a big deal if our kids see some now? Because the overwhelming volume of it and society’s acceptance of it is having a negative impact on them. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), about 40% of teens and preteens visit sexually explicit sites. Here’s some of what various studies have determined about children viewing sexually explicit content online:

  • Boys are more likely to seek the content out and that increase with their age.
  • It led to a more casual attitude towards sex, putting it on par with, “eating or drinking”.
  • Teens tended to see women as sexual playthings.

In a study conducted by Drexel University, they determined that, “more than 50 percent of those surveyed reported that they had exchanged sexually explicit text messages, with or without photographic images, as minors.”

The Technical Reality

As for social media sites, the sheer volume of content on most popular social media sites makes it almost impossible for the companies to monitor it effectively. While they may have content moderators who can remove adult content, most sites rely heavily on users reporting content to them. How often do you expect that happens?

Search algorithms can be fairly effective at finding text that may be offensive, but images are another matter entirely. Image recognition software is not nearly as advanced as television shows would have us believe. Plus, artificial intelligence and software designed to scan for images are hard-pressed to keep up with the enormous volume of what’s posted online.

Most social media sites have at least some rules/guidelines when it comes to nudity and what is acceptable on their sites. Here are a few links to some of the more popular social media sites’ guidelines:

For the most part, this means no nudity of anyone below the waist from the front. A bare rear is often acceptable, however, depending on just how much is visible.

For women, bare breasts are allowed to be shown, so long as the nipple is not visible. “Bare” is the key word in that sentence, as even the sheerest covering is often considered acceptable by most platforms. Some sites have disclaimers in their guidelines that allow for nudity if it is used for educational or historical use.

Like most other people who are trying to improve their careers, people in the adult entertainment field have taken to using social media. Many of them have accounts on apps like Twitter and Instagram, posting very racy images. While some of them have set their privacy settings to private to keep people out, many more don’t, posting images that can include hardcore pornography. In some cases, they use those posts to lure people to pay-sites to see even more graphic images.

Bear in mind that if someone who can see what’s on a private/blocked account decides to share an image, who can see the image is no longer based on the original poster’s privacy settings, but by the person who decided to share it. That’s a good thing to keep in mind for everyone who posts things online.

Some apps, like Facebook, have settings that prevent people from being able to share their posts without getting the permission of the person who posted it, but that is hardly foolproof. Anyone can take a screenshot, crop the image and save it to their device. Then it’s “theirs” to do with as they choose.

Let’s be honest with what we’re facing here when it comes to online nudity. According to author and sex therapist, Jo Robertson, Playboy magazine was at its peak around 1972 and it had around seven million subscribers a year. Meanwhile, Pornhub receives 92 million views per day!

This is extremely important, as Pornhub does not require any kind of age validation or even the creation of an account to view hard core pornography on the site. Imagine how a parent of a teen or even pre-teen would feel if they found out that their child had seen the videos posted on Pornhub. They are hardly the only such site out there, just the most popular.

Social media sites aren’t much better, when you get down to it. All you need is an email address to open up most accounts. Some don’t even require that. Some apps simply require that the app be downloaded. Even those that do require an email address to create an account don’t do any kind of vetting process, which is why catfishing, the act of pretending to be someone else online, is so common.

A related topic is that of Hentai. A variation of Japanese anime and magna, it’s a genre of animation that is erotic in nature. It is not a new genre, going back centuries. More modern examples though, tend to be less erotic and more hardcore in nature. There is a complete sub-culture online of Hentai images, even graphic novels that exist for people to see.

While adults should be able to see whatever they wish, parents may not want their children exposed to such graphic images at young ages. What originally got me involved in cybersafety years ago was when our daughter, who was only in first grade, came across some inappropriate content online. It wasn’t nudity, but vulgarity, but it affected her all the same in a way that most parents wouldn’t want to experience.

What Can Parents Do about This?

This is a tough position to be in as a parent. Taking a hard stance and simply forbidding kids from viewing nudity online can often backfire. And it’s virtually impossible to enforce. Taking away a child’s device may not help, as Zombie Phones (or any device, really), can get someone back online without much trouble.

The APA also mentioned that the likelihood of a child looking at online content of this nature is strongly influence by parenting styles. As they report, “When teenagers are old enough to be interested in sex, they are competent enough to find ways to access Internet porn.” As a result, they focus on educating minors rather that preventing them from seeing it.

Like most problems with our kids, the key is education and letting them know the serious risks that are involved with nudity online – especially sending intimate pictures of themselves to anyone! One option which can help, assuming that they don’t have a zombie phone, is installing parental control apps onto their devices. PC Magazine recently reviewed many of them and you can check out what they have to say by clicking here.

My article for Pediatric Safety last year offers parents other options on being able to see if their kids are doing online via apps. And of course, while you have their device in your hand, you can always view their browser history if they haven’t cleared it recently.

To help prevent them from accidentally seeing nudity on devices, have the “Safe Search” feature on all search engines set to their most restrictive settings.

This link will explain it when using Google, but others have similar features, even going so far as to call it Safe Search. While Google is the most popular search engine around, be sure to make the change on any/all search engines, since children may use a different search engine that their parents.

As a parent of a teenager myself, I can certainly relate to most parent’s worries about this topic so if you have any additional questions, please feel free to ask them here in the comments and I’ll do what I can to help. If anyone here wishes to share some resources to other parents, please do so as well in the comments. I wish you the best!

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