Friday, November 6, 2015

Porn: creating an internal filter for small children



In my last blog post I wrote about the eyes being windows to the soul. If the eyes are so intricately connected to the soul and can even reveal things beyond this world, wouldn't that make the eyes vital to the state of one's soul? To one's interior life? Wouldn't that then mean that whatever comes in through the eyes would have a profound influence on what lies beneath?

Now, more than ever, western society is so preoccupied with what comes into our bodies. We are constantly worried about the chemicals and hormones found in foods and other products we use on our body and skin. But are not our eyes an entry point to our bodies as well? Shouldn't we simultaneously be worried about the images that we are "consuming" throughout our day? Do we not believe that image consumption can also alter our bodies (i.e. brains) just as much as other materials we consume?

Let's face it. We live in an image-saturated society. Whether we are connected to our tablet or smartphone, or we are just driving down the street. We are constantly being bombarded with information, predominantly images. A picture is worth a thousand words! Never before have marketing gurus taken these words and turned them into billions of dollars like now. Images touch our emotions. They drive us to consume and can alter our feelings in just seconds.

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So what of pornographic images? In recent years we have been hearing more and more of the ill effects that pornography has on the brain. (www.fightthenewdrug.org) Studies have shown that not only does it alter the brain but it also lights up the same areas of "addiction" as do chemical drugs. The addiction is just as severe and dangerous. The devastation is long lasting as well; sometimes even harder to overcome. Images, especially the ones that are laden with violence, many times are never forgotten. Engraved in our brains forever!

There are so many aspects of this topic that can be touched upon. Where I would like to begin though, is what is of great concern to me as a mother of two very small boys. I am painfully aware that even at such a young age, given the wrong incident at the wrong time, my boys can be exposed. The older they get, the stakes are not only higher, but the opportunities are much more abundant. So what to do? Are we really being forced to speak to our very young children about pornography? Can we trust that all parents and adults that may come into contact with our children will have the same concerns as us? Lastly, are firewalls and passcodes really the solution to this very intricate problem?

What are we to do as parents? How can we protect our children? The greatest tool is prevention. Let us prevent the problem before it even begins. But how do we prevent our children from being exposed to these images that seem to be everywhere? Avoid screen time as much as possible! Up until the age of two, children should have no screen time whatsoever. Other than being a great temporary babysitter, children do not benefit at all from screen time before the age of two. "Infants may stare at the bright colors and motion on a screen, but their brains are incapable of making sense or meaning out of all those bizarre pictures. It takes 2 full years for a baby’s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world." (healthychildren.org)

But do we really have to begin telling our children about sexual images at a much earlier age than ever? Well yes and no. Obviously a three year old is incapable of understanding anything about sex and sexual images. But we can talk to them about bad images and good images.

I have to make a side note here: I feel that as long as you can postpone screen time with children, the better. After the age of two it's not so much how bad screen time is but what they're missing out when they are getting screen time. Children need to be out, running around, exploring with their hands and bodies. Screen time just  hypnotizes. Albeit, it is a great help when you need to get things done around the house, but I always come back to the same question: (to help me avoid falling into the trap of relying too much on screens) what would my grandmother/great-grandmother have done?

So what of good images and bad images? We can talk to our very young children about how some images make them feel "yucky" or funny. We can tell them that if someone wants to show them something on a screen (i.e. phone/tablet) they must ask mommy or daddy for permission. Between the ages of three to six it is easier to set rules and have them follow them by default. Once they get older, past seven or eight we really have to talk about the explicit images that can cause real harm to their brains, "like drugs!"

We simply cannot rely on the fact that all parents will think like us. Although we may say "I will never leave my child around a parent or adult I don't trust", we have to think a bit further and realize that they may be around a child or children that have parents who are not concerned with these issues. Some parents (most likely the father) may even have these images stored in his tablet, phone or in drawers at home that the child may have access to. Unfortunately, we cannot trust that anyone else will protect our children from this grave harm.

We also must consider that as our children get older, firewalls and passwords may be of great help but they are simply not enough. Now there are even software programs and apps that can help prevent children from accidentally straying onto harmful websites. Yet, we still have to talk to our children about these things before someone else does. We may think to ourselves, I don't want to traumatize them or rob them of their innocence, but there are ways to approach the issue without doing this. It is better that we address it early and in the proper way rather than having them really be traumatized by images we can never-ever remove from their brains again.



I want to recommend a book I recently came across, particularly to those parents of children who are six and older. "Good pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids." by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, PhD. It is an excellent book, set up as a story of a mother who sits down with her son to look at pictures. From their the author explains the different effects that "bad pictures" have on the brain. She addresses how the brain is "tricked" into being addicted to these images and how a child can help to prevent this through a "can do" plan. It provides an internal filter for children so that they know how to handle these images that unfortunately they will run into eventually. The Amazon reviews speak for themselves. I met the author personally and what she has done is not only timely but absolutely revolutionary. This is an essential tool to today's parenting.

Finally, let us not be discouraged. Although we have to be realistic and come to terms with the fact that these images are bound to cross our children's visual path, we do have great tools available to help educate them. Just like drugs, alcohol and cigarettes, we have to teach our children the dangers of these. We can equip our children with age appropriate information that will help them choose what is right and help them learn to take care of their bodies in every way. We must start early and learn that prevention is the best method to fight this "new drug". We must prevent our children from falling into the trap of porn addiction. Let us prevent our children from being shamed and traumatized from images that can ruin their future relationships and emotional state.  Let us "fight this new drug" together and raise healthy and happy children!



The good? Let us teach children to value beautiful images; the beauty of the body and sexuality that is based on love and respect. The good is that we have tools. We have the ability to teach our children right from wrong. The world can never be more powerful than the love, education and tenderness a parent can provide. It may seem as if it is sometimes more powerful, but in the end, love conquers all. As long as love is present, it is always more powerful than evil.

You can refer to my resources section (under each appropriate category) for links, books and other information. 







5 comments:

  1. Hi Alejandra,

    Thank you for sharing this. I got the book in Philly. It's great!
    Typo in the 5th paragraph? (2nd paragraph under the man staring at the screens): I think steaks should be stakes.
    Keep it up!
    Gerro

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    1. Lol! Yes. Thank you. The steaks are not high!!! :) Lol! Thanks for reading.

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  2. Thanks Ale, it refreshes to see such a worthy mother!

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  3. Thanks Ale, it refreshes to see such a worthy mother!

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  4. Thank you for the info
    We also need to check what is being taught to our children in elementary school.
    It is frightening what Planned Parenthood wants to put into our elementary schools.

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