5 Ways to Teach Kids to Say NO! to Porn with Assertive Communication Skills

5 Ways to Teach Kids to Say NO! to Porn with Assertive Communication Skills

Do you remember a time when you didn’t know how to speak up for yourself? Maybe you had a childhood experience like one mom who didn’t know what to say when her cousins showed her some risque magazines from under their parent’s bed. That’s why kids need assertive communication skills!

assertive communication skills

What if I told you that teaching your kids assertive communication skills will help them say no to porn? It’s easier than you think!

Keep reading to learn how kids can learn specific skills like I-statements that will prepare them to speak up for themselves.

What is assertive communication?

Communication can be broken down into (at least) three different styles: passive, aggressive, and assertive. When you speak passively, you may not say exactly how you feel because you want to please others. When you speak aggressively, you may overpower a conversation and say exactly what is on your mind, without thinking about the needs of those around you.

Assertive communication is a nice balance between passive and aggressive. Assertiveness is “the ability to speak up for ourselves in a way that is honest and respectful.”

Being assertive sounds like, “I feel uneasy when I see previews for those kinds of movies, so I’ve decided not to watch them. What other shows do you have?”

Assertive communication skills go hand in hand with setting boundaries, or communicating the things you need in order to feel safe. When children learn how to speak up for themselves in a respectful way, they feel more confident and secure.

Assertive communication does not come easily to everyone, but it can be learned through practice. Some kids (and adults) find it very hard to say no. You may be chuckling because you’ve heard the word “no” twenty times today! But refusing to clean your room and refusing to watch a video when all your friends are gathered around are two different stories.

How is being assertive going to help my child say no to porn?

Sometimes, kids are exposed to pornography by other children. GuardChild reports that:

  • 29% of unwanted exposure to sexual materials occurred when children were online with their friends.
  • 38% of teen girls and 39% of teen boys say they have had sexually suggestive text messages or emails shared with them that were originally meant for someone else.

Younger children are not protected from this either. If there is a cell phone or computer around, there is a chance for exposure to pornography.

While you may have certain rules and filters at your house, this may not be the case away from home. Have you practiced with your child what to say to a friend when they come across pornography together?

Your child may feel peer pressure to view porn because they want to be accepted by their friends and they worry they will be rejected if they don’t go along with other kids.

For example, how would your child respond to a friend at recess who shows them a bad picture on a cell phone? Let’s take a look at an assertive response:

Kathy comes over and says, “Susan, you’re not going to believe this picture of Joan.”
Susan sees the picture and thinks, Oh no, poor Joan!
Kathy laughs, “Isn’t this hilarious? Jace just texted it to me.”
Susan says, “No, it’s not funny. I feel uncomfortable looking at that picture. And I don’t think Joan would like us looking at it either. Let’s go tell a teacher.”

Notice how Susan spoke up for what she knew was right, without aggressively accusing Kathy.

Kids can use powerful refusal skills if they are taught what they are and when to use them. Using assertive communication skills, your child can encourage others to do things that are GOOD. Wouldn’t it be great if adults discussed positive peer pressure moments with kids just as often (or more) than the negative ones?

Even young kids can learn steps to take to be safe from exposure to pornography! Start the easy way with our read-aloud book for kids ages 3-7.

Now Available! Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is HERE! CLICK HERE to learn how to protect kids ages 3-6 from the dangers of pornography.

5 ways to strengthen assertive communication skills in your home

If you want your child to stand up to negative peer pressure, including situations involving pornography, they need a chance to develop assertive skills at home. It’s never too early to teach good communication skills! Here are five things you can start doing TODAY to help everyone in your home become more assertive:

  1. Get familiar with the three communication styles: assertive, passive, and aggressive. Ask yourself, which style am I regularly modeling for my children? Follow the tips in these articles if you want to improve your own assertiveness:
  2. Help your child label their feelings from the very beginning. As children build their emotional vocabulary, they will be able to communicate better how they are honestly feeling when they are distressed.

    This might sound like, “Oh, Johnny, you tried three times to put your shoe on and it just won’t go on! You must be frustrated.”

  3. Teach preschool and elementary-aged children to communicate with an I-statement.

    “I feel ___________ when you _____________ . Please _____________.”

    For example, “I feel frustrated when you want me to hurry up but I can’t find my shoes. Please help me.”

    I-statements are one way to communicate honestly, directly, and respectfully without placing blame or judgment on others. This is assertive communication at its finest!

  4. Give your kids opportunities to practice speaking up for themselves! Deidre Parsons recommends ideas such as:
    • Let your child order the food at a restaurant.
    • Encourage kids to voice their opinion on current events at the dinner table.
    • Coach your child on how to talk to their teacher about their grade on a test or a missing assignment.

    These little experiences will add up to give your child the confidence to deal with bigger issues in the future (like peer pressure to send nudes).

  5. Teach your children how to establish and respect boundaries. Coach Sarah recently shared helpful tips on setting boundaries. Kids can use I-statements to set a boundary when they are uncomfortable around someone:

    “I feel uncomfortable when you wrestle with me like that. Please stop.”

    It’s not easy to establish a boundary; in fact, it’s really hard to say this to a friend! But if our kids don’t learn how to honestly communicate their needs and values, they may end up being too passive when it really counts.

Help kids understand your family media standards so they know when they need to speak up! Get our free guide at the end of this post.

Practice assertive communication with your kids—ROLE PLAY!

Practice, practice, practice. Kids need a chance to practice what to say to someone when pornography shows up on a phone, in a movie, in a video game, or on a computer. Help them by role playing with them!

Have your children help come up with situations where they might need to speak out against pornography. Take turns being characters on different sides of the issue. Encourage your kids to use I-statements in the role play.

After the role play, discuss whether the response was too passive, too aggressive, or assertive (juuuust right!) How do you know? Here’s a quick checklist for assertive communication skills kids can use with a friend who is close to their age:

  • I used a calm but firm voice.
  • I made eye contact.
  • I had good posture (square your shoulders).
  • I used simple, clear words (like an I-statement).
  • I suggested a better plan of action.
  • I left the situation if my friend didn’t listen to me.
  • I followed up by telling a trusted adult.

Be sure to talk about recognizing the difference between peers who are sharing something inappropriate and older “tricky people” who might want to harm them. Kids can practice how to respond to an adult (or even an older child) who is asking them to do something that doesn’t sound right or trick them.

In that case, getting away from the situation as fast as they can is the best plan! They need to know they are allowed to hit, scream and make a scene if needed. Yelling something like “Leave me alone! I don’t know you!” can grab other people’s attention so they can help.

Make sure, by the end of every role play, you have acted out at least one example of an assertive response. Also review any steps they may need to take later to follow up (which adult they would tell, etc.)

Examples of role play scenarios:

  1. You are assigned a partner for a school report. As the two of you are looking on the internet for information, something you searched for is blocked for inappropriate content. Your partner says he knows how to turn off the filter. What do you say next?
  2. You are playing at a friend’s house. You and your friend wander into the basement where her older sister and friends are watching inappropriate videos online. The teenagers yell at you to get out. You both run upstairs and your friend asks you not to say anything about it. What do you do next?
  3. You are driving in the car with mom and your cousin. Your cousin points out and laughs at a billboard that makes you feel uncomfortable. You can’t stop thinking about it after a few minutes. What do you say next?

Your kids can come up with ideas that fit with their own experiences. You might share some situations you faced as a child, too, and how you would respond now that you know all about I-statements!

As you follow the 5 ways to strengthen assertive communication skills in your home and practice by role-playing how to say NO to pornography, you are adding another layer of protection and prevention.

Think how great it will be to know your child has refusal skills and is prepared to say, “I feel uncomfortable seeing bad pictures. Let’s tell dad this came in the mail.”

Way to be a proactive parent! Do you have some thoughts about teaching kids to speak up? Join our community in our private Facebook group where you can share your ideas and questions with other parents.

Click below for you free guide to talking with kids about your family media standards!

Big Wins – Show Dogs and Snapchat Retreat! [Updated]

Big Wins – Show Dogs and Snapchat Retreat! [Updated]

UPDATE 6/4/2018 We are dismayed to report that following this blog post, the film was not edited as promised, and has been showing in theaters. The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) screened the film and reported that the sexually exploitive narrative and scenes of genital touching remain in the movie. We strongly advise the parents and caregivers to not take children to this film.                                              

“Global Road Entertainment has betrayed parents and endangered children by its failure to cut scenes normalizing genital touching from its children’s movie. By sending the message to children that allowing genital touching by adults is rewarding and sexy, Show Dogs paves the way for child abusers,” said Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE.

Original post:

So many big wins for kids in just a few days! From Show Dogs to Snapchat, corporations made changes in response to public outcry.

It’s been an amazing week, proving that when people speak up, change can really happen! Although it’s true that sexualized media keeps spreading and targeting our children and teens, there are signs of a growing awareness that sexual content has harmful effects on our kids and our culture.

It actually started last week,when a major distributor of online games, Steam, asked video game creators to remove graphic sexual content. In the past few days, Snapchat shut down it’s explicit channel, Cosmo After Dark, after just one week. And the movie Show Dogs was pulled from theaters to remove deeply disturbing scenes about a dog overcoming his discomfort about judges handling his private parts.

All of this happened because enough people complained and said no more! From leading organizations like NCOSE, to online bloggers and news sources raising a warning call, to the many parents who caused an uproar through social media and petitions, the public let these companies know they had crossed the line.

We all feel helpless at times watching the rising wave of sexual, violent, and degrading content in our society. These recent successes are inspiring because they show that together, we do have power to motivate change!

Show Dogs and Snapchat: Lessons on the power of public demand

What can we learn from these events that will help us take effective action in the future?

Here are four big take-aways:

  1. We don’t have to roll over and let media get progressively worse, creating an increasingly toxic culture for our kids to grow up in. We can do something about it!
  2. We can’t demand change if we aren’t aware of what is happening. Our influence will grow as we keep current and share what we learn with other parents.
  3. Social media can amplify our objections loud enough to be heard by corporations. If you want to unite with other parents who care, join our private Facebook community!
  4. When voicing our concerns, it pays to be bold, specific, and clear about how the content harms children.

Current events as teaching tools

This is a teaching opportunity to empower your kids!

Talk about the power of speaking up. Kids don’t have to grow up thinking we can’t change things. You might start with, “Guess what! This week so many people complained about a movie that they actually stopped showing it in theaters and are going to take out some of the bad scenes. That’s pretty cool!”

Involve your kids by taking public action together – they could help write thank-you emails to Steam, Snapchat, and Show Dogs for their policy changes.

Strong kids are aware of media messages

One of the first people to raise a warning about Show Dogs was a parent who took her kids to the movie as part of her job. When they found the movie had a troubling message that normalized touching private parts, she didn’t stay silent. She had a direct conversation with her kids right away about keeping their bodies safe.

The fancy name for this is media literacy, which just means being aware of the underlying messages in movies, advertising, music, and all the other forms of media we are bombarded with each day.

Your kids will be prepared to unravel those messages as they develop a framework for evaluating and making decisions about media, adapted for their age and stage.

This is a perfect time to discuss how your family chooses good entertainment. You could say, “The movie Show Dogs looked like it was going to be a cute, fun dog movie, but it actually had some very dangerous messages. We need to be careful – what are your ideas for how we can choose good movies?” Check out our free guide at the end of this post to help you talk about media standards!

Bodies, Sex, Relationships: Three easy questions for media literacy

The following questions are practical tools kids can use to develop an internal filter as they choose what they watch, read, listen to and play.

  1. What does this teach about bodies and how does that compare to our values about bodies?
  2. What does this teach about sex and how does that compare to our values about sex?
  3. What does this teach about relationships and how does that compare to our values about relationships?

These simple talking points can help you have very clear discussions about why the movie or other media in question is either harmful or helpful. This is especially great for older kids who want to talk about why, not just be told “no.”

Younger children can first learn about these tools from you as you explain how and why you make the rules in your family. As they grow, you can use the tools together to choose entertainment. By the time they are out and about without you beside them, they will be ready to use these tools to make good decisions on their own.

Power to the People!

The retreat of Show Dogs and Snapchat’s Cosmo After Dark are encouraging signs!

Now is a great time to build online connections with like-minded parents to work together in the future. We’d love to have you join our Protect Young Minds – Parent Discussion Group on Facebook where our community shares ideas both for public action and for strengthening your kids right in your own home.

Together we can find peace and power in a challenging world!

Get our FREE tool for talking to your kids about choosing good media, including a worksheet for creating a family plan!

How a Fearless Mother-Daughter Duo Teach Parents to Protect Children from Porn

How a Fearless Mother-Daughter Duo Teach Parents to Protect Children from Porn

This month we celebrate the powerful influence of mothers who take action to protect children!

Does your community need someone to speak up and help parents be more aware of the challenges kids face today with pornography? You’re about to meet an inspiring mother and daughter who just jumped in and started teaching parents how to protect children.

Julie Nelson and her daughter, Shasta Knight, didn’t wait for a fancy title or the right time in life to start speaking up. They just got to work and have already given over 50 presentations to schools, church groups, family reunions, and treatment programs. They have talked to parents, teens, and young adults and usually reach 100 – 300 people in the audience. Julie says, “We’re just trying to help people understand what they’re up against.”

Meet Julie and Shasta

Julie raised six children. After 36 years of kids at home, she now has an empty nest. She works for a university extension in her small town, and owns her own dojo where she teaches karate.

Shasta is busy with four kids ages 3 through 10. She is a freelance graphic designer and a minimalist who likes to live simply and focus on what is most important.

Changing times and challenging cultures

Shasta and Julie have had different experiences because of the contrasting times in which they raised their families.

Julie looks back and can see how things have changed. Raising her last three kids was much more difficult than the first three because of the rise of technology. When Shasta was growing up, they talked openly about many things – but it was the beginning of the computer age, so pornography wasn’t an issue then like it is now. She feels that mobile phones particularly have changed everything.

Shasta understands that the culture her children are growing up in now is highly sexualized. She constantly talks about protecting children, and other young parents call her with questions. Fortunately, her friends are not tired of hearing about it yet!

Getting the neighbors on board to protect children

Because Shasta has sparked conversations in her neighborhood, many of her friends are now planning to wait until their kids are older teens to have mobile phones. She explains, “We’re just teaming up together and saying, ‘Hey, let’s all just wait.’” Having a few friends with similar house rules takes some of the pressure off kids to keep up with their peers.

Of course, parents have unique needs and different plans regarding mobile phones and kids, but building agreement among families that you spend time with is powerful when possible.

Real run-ins with pornography

Seventeen years ago, Julie had a problem with pornography in her home and couldn’t find any answers. She felt It was “pretty depressing” at the time. She kept searching, and over time more information came out about pornography addiction that helped her understand what her family was experiencing.

Not just one, but two of Shasta’s kids were exposed to pornography at school on classroom iPads. Her son saw it in second grade. Nearly the same thing happened to her daughter two years later when she used an iPad right after another student viewed pornography. Shasta said, “We had to have the whole birds and bees conversation when she was in second grade.” Her kids had a lot of questions, and Shasta felt sad about their innocence being taken away when they saw things they didn’t understand. Both times Shasta talked to the teacher and helped set up restrictions on the school iPads to protect children.

Now Shasta talks very openly with her kids. Her 3-year-old has read Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. with mom and dad. He can give an age-appropriate definition of what pornography is and knows that he should turn it off, turn away, and tell his parents when he sees it.

If you have kids or grandkids ages 3-6, Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr. is a great way to start teaching them in a safe and age-appropriate way.

Now Available! Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is HERE! CLICK HERE to learn how to protect kids ages 3-6 from the dangers of pornography.

We never stop talking about how to protect children

These experiences made Julie and Shasta want to share what they had learned to help other parents. After attending a Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference together, they “realized nobody knows any of this stuff.”

They weren’t part of an organization, they didn’t have degrees in psychology and they weren’t experienced public speakers. But they didn’t let that stop them! Shasta volunteered to teach a lesson in church – then the word got out and people started asking them to speak. They say that teaching in their community “was an accident, but it’s been a good accident.”

Shasta works to protect children.

Understanding what people need

Julie shares what she has learned from speaking:

We hear a lot of sad stories of people that were completely blindsided. We have learned that people are not talking about it enough. They are still unaware of what’s taking place around them. People want a step by step plan for what to say. They love the CAN DO Plan from Protect Young Minds because it gives them a place to start. But it feels like some people want a Band-Aid – they want the answer that’s going to fix this problem. But our whole presentation is about layering: layer your protections, layer your filters, layer those conversations. You just keep building those layers to protect children. That might be a little intimidating for people, but that’s why we’re talking to them about it.”

Julie and Shasta like to teach all ages together – the whole family from age 12 up through grandmas and grandpas – and get them all involved in the discussion. Julie says, “It’s a family package. You need everybody on board helping each other because the kids understand the technology. Many parents can’t do it without the kids helping them.” Shasta agrees with the whole-family game plan. “Our kids know we’re on their team and that together we can protect ourselves and our home.”

Parents of grown-up families still have influence

Even when kids become adults, parents can’t be silent on this issue! Julie still talks with her grown children about the effects of pornography and technology. One of Julie’s sons is recovering from pornography addiction, and they work together to set up filters that will help him with his goals. “With my adult kids now, I talk about what relationships are supposed to look like and what love looks like, because they’ve grown up in this false, pornified culture. We are trying to catch up and help them to connect to the real world.”

Julie and Shasta encourage grandparents to have a plan to keep their grandkids safe when they are visiting. Shasta said, “Once we make them aware, they’re often concerned. They’ll say, ‘Wow, my grandson was just at my house and had my iPad all weekend.’ Then they panic because they don’t want to be the reason that their grandkids have a problem.” Parents and grandparents can agree to keep the same rules at both homes.

Look for our FREE Bonus cheat sheet at the end of this blog post to help you talk with your kids – Talk Today, Safer Tomorrow: 10 Easy Conversation Starters.

Staying informed to protect children

Speaking in public means Julie and Shasta feel responsible to stay up to date. They follow the research and attend conferences. They recently flew across the country to attend the Coalition to End Sexual Exploitation Summit in Washington DC.

Mother and daughter often end up learning from different angles because Julie is coming from a “bruised and battered” background from navigating the effects of pornography on her family, and Shasta is working to protect her young family from experiencing that kind of pain. Even when reading the same article, they can come away with different ideas.

Julie and Shasta love teaming up to teach. They found that they can reach more hearts because they are at different stages in life. People relate to them differently; after a presentation one group will line up to talk to Shasta and another group will gather around Julie.

Julie Nelson with family

What they wish every parent knew

Julie has a great desire to help others avoid the problems that pornography created in her family. She says,

“There’s so much I want parents to know. Everything that it’s taken me 20 years to know today. They need to get educated. You can’t ignore it. Nearly every child will see pornography before they’re 18 years old and that’s a reality that we’ve got to start with. They need to take a step. It’s never too early and it’s never too late.”

Shasta wants parents to be aware of the risks, but not be afraid to let kids use technology and media to accomplish good things. Parents can come alongside their kids and help them learn to navigate one new thing at a time. When they have shown some good decision-making skills in one context, they can move on to another one – whether that is texting, using social media or managing a new device. With parents’ guidance, kids can learn self-control and safety skills.

Speaking up in their own way

Julie and Shasta saw a need and jumped in to help. Over time, their presentations have improved. Even though it takes time out of their busy lives, they find a lot of satisfaction in helping people.

Business guru Seth Godin reminds us that we don’t have to be experts to make a difference:

“Once you understand that there are problems waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound. No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.”

Caring and learning about how to protect children from pornography is enough to qualify someone to start speaking up. As Julie and Shasta have found, people are grateful when someone starts the conversation.

They learned that if you want to make a difference, it doesn’t matter how big of an audience you reach. People in your community need to be more aware of the challenges kids face today and how to protect children.

Teaching can be as simple as sharing a blog post with a friend. talking with extended family, or offering to teach a parent meeting at school. Speaking up helps others feel comfortable to do the same. The more we talk about protecting children, the safer all our kids will be.

FREE Bonus: This list of 10 Easy Conversation Starters can help you be the open and reassuring parent your kids need today! It’s also a great resource to teach parents in your community to start talking with their kids.

How Bad is the Dirty Dozen? National Group Reveals 2018 Worst Offenders

How Bad is the Dirty Dozen? National Group Reveals 2018 Worst Offenders

Should corporations profit from sexual exploitation of women and children?  Umm…NO!

Can you do something quick and easy to stop them? Definitely, YES!

Man reviewing national dirty dozen list on his cellphone

Each year since 2013, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) has published their Dirty Dozen list. (See the worst offenders for kids below–I was a little surprised by #1.)

It’s a way to publicly call out (and shame!) corporations who exploit people (mostly women and children) for profit, whether that be through:

  • pornography,
  • prostitution,
  • sexual objectification,
  • sexual violence, and/or
  • sex trafficking.

And the Dirty Dozen list is working! Really well!

The Dirty Dozen List is powerful!

The Dirty Dozen list has effectively “encouraged” corporations to make big changes and to get themselves on the right side of history. It also makes it EASY for individuals to come together in making bold statements.

The Dirty Dozen List is an activism tool that gives back power to individuals who want a voice in the culture. People can participate by taking easy online actions, from sending emails to sharing social media messages.

The Dirty Dozen List has a track record of uniting thousands of individual actions and targeting them to create monumental changes, such as policy improvements at Google, Hilton Worldwide, Verizon, Walmart, and the Department of Defense (see more below.)

Watch fearless leaders at NCOSE announce the 2018 Dirty Dozen in this video made from their headquarters in Washington, D.C.

5 Big Offenders for Kids

Here are five Dirty Dozen corporations we feel are the worst when it comes to hurting children. Wouldn’t you like to do something to help stop the exploitation? You can! Don’t worry, we’re not recommending a boycott! Just take one minute to do one action. Corporations take notice when they sense their reputation is on the line:

  1. Amazon: Sells child-like sex dolls (what???), sexualized child nudity (posing as “photo art books”), and exploitative television programming accessible to kids. If you think it’s wrong for Amazon to profit from the exploitation of children, click here to find out how you can send a clear message to Amazon executives.
  2. EBSCO: Provides library databases to public and private schools (K-12), colleges and universities, public libraries and more. However, these portals also provide access to hardcore pornography and graphic sexualized images definitely not appropriate for school kids! Find out how you can protest this egregious lack of protection for our young students here.
  3. Snapchat: Probably the most popular app with kids who can send messages that last only seconds and then disappear (unless someone has captured them via a screenshot!).
    Snapchat facilitates the sending of sexually explicit photos (for minors this may legally be considered the felony crime of child pornography!) and now provides a way to monetize those pics through Snapcash. Unfortunately, Snapchat’s vast profits are made by perpetuating sexual exploitation and giving users no way to opt out of sexually explicit material. Click here to hold Snapchat accountable!
  4. Steam: Steam is a platform for distributing thousands of video games which can be played on multiple platforms and devices. Steam also hosts community forums that link gamers together. Some of the games hosted by Steam celebrate sexual violence, including rape. Let Steam know you want it to take responsibility and stop promoting the learning of degrading sexual attitudes and sexual violence. Click here to send Steam a strong message.
  5. YouTube: YouTube has recently been forced by media attention and threats of losing ad revenue to clean up its act when it comes to highly inappropriate content for children. But YouTube is still not doing enough to monitor the degrading and sexually explicit material that’s uploaded to its site. Click here to encourage YouTube to take some simple measures that could protect the millions of children who visit their site daily.

Taking a stand is easier than you think

Remember, this isn’t a boycott. NCOSE simply asks you to make your voices heard. And it’s EASY to do! Click here to see the entire list and then choose a corporation. Follow NCOSE’s simple directions to tweet messages to Dirty Dozen companies, submit emails or share memes on your social media. This is a simple, but very powerful way to raise your voice against pornography!

Here’s an example of a tweet you could easily send to Snapchat from NCOSE’s website:

@Snapchat please allow users to opt-out of publisher content on Discover! #NoThanksSnapchat

And here’s a meme you could share on your social media:

YouTube is a huge player on the dirty dozen

These examples are just the start. NCOSE has prepared dozens of easy to use resources to help you take action with a simple click.

Thank you for wanting to be a part of the solution. When we work together, we CAN protect children from pornography’s degrading and dehumanizing impact!

FREE download: Speak Up and Speak Out!

Sometimes a corporation or business will do something that offends you personally. It could be a billboard, a magazine cover or a particular policy that you recognize has crossed the line. When that happens it’s time to write personal letter of protest!

Personal letters have a powerful impact. Remember how one mom got an entire grocery chain to remove Cosmopolitan Magazine from the sightline of young children? Perhaps you’ve thought of writing a letter of protest but didn’t know where to start. No worries, we have a FREE template to help you get started!

ACT NOW! Download your FREE Speak Up and Speak Out! Complaint Letter Template today!

Fifty Shades of Abuse: 5 Lies Every Girl Needs to Recognize and Reject

Fifty Shades of Abuse: 5 Lies Every Girl Needs to Recognize and Reject

It’s no secret that the Fifty Shades franchise has capitalized on the trend to push porn into mainstream media. When Fifty Shades Freed opens in theatres this month, it’s estimated that Universal Pictures will round out their revenue on this trilogy at $1.2 billion. While author E.L. James sits smugly atop her $95 million.

Normalize the exploitation of women, rake in the money, and ignore the social consequence! It’s a pattern that’s been used by the porn industry since Playboy was first introduced.

When did Fifty Shades become a teen trend?

Sold under the guise of erotic “romance” novels, the Fifty Shades books were quickly dubbed as “mommy porn.” And though the intended audience was adults, the books and movies have also been read and viewed by millions of teenage girls worldwide.

Today we’ll discuss the impact media like Fifty Shades is having on young girls. We’ll also show you how to help inoculate girls against messages in popular culture that promote violence against women. And then I’ll share personal stories about real battered women. To top it off,  we’ll show you how to take action against the upcoming Fifty Shades Freed movie.

Be sure to download Talk Today, Safer Tomorrow: 10 Easy Conversation Starters, found at the end of this post!

When sales of the first Fifty Shades novel broke record numbers, teens started to take notice. By the time the first movie came out, a full fledged teen fanbase had been established. Girls today feel extreme pressure to conform. If their friends are hyped about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s sadomasochistic relationship then, at the very least, they’re going to be curious, too!

To get a better sense of what actual teens are saying about the Fifty Shades trilogy I sought out “kid reviews” on Common Sense Media. Although many were quick to call the movie out for what it is —pornography (so proud of you!). Others were much more enthusiastic about the film. This review from a 15-year-old girl caught my attention:

“I have read the book and maybe it is poorly written but I couldn’t put it down, obviously I wanted to see the film since the trailer came out, I had many expectations and I wasn’t disappointed at all, I loved the film, I think it was sexy, funny, the acting of Dakota Johnson was great, the soundtrack was amazing, it had humor, sex but not too much sex, love… I really liked it, it is not for my age maybe but I don’t regret seeing it at all. I don’t get why so many people are haters, it is a different type of film, and sure, people are not used for something this sexual to be so popular but just stop… And this does not support rape at all, EVERYTHING IS DONE WITH HER CONSENT!”

5 Lies Every Girl Needs to Recognize and Reject

Gasp! It breaks my heart to hear someone so young be so confused about sex, love and consent. It’s time we expose Fifty Shades for what it is —abuse! Let’s go through 5 common lies your daughter is likely to hear with the release of Fifty Shades Freed and debunk each one.

1. Fifty Shades is just fiction

I could probably write my own book on why this is such a big fat lie. I’ll try to be succinct. Anastasia Steele was 22 when she met Christian Grey. Now consider the following stats:

  • A staggering 25% of all women experience violence at the hand of an intimate partner
  • Women’s shelters have to turn away countless victims. There are simply not enough beds to accommodate those fleeing abusive relationships
  • Women age 16 to 24 are 3 times as likely to become victims of domestic violence.
  • More than 500 women ages 16 to 24, are killed by their partners in the United States every year (see video below)

For more information on the real dangers to women in abusive relationships, please watch as Leslie Morgan Steiner recounts her own personal experience with “Crazy Love” in the following Ted Talk:

2. But he loves her

This is where you need to be clear with your daughters. Talk with them about the beauty of sex and what “real love” consists of. Include in the conversation the importance of friendship, trust, compassion, emotional commitment, and tenderness in intimate relationships. Love (and sex) is so much more than any character like Christian Grey has to offer.

Author Gail Dines explains that one of the biggest lies sold in Fifty Shades Freed is that an abuser can be subdued into change —because an abuser seeks power, not love:

“Men like Christian Grey are never loved out of battery; they just keep getting more drunk on their power over women. Believing they’ll change is the dangerous fantasy that keeps many women in their grip.”

3. He never hits her (so it’s not abuse)

Setting aside that this statement is laughably false, let’s focus on teaching girls how to recognize and reject different forms of abuse. Christian’s psychological aggression towards Anastasia raises all sorts of red flags.

  • Physical violence: When someone intentionally uses of force to cause harm, injury or death to another person.
  • Sexual violence: Includes any unwanted sexual contact including but not limited to rape. Be aware that unwanted exposure to pornography, threats of sexual violence and the distributing of sexualized photographs of the victim are also acts of sexual violence.
  • Stalking: Any unwanted attention or contact from another individual that causes you fear or concern for your own safety.
  • Psychological Aggression: The intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally. This may be done through name-calling or humiliation, limiting access to money, friends, and family, excessive monitoring and any other number of control tactics.

Teach girls to flee immediately if they experience any of these red flags in a relationship.

4. It’s consensual

I don’t know how this is even an argument, but our 15-year-old reviewer exclaimed it in ALL CAPS!!! So, let’s review. Understanding consent helps protect children, teens and even adults from becoming victims of abuse. Watch this wonderful video that explains consent in a way even young kids will appreciate. Here are three important things to impress on girls:

  • You get to decide what to do with your body
  • You don’t have to do something you’re not comfortable with
  • If you ever feel like someone is asking you to do something you’re not comfortable with (even sending a nude photo) speak to a trusted adult immediately!

5. If you don’t like it, don’t watch it

Unfortunately, “don’t like it, don’t look” doesn’t address the greater social cost. Teach girls they can speak out against any media that is detrimental to the cause of women.

You might think in the wake of #metoo and #timesup, Fifty Shades Freed would get tossed in the waste bin. Not so! Hollywood will once again turn a blind eye to sexual exploitation. This time the abuse is neatly packaged, glamorized and sold to audiences worldwide as ‘true love’ —with a fairy tale wedding to boot.

To bring this discussion into the real world, I’ll share an experience I had this weekend talking with two friends (names changed) who are both survivors of domestic violence.

Carmine and I sat in Joanna’s living room as she explains through tears why this is a bad day. She’s just heard through the grapevine that her husband is trying to contact her again. He wants her to tell the courts she made up the story. Perhaps they could start over?

But Joanna won’t forget the last time she hid, raped, bruised and battered, in the neighbor’s apartment waiting for the police arrive. It was a miracle she escaped long enough to make the emergency call. Her husband rarely let her out of his sight. Certainly not while he was in a rage.

He’s been in prison since I met Joanna almost a year ago, charged with violent sexual assault. She tells me in their 17-year relationship, he only become more possessive and jealous as the years went on.

Carmine nods knowingly; 15 years ago she went through almost the exact scenario. She reassures us both that this will pass. “Pray that something will take your Ex far away,” she says. “That’s what I did, and it worked! You and the kids will start over. Somehow you’ll manage to pick up the pieces. There is a whole world waiting for you now.”

Running interference against popular media

The depiction of domestic violence as the status quo is not just sold by Fifty Shades, but popular media everywhere. Our daughters deserve to know the truth. If we don’t tell them, they’re at risk of being seduced by the lie. And it will hurt them. By speaking opening with girls about current trends we CAN preempt porn’s attack on our daughters!

Take action!

Help us join the National Center On Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) in protest against Fifty Shades Freed! It’s easy! Check out the following links:

  • Find memes to share on all your social media platforms here  
  • Join this facebook page #50DollarsNot50Shades
  • Donate $50 Dollars to a local women’s shelter
  • Sign this petition asking Universal Pictures to CANCEL the Fifty Shades Freed movie

Bonus Gift

Do you want to start talking with your kids, but just don’t know how to get this conversation going?  Don’t worry! With some help from our allies, we’ve compiled a FREE cheat sheet for you. Click on the box below:

Lingerie Ads and Little Eyes: 5 Easy Ways to Protect Kids from Porn (in Ads)

Lingerie Ads and Little Eyes: 5 Easy Ways to Protect Kids from Porn (in Ads)

No doubt about it, nudity —or partial nudity— has become mainstream in our society. But just because it’s mainstream doesn’t mean there isn’t something you can do to protect kids from porn. (Yes, even the soft-core porn that’s found everywhere in ads!)

One of our readers is ready to take on such a fight. In her own words, “I’m fed up with the push of lingerie ads!”

protect kids from porn little boy staring

Soft-core porn in the mailbox

Her frustration came to a boiling point when her eight-year-old son went to get the mail the other day. He was greeted by a voluptuous, provocatively posed woman in satin and lace lingerie. It was the cover a mailer from a popular lingerie chain.

Most upsetting to her was that she had not requested any mailings from this particular store. They had simply taken the liberty of sending it to everyone in the neighborhood.

Our reader feels strongly that the image on the cover was completely inappropriate for young eyes. She plans to take action by writing a formal complaint. She reached out to Protect Young Minds for help. Writing a letter of protest is another proactive way to protect kids from porn!

One voice equals 10,000!

Did you know it’s generally recognized that one letter of protest represents about 10 thousand members of a community? When you put your thoughts in writing businesses, institutions and politicians take notice!

So when an advertisement bothers you it’s not enough to wish that retailers and ad companies would consider your feelings. You have to speak up! We’re going to make that even easier to do by sharing 5 tips for a successful complaint letter. Plus, we’ve even included a FREE template with a sample letter!

5 tips for a successful letter of protest

Define WHY the image is offensive

For your letter to have the greatest impact, explain how the ad harms a specific group of society. You don’t have to be an expert in law or politics. Just put together a sound argument in your own words.

I surveyed several parents this week and asked them what offends them the most about typical lingerie ads. The common theme was how they objectify women. Here are a couple of responses:

“My concern is with how women are posed in advertising. It’s almost always a breast/butt shot, or some sort of impossibly arched back, etc.”

and

“It bothers me how they cast women as sexual objects. They place such a high value on ’sexiness’ and equate that with posing, and impossible body types. They try to make us feel bad about our bodies so that we buy their product.”

The exploitation and objectification of women is a hot topic today. (Remember the #MeToo campaign?) Don’t hesitate to tell businesses that they have an ethical responsibility to consider how they contribute to the #metoo culture.

Make it personal

Personal letters are more meaningful. Explain how an offensive ad impacts your family. One of the moms I spoke with shared this story:

“I had a very interesting conversation with my daughter after walking past a Victoria’s Secret video ad in the airport ‘Mom, why are they blowing kisses? Why are they wearing underpants and raincoats! Look, you can see her bum!”

The bottom line (no pun intended) is that the number one priority of any business is to make money —and they know that sex sells! They forget, or choose to ignore that children are very much in the line of sight of these ads. Parents and grandparents can protect kids from porn by vigilantly calling out businesses that ignore community decency standards.

Rally the troops

Check out how one mom gathered support in her community to help protect kids from porn!

Judy Cox couldn’t believe her eyes when she and her son walked passed by the PacSun store at the University Mall in Orem UT. In the window were displayed  t-shirts with images of half naked women in centrefold-type poses.

When the store manager refused to remove the pornographic shirts Cox did the only other thing she could think of —she bought every last offending shirt from the store! Her goal was to get them out of the view of young eyes as quickly as possible.

When Cox got home she wrote a letter and forwarded it through her extensive email lists. She encouraged her friends to get involved. And they did! Her willingness to act fast and speak out also caught the attention of several news outlets and brought the issue before city council. (Cox later returned the shirts when it was clear they would be removed from the store.)

What Cox did was amazing! But you don’t have to spend a dime to protect kids from porn. Just write your letter, spread the word and invite others to join your protest.

One is often enough

If others don’t stand with you write anyhow! I learned early on that one letter has the ability to effect positive change in advertising.

Growing up in a large city I saw billboards and posters plastered everywhere. One morning I was standing at an intersection when the city bus pulled up in front of me. Across its entire length was a larger-than-life the photo of a topless sunbather. The advertisement was for sunscreen.

In the early 90s, this image was one of the first it’s kind to hit my town. As I went about my day I couldn’t stop thinking that I had a responsibility to speak up. So, as soon as I got home I opened my phonebook (yup, no internet) and searched for where I could send my letter of protest.

Without social media and email lists I didn’t have the resources to gather community support. Still, my single letter still made a difference! Within 72hrs the image had been removed and replaced with a woman in a one-piece swimsuit.

I had felt alone, but wasn’t. My letter must have been one of many written in protest that week.

Send in triplicate

Nowadays it’s so easy to send multiple letters at once. Before you send, try to imagine where your letter will get the best results. If your complaint is with a retail outlet, don’t stop at the manager —take it all the way to the top! Gather names of specific individuals. Write your complaint. State the action you expect from each person on your list. Then clearly detail when you expect a response from each one.

That’s exactly the process this mom in Nebraska took after her five-year-old daughter identified pornography at their local grocery store.

After reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures together this young girl easily identified the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine as pornography. After a complaint to the store manager and a letter to corporate headquarters the magazines were removed from the checkout line racks, covered and placed in another location within the store. Not just in one store, but the across the entire chain! What a victory!!

You too CAN protect kids from porn in ads

There are so many more victories to be won. However some days it can feel overwhelming. When I asked another parent about lingerie ads she responded, “I feel like I have no say. It’s just there in front of me —in front of my kids!” 

The truth is every letter may not lead to immediate results. Yet it’s important to remember that EVERY LETTER COUNTS! When you see an ad that really discourages you don’t give up. There is always some action you can take. Direct your frustration into something proactive —like writing a well crafted protest letter! This is something everyone CAN do to help protect kids from porn. As the saying goes:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” — Edmund Burke

ACT NOW! Download your FREE Speak Up and Speak Out! Complaint Letter Template today!