Social Media, Pornography, and Our Kid’s “Need to Connect”

It is safe to say everyone has heard–“screens are addictive.”

It wasn’t that many years ago we read about the big tech guys like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates admit to their strict policy of limited to no personal screen use in their own homes, by their own children. One article presents saddening statistics:

“Research has found that an eighth-grader’s risk for depression jumps 27% when he or she frequently uses social media. Kids who use their phones for at least three hours a day are much more likely to be suicidal. And recent research has found the teen suicide rate in the US now eclipses the homicide rate, with smartphones as the driving force.”

And suicide is just one piece of the problem pie. Add to that the apps allowing our children access to people all over the world, the ones designed to automatically delete messages within 24 hours or less, and those which allow children to secretly have conversations–it is no wonder Mr. Gates didn’t allow his own children to get a smartphone until the ripe old age of fourteen, compared to the average age of children now, ten.

So what does all of this have to do with awareness and prevention of child sexual abuse and assault in terms of social media, pornography, and the need our kids most certainly have to connect?

Let’s consider a few ponder-worthy thoughts:

  • Research shows the human brain does not complete development until between our twenties to thirties. About the age of twenty-five. Yet we hand over access to the entire world to our children, on average, at the age of ten.
  • ‘Stranger Danger’ is truly more of an issue on the internet. Social media opens up a plethora of ways for predators to access information about our children in order to more easily locate them. You do not have to look far to see it could, in fact, happen to us. And it can begin simply with a friendly conversation between young ladies, leading to a nightmare written for movies, as you see in this article.
  • 94% of ALL CHILDREN will see porn by the time they hit their fourteenth birthday. Here we read the average age for first-time porn exposure is reported as early as eight and as “old” as eleven. Pornography today is more violent and more accessible than ever. The XXX video stores from decades ago are in the palm of our kids’ hands, and the material would make porn stars of old blush. It is now one of the most reported addictions. Imagine what an addiction fed from the age of eight creates in a someday grown man–the unrealistic expectations, the pressure on his wife, the dangers of him becoming a sexual offender, to name a few.
  • Sexting has become a joke, and videoing sexual assaults has become the norm. The common message told to our young ladies from the get-go is that sexy is the only beautiful. When sexy is the only beautiful, sexting becomes the obvious expectation. Sexual innuendos and soft porn, really, are on many ads including the ones trying to sell our daughters panties and bras–and their young minds store away the image of the 20-something airbrushed, provocatively-posed model as a reference to whom they should emulate, arched-back in barely anything, because THAT is what they’re being told is beautiful. And our young men who see it? What will they expect from our daughters? Nothing less. And the pressure is on–to communicate through sexting. Or to make little of a violent crime that follows a young person all the days of their lives. No more are the days of sex being sacred–it’s a game where they all become pawns and the cost is dissociating from the reality of human relationships. Empathy is lost.
  • The comparison game is non-stop and more fierce than ever because of social media. Our children’s need for acceptance can easily spin out of control when they’re always connected to seeing the highlight reels of their friends who seem to have the perfect body, perfect family, perfect boyfriend–and this makes them vulnerable to posting, sending, and sharing photos and videos that could follow them the rest of their lives, but even worse, cause them to be exploited or sexually assaulted, or even become a victim of human trafficking. Even here, in this town.
  • We were ALL made for human connection–in all areas of life you will find humans connecting with humans–which makes us relational beings. But what if all this technology has become just a cheap substitute, and what if us parents are really the ones who have set the precedent? We are from the generations who remember life before the internet, before smartphones, before social media–and while all three of these offer wonderful benefits, I often ponder if those benefits outweigh the risks. Among the risks: a loss of intimate and meaningful relationships for the trade-out of generic, instant-gratification connections. And in turn, we lose the connections with those closest to us.

What if our kids’ addictions, or propensity for such addictions, to their devices is really because they just want to be closer and better known by whom they would be closest–their parents?

So what can we do to fight the war for our kids’ minds and hearts?

First, decide to do something. As always, start somewhere. One small change to start can fuel a fire to bring major change in the way your family views and behaves with technology. Again, I highly recommend purchasing for less than $10 the Teacher Kit from which contains an array of helpful resources. The Conversations That Matter card for teens is one of the items included in the Teacher Kit and is a super simple way to sit down and chat, allowing it to help you lead the conversation or ask questions.

(image courtesy of

Here are some things I sometimes forget (especially when I am tired of parenting):

  • We as parents do not need permission from our children to be parents.
  • Our children actually thrive within boundaries, and it is never too late (though they may push against them).
  • It is absolutely okay if our children get mad at us (if they don’t at some point, are we even really parenting? HA!).
  • We survived many years without the use of smartphones, many of us EVEN DUMBPHONES, and they will too. Delayed gratification will serve them well.
  • It is not our job to make our kids’ lives easy. What does that teach them? If they lose their phone for a week as punishment or because it fell in a toilet, they can figure out how to improvise in order to communicate and receive information.
  • It is totally acceptable for us as parents to have a reason or a rule our children do not understand (remember the brain completes development about the age of 25).
  • Those with whom they connect on their phones will never be as important as the relationships they experience in their own home, and none of those on their phone will keep their safety and best interest at front and center.
  • It is perfectly fine for our children to accuse us of being overprotective–if you are acting within reason, you are not required to justify your efforts to protect.

(image courtesy of


Social Media Help Ideas:

  • Do not be afraid to set boundaries, such as no devices in the bedroom or bathroom, only in common areas.
  • Use a parental monitoring-friendly app. You can tell them you are doing so, but again, you are not required to–it is YOUR job as a parent to keep them safe, even from themselves.
  • Set app timers with password protections so their time on social media is limited. This should encourage them to spend their time on there wisely.
  • Talk to them about the quality of their posting and interactions–have conversations about some standard questions they should ask themselves before posting or sharing. For example: Is this post encouraging, educational, inspiring, or helpful? Does this picture capture true beauty, or is it sexy, flaunting, or foolish–would my parents approve? Would I be embarrassed if my teacher saw this? Is my comment or message meant to build someone else up, or are my motives to tear them down or elevate myself? Is this a conversation that would be best had OFF of social media, face to face or over the phone, to prevent misunderstandings? Is this post or picture really just an effort to get attention or is it to brag or boast?
  • Talk to your kids about how often they check the LIKES or VIEWS on their posts–and help them to understand their value is not found in how many likes or views they get.
  • Help your children and teens understand appropriate messaging on social media–never the self-deleting type (what good are they, NONE); establish what expectations you have for messaging with the opposite sex; discuss the dangers of sending nude, provocative, or even just inappropriate pictures and videos. Make sure they understand ANY photos or videos sent, received, or distributed of minors that are explicit (make sure they know the definition of explicit) in any nature IS AGAINST THE LAW, and at this point in the justice system, more easily and seriously punishable.


Pornography Help Ideas:

  • Have the conversation with your older kids about sex (more about that in another post), which should help to lay a firm foundation for being able to discuss pornography. Make sure they understand the definition of addiction, and that pornography can most certainly become an addiction. Here are some helpful resources.
  • Not only can pornography become a severe and life-dominating addiction, but it also will absolutely affect their relationships. Help them to understand the negative impact these images and videos will have on their expectations of their future significant other or spouse.
  • Help them to understand most pornographic material is violent, and not a true reflection of a loving relationship like marriage, where sex is to be a gift. Pornography takes what was created for good between husband and wife, and makes it evil, sick, and even dangerous.
  • The three points above are geared more towards older children and teens, but that doesn’t mean our younger children cannot learn about pornography in an age-appropriate way. And as studies have shown, if YOU aren’t teaching them about pornography and sex, pornography most likely is. There is a great book called Good Pictures, Bad Pictures for older children, and they even have a Junior Version for ages 3-6. These are important regardless, but especially if you have older children as well. It is not uncommon for a teen to have a porn attraction or addiction and the younger sibling be exposed to it, either on purpose to harm them or inadvertently.


The Need to Connect:

It is hard enough these days to truly connect, even with those living under the same roof because of how full we tend to pack our schedules. Weeks will pass before we even consider the last time we really had a meaningful conversation. I feel the weight of it like every parent.

I have read so many articles about the time spent with screens in our faces and the negative impact it has on our relationships. The message it delivers to the average person we are face to face with (like our friend or co-worker) is that of distraction, disinterest, and disengagement. If it sends that message to our peers, imagine the message it sends to those looking to us for leadership, example, acceptance, and engagement.

When we as parents numb ourselves in our weary hours of the day with a screen as we scroll and like and comment, we cannot expect our children to do any differently. The danger there is that while emulating you, they lack the ability to make as wise of choices as the parent. They see you “connecting” on social media and their natural understanding is that they too can connect. Can they foster meaningful relationships on social media? YES! But they are at a much higher risk to fall into the trap of unhealthy, dangerous, and even illegal activity that can lead them to deal with issues their brains developmentally are not capable of handling. Face to face relationships for youth and teens are hard enough, putting a screen between them creates such barriers they do not even understand.

As we connect more with our children, we can have meaningful and necessary conversations that not only prepare them for dealing with the issues they may face, but also build a relationship of trust. We want them to understand:

  • nothing they could ever do would ever cause us to love them less, no matter how angry they may believe we will get
  • we will fight for them, even if it means we have to fight THEM for them
  • we will believe them if someone harms them or threatens to cause them harm
  • there is always room for forgiveness and grace, even if they have to endure consequences for poor choices
  • no matter what, nothing is worth hiding and truth always equals freedom

Let us ALL be the main connection our children experience– if we press in now, chances are that they will lean in later.


As always, I am happy to help you feel more comfortable having these conversations. Feel free to contact me with any questions!


Emily is a wife, a homeschooling mama bear of two, Board Secretary and Events Coordinator for Journey to Heal Ministries, and an advocate for complete health–mind, body, and spirit. Emily is a survivor of child sexual abuse, but has also walked the journey of parent of a young survivor, which has helped her to find her passion in leading others to hope and healing from past sexual trauma, as well as educate and equip families and the community to raise awareness and prevention. On most days, when not taxiing children to homeschool classes, you’ll find Emily in workout clothes with dirty hair and no make-up, creating all things healthy in her kitchen. You can find her on Facebook at Emily-Carl Parker and Instagram at @homeschoolplexusmama and @thewholewellnesscommunity

Teaching Body Safety to Children, Teens, and the Community that Surrounds

A Note From Our Founder: Firm Foundations Tutoring seeks to educate, encourage, and equip whole families and communities. Our Parent Resource Blog helps us fulfill that intention as we seek to help parents make informed, wise decisions on their parenting journey. For our current Guest Expert series, we have partnered with Journey to Heal Ministries and the #End1in10 Campaign to spread awareness and help prevent child sexual abuse. Let’s get the word out and #End1in10!

–  Tatum Smith, Founder of Firm Foundations Tutoring


Body Safety. What a seemingly silly phrase. As adults, we know what is safe for our bodies. As children, we must be taught. But as parents, we may rarely consider this. And there is a story to accompany this truth…

My daughter was almost eleven when she disclosed her sexual abuse. I knew for many years something just wasn’t “right,” but I never suspected it would be THAT, especially by THOSE people. All those years of teaching stranger danger! Nevertheless, it most definitely WAS THAT by THOSE people, and our world came caving in around us.

In hindsight, I should have seen it. Always, right? As I replayed the years of caring for my daughter, I realized I had asked the wrong questions and taught the “wrong” simple lessons.

“Be sweet,” I would say, directing her to behave, anytime I left her in someone else’s care.

A better way to depart wisdom to her would have been, “Be sweet, but remember, YOU are the boss of your body.” And that statement should have been a follow-up reminder to the conversations we had prior, regarding private parts and body safety, appropriate and inappropriate touch, and expectations of adults to protect, not cause harm or “uh-oh” feelings.

“Has anyone ever touched you inappropriately?,” I remember asking her on multiple occasions, actually, when I noticed a shift in her behavior possibly alerting me to something deeper.

But her response, “no,” made me question myself and lay those concerns aside, assuming I was just being too sensitive or worried.

A better question to ask when my fears were heightened would have been, “Has ANYONE, EVER, touched you in ANY of these private places? Have you ever felt UNSAFE?”

As I have learned in the years since, sexual perpetrators do not usually indicate behavior as inappropriate to the child, because the child in most cases knows their perpetrator, and this person is someone with whom they have a trusting relationship: a family member, a family friend or neighbor, coach, church friend, or even another child or teen. I have also learned, my questions and directions to my child should have been with more thought and attention to her safety.



So how can we all “do better,” as I like to say?

What’s next?

First, TEACH the children in YOUR home and educate yourself. When your children are educated and equipped, they can more easily identify abuse and protect themselves, and know how to respond to a friend in the event one comes forward about sexual abuse. Here are a few ways to begin:

(Photo courtesy of

Second, TAKE ACTION and bring awareness to your circle of influence and community. When your circle of influence is aware of your vigilance, they too will be made aware of the importance of protecting our children. When your community or neighborhood is aware, you can help create an environment where a network of safe adults is working together to raise prevention. Not many perpetrators are going to want to mess with that! Here are some ideas to get started:

  • The Mama Bear Effect recommends us to Build a Body Safety Circle™ by educating the adults in closest contact with your child, in multiple areas of their life: Home, Non-Family, School, Camps, Childcare. This helps to reduce the opportunity for abuse, but also gives your child a net of safe individuals they can disclose abuse to if they are not comfortable disclosing to you as the parent. More on how to Build a Body Safety Circle™ can be found in the Rock the Talk™ Parent Pack.
  • Set up a neighborhood “Keeping Kids Safe” gathering and share information. A friend of mine thought of this idea during the launch of our #End1in10 Campaign and I LOVE IT! Most neighborhoods have a Facebook page or Nextdoor site where communication happens. Pick a date, invite your neighbors either through your neighborhood communication page or simply delivering paper invites door-to-door, prepare a presentation with resources available, and share why you are starting and inviting them into the conversation. You may be surprised at how many parents have never considered the danger and how many of you can come together to make your neighborhood a safer place for everyone. For more ideas on how to facilitate such an event, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to sit down with you.
  • Keep a Five Body Safety Rules poster (available for free download) in a high traffic area of your home where neighbor kids may see it, and don’t be afraid to introduce them to it upon their first visit. {I recommend printing a copy for all the parents of your children’s friends/neighbor kids to notify them of your effort to keep this in plain view in your home, in order to build a safer community for them all. This will not only open conversations, but it will ensure you don’t have any parents knocking on your door, totally blind-sided!}

(photo courtesy of

  • Memorize The Mama Bear Effect’s “Mama Bear Mantras” found in the Rock the Talk™ Parent Pack to help you and your children remember:
    • It is your job to protect them.
    • Their body is special + they are the boss of it.
    • If a big person breaks the rules about privates, it’s never the child’s fault and it’s never too late to tell.
  • In the event your child discloses abuse, be prepared and do YOUR job as the parent to love on them, care for their heart, and say, “I believe you,” and “It’s not your fault,” until they believe it. {More on this in a later post.}

When navigating Teaching Body Safety, we do not have to be afraid. Will some conversations be uncomfortable, yes. But any time you hesitate because of discomfort, consider how uncomfortable your child would be if abused and the discomfort your child would feel carrying the weight of that secret, the burden of shame, then you both navigating the justice system while processing trauma and entering into a journey of healing. I promise you, that is far more uncomfortable than having these conversations. Don’t feel as though you have to reinvent the wheel either. The links provided throughout this post are rich with information and provide even more options to further your education to be equipped, so take advantage of what already exists. Your efforts will plant seeds in your children they can carry well into adulthood, and hopefully create a cycle of teaching body safety to the generations to come.

We have an opportunity to affect change. It is our responsibility as adults. And we have all the tools available to us to do it. I am more than happy to help you. Will you make it a priority in your home and community?


Emily is a wife, a homeschooling mama bear of two, Board Secretary and Events Coordinator for Journey to Heal Ministries, and an advocate for complete health–mind, body, and spirit. Emily is a survivor of child sexual abuse, but has also walked the journey of parent of a young survivor, which has helped her to find her passion in leading others to hope and healing from past sexual trauma, as well as educate and equip families and the community to raise awareness and prevention. On most days, when not taxiing children to homeschool classes, you’ll find Emily in workout clothes with dirty hair and no make-up, creating all things healthy in her kitchen. You can find her on Facebook at Emily-Carl Parker and Instagram at @homeschoolplexusmama and @thewholewellnesscommunity