With pornography readily accessible through a variety or devices and media, it’s no longer a matter of if your child will be exposed to pornography, but when. While data previously suggested that the average first age of exposure to pornography was eleven years, a recent report claims that one in ten visitors to porn sites is less than ten years old. Less than ten years old.
Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A. Jenson, MA and Gail Poyner, PhD, seeks to arm parents and children with the necessary tools to discuss pornography and addiction in a positive, confidence-building manner. The text, with accompanying watercolor illustrations by Debbie Fox, is told from the point of view of a young boy having a conversation with his mother. The mom uses their perusal of a photo album to introduce the topic of pornographic pictures.
Using analogies and terms children can understand, seven short chapters cover pornography, addiction, and various aspects of brain function. The book also offers a five-step “CAN DO” plan for children to implement should they be confronted with pornographic images. Finally, Dad enters the picture and reaffirms what the boy and his mother have discussed. The book also contains a helpful glossary and some resource articles and websites.
What I like best about Good Pictures Bad Pictures is its frank treatment of the subject backed by science and concrete strategies. Rather than encouraging parents to rely solely on an Internet filter, device restrictions, or who they think are “safe” friends and family, it arms them with an action plan for the inevitable. It gives parents an introduction to an important topic and gives kids the necessary vocabulary to talk about it with them. In essence, it helps do what the authors refer to as “porn-proofing.”
Rather than wringing our hands and sticking our heads in the sand, praying that somehow our children will be spared from an introduction to pornography, this no-nonsense approach brings the issue out into the light and helps assure children that they can come to their parents with anything and they will receive help and reassurance.
The book makes a good read aloud for elementary-age children. I won a copy of the book on its release in 2014, and inexplicably let it sit for three years. Perhaps I, too, was in denial about the necessity of a conversation-starter such as this. Finally, I handed the book to my fourteen-year-old to read independently. While he confirmed it was written for those younger and less mature, he was able to glean useful information from it. And it opened the door to a timely conversation since he recently received a smartphone of his own. I read the book aloud to my nine-, six-, and four-year olds.
The four-year-old lost interest immediately, while the six-year old may have gleaned a little bit of the story. The nine-year old, however, paid close attention and had plenty of questions. (To be fair, she has many questions on every topic, all the time.) As a result, we will be having some more age-appropriate conversations about sex. While the book spurred her curiosity about pornography, I would rather have that happen in the context of our discussion about the dangers of pornography than in a sketchy conversation with her peers.
The book’s approach is entirely secular, with only brief mention of the immorality of objectifying others and no mention of sexual sin. Therefore, parents may want to supplement it with age-appropriate information regarding sexual morality and chastity. A healthy dose of St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body would go a long way in broadening the book’s scope, which does at least give a nod to the necessity of a healthy, rightly-ordered attraction between a man and woman resulting in children.
For additional resources or to purchase a copy of Good Pictures Bad Pictures, visit ProtectYoungMinds.org.
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Copyright 2017 Carolyn Astfalk