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Episode 100: The Reality of Protecting Kids from Pornography with Kristen A. Jenson

Brief summary of show:

In this episode, Kristen A. Jensen joins us for a candid and unvarnished conversation about pornography and its impact on our kids.

Kristen is the Author of #1 best-selling Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids, Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds, and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Guidebook for Professionals, executive producer of Brain Defense: Digital Safety curriculum, the founder of, and owner and CEO of Glen Cove Press.

She shares the troubling statistics of pornography use among children and how she was moved to take action in this field. We dive into the difficult task of instilling an internal filter in children to help them resist harmful online content, while acknowledging the sobering fact that the "cross your fingers" approach is likely to fail. Kristen exposes the insidious and addictive patterns of our brains that leave us vulnerable to the temptations of pornography.

Finally, we address the difficult question of what parents can do when they discover that their teenager has been exposed to porn, a heartbreaking and all-too-common reality.

Tune in for a raw and honest discussion that illuminates the daunting challenges of porn-proofing your child's digital safety.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [3:05] How Kristen's work started in this field

  • [5:45] The statistics of pornography and the ages children tends to access it

  • [7:30] Teaching our kids how to have an internal filter

  • [8:40] The 'cross your fingers' plan and why it doesn’t work

  • [11:00] The addictive and tempting patterns our brains can take

  • [16:25] What to do if you find out your teenager was watching porn

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Kristen

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

Natalie: How to teach kids to reject porn. Can we protect young minds? The answer is yes, and I have tools for you coming up on the podcast today.

Natalie: Hi friends, it's Natalie. Welcome to the podcast. A few weeks ago we talked about sex education, how to talk to our kids about sex in our overly sexualized world. That stirred up a lot of conversation and more questions. If you wanna go back and listen to that podcast either before you listen today or after, I would highly recommend it as.

Topic is similar, but different. That was episode 97. Today we're gonna talk about another sensitive topic, but one we absolutely cannot ignore. My goal is to help you with difficult topics, give you resources, give you ideas, and this is information you need. Did you know that by the age of 17. 75% of teenagers say they have viewed pornography.

My guest today is Kristen Jensen. She's the founder of Defend Young Minds and bestselling author of Good Pictures, bad Pictures, porn Proofing Today's Young Kids, And good pictures, bad pictures Jr. A simple plan to protect young minds. She's also the executive producer of Brain Defense Digital Safety Curriculum.

Kristen is a leader in the safeguard Alliance of the National Center for Sexual Exploitation and today's topic. It's critical for us adults to hear as we're gonna talk about protecting kids from the dangers of porn and what to do if you or someone you know finds porn or suspects porn on a young person's phone or digital device.

I know. I know. I can hear you. It's easier to sometimes just put our hands over our ears and hope that none of this is happening. It's a tough one, but I promise this episode is going to help. Hit subscribe. Go to the show notes of this episode for information on getting my newsletter and for links to other important topics.

Let's take some action, shall we? Here's my interview with Kristen Jensen.

Kristen, such an important topic, uh, that we're gonna hit on today. And I know this is now your life mission, um, but teaching kids to reject porn, I think, you know, my history, I've been in television and I've been a, uh, reporter for many years is education and parenting. And I remember a psychologist once telling me in an interview, it's not when, it is, yes, they will.

Sea porn at some point.

how did you get started with this?

Kristen: Well, I, this was not one of my life goals, , but I had a friend who came to me one evening. She called me and as we talked, she related this terrible story that had happened to their family. They found out that their. Was, sexually molesting his younger brothers and sisters from the 14 year old down to the four year old.

He was 17 at the time. And, porn was definitely involved. So we know now that porn is, it's like a perpetrator porn, fuels child on child harmful sexual behavior. And that was the case in, in this family. And I woke up the next morning realizing, . You know, pornography was such a big part of this, and I've kind of heard that porn was, you know, could be addictive and all these things, but I really didn't know much about it.

So I just had this thought though, like, how will we warn young children? What are we going to do so that they know, especially in these days when every three year old is looking at an iPad, you know, how are we going to protect them? How are we going to teach them? , you know about the harms of pornography at a young age when a lot of parents aren't even thinking about talking to them about sex.

Mm-hmm. . So it was this problem that came to me and it wouldn't leave my mind. And so I started doing some research and had this very naive thought that, oh, I'll just write this book this summer, a few weeks, I'm sure . And that turned into a three year project. So that was the beginning of good pictures, bad pictures, porn proofing today's young kids for kids ages seven to 11.

And then I got asked to do by several parents to do something for younger kids, and that was. . And so three years later I wrote, uh, good pictures, bad pictures, junior. A simple plan to protect young minds, and that's a much simpler, um, and that's really for kids three to six. So wow. These are tools that, um, we have more tools now, but that's kind of how I got started.

It was this friend's problem and it was horrific what it did to the family. And I couldn't find any solutions. That's the thing. I looked. .

Natalie: Yeah. We never know what God has planned for us in, in situations like this. And sometimes it is out of a need and, uh, a need for society or a need even for our own families, we find.

Mm-hmm. ,

A couple of statistics I found from an article you wrote, um, common Sense Media published a report, uh, recently saying, um, after researchers surveyed random sample of 1300 teenagers, ages 13 to 17, 12 years old was the average age for exposure to pornography. 15% of the respondents reported seeing online porn before the age of 10.

Yikes, 75% of kids at the age of 17 have already viewed pornography. 75% of our kids, 52% reported. Seeing violent pornography, including media that depicts what appears to be rape, choking, or someone in pain over half. Yeah, those numbers are so scary. Now, have those numbers changed since you wrote the book?

Because I know your, your program has developed more people have wanted, um, access to it. Are those numbers getting any better or are they getting

Kristen: worse? Well, I will just say this, that it's difficult to get these numbers. Mm-hmm. , um, because even in that, , the kids are having to remember back and memory.

Mm-hmm. is tricky. Oh yeah. Having to remember back, well, when did I really see this? Mm-hmm. , when was I first exposed? And so, um, I would just say that I get, so, we get so many emails and, uh, messages via social media about even younger kids, five year olds getting exposed to pornography on the school. , um, seven year olds is playing a game and then they click on something and they, you know, are led to pornography.

So, honestly, I think those are conservative numbers. but it's definitely getting worse because kids are getting more and more access, yet there are more resources, there are more filtering resources. Um, but a child that really, really wants to get it and. , there's pretty much no way you can stop it.

so what we teach is, yes, do the filters, but an internal filter, you need to persuade your child from a young age that this is just not gonna be healthy for your body, for your brain, for your relationships. and, and that process of persuasion, uh, is what I call the internal.

Natalie: I like that internal filter.

So let's, let's talk about uh, what the books teach the basic concepts, and they're beautiful books. They're perfect because for so many of us as parents, it's such an uncomfortable conversation that our parents probably didn't have with us because we didn't have all of the dangers. It's such a weird and uncomfortable, and I know you talk about what is it that you call it that we just kind of cross our fingers and hope that they don't see.

Kristen: Yeah.

The cross your fingers plan. . Tell me what,

Natalie: tell me about that. Yeah. Because I think a lot of parents fall under that. Like, oh, I just hope they never

Kristen: see it. Well, you mentioned this at the beginning. It's not if it's when Yes. And, uh, any child with eyes, uh, that can see, um, is, is going to, because it's just so prevalent out there and it's not behind paywalls.

so you can, yes, there is a certain amount that is behind a paywall or a premium channel, but the business model has changed. So it used to be you had to go out and seek it out and buy it. Now it's just streaming. It's like a YouTube channel where you know, the. It's the ad revenue they're getting for the eyeballs, right?

It's the ad revenue. So it's a totally different model that children now are putting children at, at a bigger disadvantage, and they're much more. Vulnerable. So you asked me about what the books, the concepts of the books. Mm-hmm. . So every child, in order to have e just a beginning, just a foundation, uh, foundational defense against pornography, they need to understand, uh, what pornography is.

So a definition why it's harmful. So they need to have a warning and they need to understand the. Uh, behind it. And then third, they need to have a plan so they know exactly what to do and how to reject it and keep it from becoming, you know, a real problem. Um, so, uh, definition, a warning and a plan. And that's what these books do.

The junior one does this in a very simple way. The old, the one for older kids. Uh, in a way that teaches them about their brain, the thinking brain, the feeling brain, how they work together, and how pornography impacts, uh, those brains. The two brains that you have is very simplified. Um, but I've had neurosurgeons and neurologists and people that know a lot about the brain look at it and say, and, and tell me that it is correct.

So we teach kids the addictive nature of pornography and the addiction. with an understanding of basic understanding of the. and how it becomes addicted to anything really. Yeah.

Natalie: You know, it, it just makes me think uncovering health news and parenting news and all of this, that so many things that are addictive are so tempting to our kids.

Right? I mean, it's, it's, um, alcohol, it's. , it's sugar, it's, uh, gambling, it's all of these things. Mm-hmm. . But pornography has, if you could touch on that, that same addictive quality that stimulates a part of the brain that likely would cause other addictions in life. Am I

Kristen: right in that? Absolutely. The limbic system in the brain, which, uh, houses the reward center mm-hmm.

all of this is corrupted by, um, substances, you know, and also by, uh, Behaviors, experiences, um, these experiences, uh, especially with pornography and, you know, sexual stimulation, that is a, what they call a super stimulus, and it just has so much more power in the brain than, uh, you know, if you're clicking through shopping for shoes.

Yeah. , you know? Yeah. So it's, it's a very powerful stimulus, a super stimulus. and it feeds that dopamine. So the dopamine is the seeking. It's what keeps us seeking the thing that we need. Mm-hmm. for survival. Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . So we are wired to seek after food. We are wired to seek after sweet things. Right. We are wired to seek after, uh, sex because that will, you know, keep the, uh, human race going.

Um, we definitely have to learn how to deal with those desires, but pornography takes advantage of that. Mm-hmm. and basically corrupts it and corrupts the reward center. And it really does physically change the brain. There are many studies, MRI studies that show that, um, porn, that people who are addicted to porn.

have shrinkage in this prefrontal cortex area. Mm-hmm. . And it's the same place that other addicts have shrinkage. Is that prefrontal cortex, which is your thinking brain. Yeah. So there is a lot of science. Um, don't wanna get too deep into it, but there's a lot of science and good pictures, bad pictures, really just.

presents it in a very understandable, easy to understand. every seven year old can understand this kind of way, but it's powerful because you are right. There's so many, you know, beside porn, gaming, you know, gambling. There's a lot of addictive experiences and substances out there. We see. , you know, problem with fentanyl.

Mm-hmm. , we see all these things. Well, your kids need to know Yeah. How the brain becomes addicted. That's right. That should be taught in school . Really? Yeah. It should be taught in school because we live in this world a wash with addictive experiences and addictive and, you know, , you know, all the big tech companies and game companies, they're making, they understand the brain.

Absolutely. They understand it. Yeah. And they make their, and social media understands it, so. Yeah, absolutely.

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Natalie: you just mentioned, and we should, we should teach what addictive behavior is, especially in our mental health crisis days in our young people. I, I work with young people and teaching in a high school.

they're struggling and they're gonna look for places to find comfort. And we don't want that comfort to be pornography or alcohol or drugs or something that they're trying to escape to because of the dopamine hits and how it feels. Good.

let's talk for a moment, because I hear this often. I found out my teenager was watching porn.

What do I. , you know, how do you go back? So you focus on prevention, which is awesome, and we have to start there, but what do we do when we find out? Can you go back? How do you correct that? Can you correct that once they've experienced it?

Kristen: Yeah. I was just texting with a friend this morning about this very same topic.

She has a friend and she's trying to help this friend. So you can still be working the prevention even with a child that has been looking at porn because what you're trying to do is prevent a lifelong addiction, something that is going to impact the relationships. Yep. Cause divorce, maybe even cause 'em not to wanna get married or have a family, um, that can cause them, uh, even problems at work, you know, they can get fired.

They can just lose career opportunities and I don't know. , there's still a lot you can teach your child. Um, I would say the first thing is, um, go to our website. I know, uh, but we have pulled together, we curated a guide called, uh, my Kid Saw Porn. Now What? Oh, perfect. Um, and it's a smart plan, so parents can go through step by step.

We have five steps and then I have a ton of articles in there. , um, are addressing so many questions that parents have now. It's not a full on recovery book, but it, it really will get you started on the right path. Um, and so I'll tell you the first, uh, step, and that is s so I use smart S for stay calm because we can have all kinds of feelings and fears.

we need to. address that with our kids until we have dealt with our own initial, you know, reaction to it. Once we've dealt with our fears and feelings, then we can go to them calmly and you don't have to do it the same day. You can give yourself three days, whatever you need because it's gonna be a, a long haul.

This isn't a. , this is a marathon. Mm-hmm. . And so you can wait until you're in the right place mentally. Yeah. And in all other ways to address this with your child. But go get that guide, um, and it will really definitely help you. Um, and I'll just say this one thing, one more thing, and that is, remember that porn is the enemy, not your child.

right? Yeah. It's your child is still your beautiful, precious child. Yeah. And you don't need to feel like they're damaged goods or that, um, uh, you know, they're a project to, to fix. Just continue to love them. Build your relationship as much as possible because it's that relationship that's actually going to allow you to help them and support them.

as they hopefully choose to leave

Natalie: pornography behind. Yeah. I love this idea that you give of teaching them that filter and it can be used for pornography and anything else, but, you know, it's a hard thing, especially for young people when something's so tempting. You know? It's like, and, and, and some of it's not even tempting from a pleasure standpoint.


Kristen: curiosity. Absolutely. And kids are curious. That's why, you know, I hear sometimes parents will say, but what if I read them your book and then they become curious and then they, you know. Well, to be honest, those kids are gonna become curious. Yeah. Wouldn't it be better if they knew some information and they knew that they could talk to you about it?

Yeah, much better. So kids are, and it would be actually abnormal if a child wasn't curious about mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. naked bodies and sexuality and all that. Yeah. Um, so it's just the pornography. And then this is another thing to teach kids, especially as they get older, because my books are really created.

Like, you, you don't even have to have this beginning of the sex talks to read good pictures, bad pictures. Okay. That was another

Natalie: question I had of what if they don't even know that, so that, that's right.

Kristen: Mm-hmm. , yes. I don't know how I figured out how to do that. . I had a lot of help. I had a lot of help. but, uh, kids are curious.

You can expect that they're going to be curious so much better if you have prepared them and taught them the difference between the kind of sex that is portrayed in pornography and the kind of sex that is portrayed that is real, right? Mm-hmm. , that is real. So I have this chart. in one of, uh, in one of my, uh, articles and we could probably link, link to this.

Sure. But it's basically you show your child that real healthy sex, the ideal is that you love the other person, right? Mm-hmm. And that you respect them and you see them as a whole person. Um, , uh, and, you know, several other things. And then, and it, and it builds your relationship. It strengthens your relationship.

Mm. Whereas porn, porn sex is the opposite. It is often violent. It's so, I mean, disrespectful is like an understatement. Mm-hmm. , it is so degrading mm-hmm. and, um, things that most of your audience might not even be able to imagine. . Um, you talked about the, the study by common sense media, the fact that half the kids, uh, said that they had seen violent porn.

Mm-hmm. , that is a travesty because their whole sexual template is being robbed. Yeah, yeah. It's being taken Yeah. And robbed by porn, and we need to teach them the other side. So not just the mechanics of sex, but you know, our values around it.

Natalie: Yeah. Absolut. and getting comfortable with the conversation. I know, I know.

It's hard. Parents. Oh my goodness. I know it's hard with three kids and two in college, but you'll never regret having that open conversation and giving them the gift of understanding and that filter. Absolutely. Okay. I know there are people thinking I need this information. Where can they find you? And, and aside from the books, you have these guides and you also work with, communities and schools and, and other organizations.


Kristen: Yes. Um, so they can find us, uh, at defend Young or they can find us on social media at Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Um, they can also, uh, and we often get questions and we always answer the questions. So I would encourage you, your audience to, you know, check us out and see all the great articles we have on Defend Young

We also, and I got so many requests for a curriculum. Mm-hmm. And, uh, for schools, for homeschool. But we were developing, developing this right when Covid hit, we were finishing up. And so we pivoted a little bit and developed, um, an addition of this curriculum and it's called Brain Defense Digital Safety, cuz we need to teach our kids digital defense skills.

Yeah. So, Defend their brains. And it's called, so it's called Brain Defense Digital Safety, and there's a family addition. And so check that out as well. We have, uh, videos about it and everything on. On our website.

Natalie: Well, we'll, we'll put those links in the show notes, make it really easy for people to go and, and find this information.

And Kristen, thanks so much for what you do, uh, for our families and our kids, and can't stress enough how important it is. And I'm just grateful that, um, that you've taken the time to write these books and to help

Kristen: folks out. Thank you, Natalie. It really, I have so many stories of how when kids are taught this, they know exactly how to act to protect themselves.

Natalie: Just teach them that filter. . Yep. Yep. Thanks again. Take care.

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