My son is 11 years old, and even though he doesn’t have a phone yet, I realize that most of his friends do. (According to Influence Central, the average age that kids get phones is 10.3!) So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found out that there’d been exposure to inappropriate material on the internet thanks to one of his friends. And although he did come and tell me about it, he didn’t know what to say to his friend when the moment arrived and he had a screen in his face.
So we came up with 4 simple words he can say in these situations, and they have proven to work well. Here are those 4 words, along with 2 follow-up steps that will help your child feel more in control.
“Don’t show me that.”
When kids don’t know what to say or don’t want to be different, they will naturally giggle or just go along with it. The problem is it will keep happening again and again if he doesn’t speak up. By saying “don’t show me that” to a friend who has shown them something that makes them uncomfortable, your kids make their feelings 100 percent clear. A kid even can (gently) push the device away from a friend in the process.
By saying “don’t show me that” to a friend who has shown them something that makes them uncomfortable, your kids make their feelings 100 percent clear.
Your child may have to say it more than once to get the message across—and maybe with a strong, confident tone. So practice with him or her. Do some role-playing and pretend you’re the friend with the device. Practice laying on the peer pressure to see how your child responds.
Next, teach your kids to move: move their eyes, move seats, or move to the other side of the room—just physically move away from the person with the device. This not only will help them resist the urge to give in and look again (because, let’s be honest, at least a part of kids naturally wants to), but it will help them get the message across that they’re serious.
And sometimes, if a friend repeatedly shows your child inappropriate pictures, it’s time for a “friend move”—time to start hanging out with someone else who respects his or her wishes and shares similar values. Make sure your child knows that forcing exposure to inappropriate material on the internet is not something a real friend does.
Talk to a parent.
Lastly, your children need to know they can tell you what happened. Encourage them to tell you what they saw and who showed it to them. This is the time to reinforce that your child hasn’t done anything wrong and is not in trouble. In fact, it’s just the opposite; praise him or her for coming to you about this. And then you can decide whether to reach out to the school or the parents of the child who shared the images.
Not sure if your child has ever been exposed to inappropriate pictures? Try simply asking, or get the book Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen A. Jenson (or try the junior edition), and let it spark honest discussion. Let your children know they aren’t “bad” if they inadvertently saw something they know is inappropriate. But they can now feel ready and armed with these three things if it happens again.
What do you tell your kids to do if they are shown inappropriate pictures?