Can Mama Bears Make a Difference? 10 Fierce Women Who Defend Kids Online
Moms all over the world are fighting tooth and nail to protect their kids from the threats technology poses today. From overuse of tech, to access to dangerous pornography and predators, there are so many opportunities for families to prepare to be safe and strong!
These moms, just like you, are doing what they can to influence their own homes and communities.
Meet a few of the awesome mothers making the world safer for kids!
Brittany Homer, Raising Today’s Kids
I am passionate about helping children and families succeed in our digital world! I’ve taught internet safety programs at schools, raised awareness about human trafficking, advocated for victims of sexual assault and more. This year I started the podcast Raising Today’s Kids and have also been lobbying for legislation in Montana to confront the public health crisis of pornography. Montana just became the 13th state to pass this resolution!
In the first episode of Raising Today’s Kids I share five moments in my life that led me to what I’m doing today:
- My first time in a chat room
- Meeting my friend’s young foster brother and wanting to help kids like him
- Dreaming about my daughter being molested
- Learning about the huge problem of human trafficking and how it’s being fueled by pornography
- Sitting in an orphanage in Haiti and feeling a huge hole where parents should have been
I believe in the power of love. Parents need to understand the issues their children face and have tools to address the issues. But most importantly, they need confidence that they are uniquely qualified to parent their children based on the love they have for their kids. When all else fails, just LOVE your kids!
Melissa McKay, Campaign to #fixappratings
For two years I’ve worked on Utah Legislation to protect children from pornography. Recently I started the #fixappratings campaign with several partners to push for more transparent and accurate app ratings and descriptions.
I have so many favorite moments being involved! As hard as this issue is, the people who work in this arena are amazing. Kristen Jenson (founder of Protect Young Minds) was my first mentor and continues to be one of my best supporters.
Protecting kids from porn is a two-part process. Talking to them about pornography, and having a warm and open relationship with them is the first key. I’ve been reading Good Pictures Bad Pictures with my kids for years.
The second part is doing your best to minimize access. Because children don’t have fully developed brains, they need protection. Taking time to educate yourself about apps, filters, and other parental controls is so critical.
Heather Cowan, White Ribbon Week
13 years ago I realized a loved one had a pornography addiction. Even though my young daughter was just a toddler, I knew I wanted to help empower children to avoid such pain.
When I discovered White Ribbon Week, which teaches children ages 5-12 to use tech in safe, productive ways, I knew that’s how I could help! I plan it at my local elementary school each year. I also help newbie facilitators get their program up and running at their school.
It is one thing to empower your own children, but then to take that further and help out your neighbors and entire school in a fun, easy, positive way is the BEST!
How can moms raise porn-proof kids? Talk Talk Talk! There is power in sharing your stories and helping children realize that everyone sees inappropriate material - and know what to do when they see it. Technology is not going away. We need to teach kids how to navigate it! We can’t be scared of this tech, but keep open, honest conversations going.
In order to keep kids busy, happy, and healthy, I’ve started a new kids summer camp called Kids Go For Gold!
Eva Gordon, New Social Work Graduate
I was so naive about the harms of porn. I learned about it the hard and painful way. My spouse had an addiction to porn which destroyed our marriage. I learned I needed to work my own recovery to heal from betrayal trauma.
I am so passionate about the recovery and healing process that I went back to school and earned a masters in social work to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). I just graduated on May 1st, 2019!
I take every opportunity to teach parents about the dangers of pornography - preventive tools as well as recovery tools. I have presented at schools, church, and community events such as the Utah Coalition Against Pornography Conference.
This idea is not new, but it is so important: TALK to your kids. Have a plan and role-play the situation of when your kids will see pornography. Check in often and ask "When was the last time you saw or looked at porn"? and then process with them how they felt and what they did; help them feel comfortable talking about it. As normal as asking them "Did you brush your teeth?”
As I found healing in 12-step recovery meetings, I learned to recognize that when my life is unmanageable, there is a higher power that can manage it if I let Him. I allow him to take my fear, pain, anger, frustration, sadness and whatever I might be feeling. I model this process to my kids, and even though they are young they have experienced God's healing power as we surrender together.
Recently my son was feeling really angry and sad which he expressed with mean comments towards me. I shared with him what I do when I feel angry and sad. I write my feelings down and then call my friend (sponsor) and share my feelings. Then I pray to God and give it to Him. I asked my son "Do you believe He can take those feelings from you?" He said he did. I prayed for both of us since I was also feeling upset and heartbroken to see him in pain. After the prayer, I felt so much love, peace, and serenity. My son was much calmer and willing to follow instructions without resistance.
This is one of many similar experiences I have had with each of my kids. I am not a perfect mom, but recovery has extended to them as I model recovery tools for them.
Mandy Majors, nextTalk
Six years ago, my daughter asked me a highly sexualized question. I didn’t know “this thing” existed until I was a 19-year-old college student. She was nine. In the fourth grade. And, she did not have a phone.
Another child had watched a pornographic video at home and shared the graphic details with her at school.
That was my lightbulb moment that parenting had changed. We’re in new territory. My plan to not give her a phone until she was in high school did not keep her safe. So, I embarked on a journey to find real solutions.
That led me to write an award-winning book called TALK: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication. I also founded nextTalk, a nonprofit organization helping families build a culture of conversation to keep kids safe in the digital world, and we host the nextTalk Radio Show.
Restrictions and monitoring tools are helpful. But they all have loopholes. Delaying the phone is good, but we can’t delay the conversations. I’ve found a solution that works and has changed our family. It is OPEN COMMUNICATION.
It sounds so simple, but it actually takes years to build the kind of trust and safety families need today.
Melody Bergman, Media Savvy Moms
Like all mamas, I wear many hats. I am co-host of the Media Savvy Moms Podcast, blogger at MamaCrossroads, and an instructor at Defend Yourself Virginia. All these avenues help me teach parents (and kids) how to stay safe online--and in real life too!
In a way, I spent many years as the “Batman” of porn and parenting: Mommy by day and Porn-Fighter by night. In the wake of a shattered marriage due to pornography and sex addiction, I launched into a private journey of healing and anonymous blogging.
After a life filled with trauma and heartache, including childhood sexual abuse, addiction, porn, divorce, single parenting (you name it, I’ve been there), I have an unquenchable desire to tell others: There is hope! You are not alone! We can make it through this!
On the Media Savvy Moms Podcast, we teach parents to "Give your kids a construction site." This “construction site” is a safe place where we can talk with our kids about anything under the sun. We can throw out ideas, dig deep, bring out heavy equipment, demolish stuff--even bust out the dynamite if needed. Nothing is off limits!
Here are 3 tips to help your “construction site” succeed:
- Build a foundation of trust. Concentrate on your relationship first.
- Make your child the foreman. Let them ask the questions and decide where the discussion will go next.
- Keep on truckin’. The “porn talk” is not a one-and-done conversation. Follow up over and over again.
Be brave. You can do this!
Andrea Davis, Better Screen Time
My husband, Tyler, and I share positive screen time strategies to help parents worry less and connect more with their kids at betterscreentime.com.
It seemed fairly simple to keep technology in check when my oldest kids were young. I didn't have a smartphone or social media. We kept our TV in the closet, (actually we still do!). We didn't have Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Then mobile devices and subscription services quickly became mainstream. We gradually adopted some of these things, and now we had five growing kids, including a teenager! I felt lost and confused. How could we hold onto our family culture and still benefit from technology? How could we teach our children to use tech wisely as they grew older?
We talked to other parents and did our research, and began sharing what we learned as we experimented.
In Good Pictures, Bad Pictures, Kristen Jenson shares a fantastic acronym to help kids know what to do when they are exposed to pornography (CAN DO). My husband and I decided to go one step further and help our kids create their own acronym. They decided they wanted to fight a WAR against pornography and when exposed, they will:
- W = walk away (immediately get out of the situation)
- A = Alert (tell someone)
- R = Relax (find another activity to do)
When we involve our kids in the discussion, they are much more likely to retain the ideas we are teaching them!
Kristen Jenson, author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures read-aloud books
I never planned to grow up and write a children's book about pornography! For me, it was a mother's tragic story about her 17-year-old son who had sexually molested his younger brothers and sisters that got me started down this road.
The more I discovered how pornography is creating a secret epidemic of addiction and sexual abuse, the more compelled I felt that children needed to be warned. No child deserves to face the porn industry alone! That's when I started writing the Good Pictures Bad Pictures read-aloud books and founded Protect Young Minds.
Mama bears can be loving guides who go ahead of their children and make sure the trail is safe. That means scouting out where their kids want to go - games, apps, and physical places - to see what dangers are lurking. Then teach kids to stay on the trail and monitor how well they are doing.
So 1) establish yourself as a loving "trail guide", 2) check out all the places, digital and physical, where your children want to go to learn and play; 3) establish trail rules and boundaries; and 4) provide feedback--acknowledge when your kids follow the rules, provide consequences when they don't.
That, my dear mamas, is about 30 years of prevention science research in a nutshell!
Dina Alexander, Educate Empower Kids
I started Educate and Empower Kids (EEK) after reading about the effects of porn and negative media on kids. As I thought of my kids growing up without the opportunity to be married to a partner who hasn’t been “educated” by porn, it felt like there was a fire inside me. I knew I had to speak to as many parents as possible. I wanted parents to understand the very real hazards of consuming porn, but I also wanted them to have confidence talking about porn, sex, social media, and other topics related to the digital age.
At EEK, we strengthen families living in the digital age. We offer books and other resources that help parents educate their kids about the dangers of pornography, the benefits of healthy sexual intimacy, using technology for good, and how to deconstruct the media that is all around them. In our latest book, Conversations with My Kids: 30 Essential Family Discussions for the Digital Age we help parents have 30 amazing, timely discussions on social media, changing technologies, LGBTQI issues, integrity, and more.
What’s been most rewarding is the countless people who have thanked us for making these talks simple and doable. How they felt scared, but then realized that they could easily do this. And that is what I want most for parents: to know that they absolutely can talk about anything the world throws at them!
You don’t need to be an expert. Be positive and loving. Let your kids know that you want to talk to them about these important topics because you love and care about them. Your love is what you want them to remember most about these talks!
Vauna Davis, Protect Young Minds & Reach 10
We raised our kids during the dawn of home internet, so of course, our kids were exposed to things we weren’t prepared for! I saw that families needed more help navigating the challenges of online pornography. I first got involved as director of Utah Coalition Against Pornography. I founded a nonprofit that serves young adults called Reach 10, where we are building a culture of courage, compassion, and connection to overcome the shame, silence and fear that keep people stuck in pornography. I also get to work with Protect Young Minds, and serve as chair for The Safeguard Alliance, a national prevention group.
Here’s a simple tip to strengthen your kids! When a friend wants to show them a video, photo, movie or anything else on a screen, teach kids to ask before they look, “What do you want to show me?” This gives your child a chance to decide if it seems like a safe idea to look, and also lets the friend know that your child has boundaries.
Mothers have a powerful influence
It’s an old saying, but still true, that the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world. Whether or not we take action in public, we are all shaping the lives of our children with our love, and they will create the future world. The impact of mothers is incredible!
Good Pictures Bad Pictures
"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just 'don't watch or look at porn.' It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.