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“I Just Thought She Looked So Cute…”

Going to the movies in our family isn’t really “a thing.” We have a 90 inch screen downstairs in our basement that we project movies on through a Sony Surround Sound system and it’s enough to shake stuff off the shelves during a Star Wars battle sequence. We use VidAngel Services to filter out cursing, sexual content, or it can even filter out graphic content associated with violence as well. For these reasons, we prefer to watch Blockbusters from the comfort of our home (my wife even has a stash of candy boxes). But this past week, we ventured into a local theater to watch the Sound of Freedom.

I don’t like hokey Christian films with poorly scripted scenes and bad effects and acting, but I will support them and give them a fair shake. The Sound of Freedom was not one of those films. () There is some language in the movie. They get the point across about what’s happening without being explicit or grotesque. But this isn’t really about a movie, it’s about WHY the movie was made. It is a warning. Even though the movie depicts the victims as primarily Hispanic, Police raided a massage parlor in Pickerington (July 18th 2023) Ohio. Reread that location. Let it soak in for a moment, this isn’t “over there”, in fact, it never has been just “over there” somewhere. It’s always been in our backyard and the problem is that we as parents may be contributing to the problem without realizing it.

Sixth, seventh grade is when people started sending nudes. The popular girls would send them to the popular guys. . . . I would find out about it and be like, ‘You know that’s wrong, right?’ I was iffy, at first. But everyone was doing it, so I just felt like I had to. And everyone saw it", The Washington Post

“Why Should I Keep Reading, This Isn’t My Child”

While I am sure that a majority of our parents aren’t dealing with this in your own home, let me share the information with you in case you have a friend or another parent dealing with some of these issues so that you can help or at least share this article.

Psalm 127:3 says: “Behold, children are a gift of the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward.” They are a wonderful responsibility, a great joy and yes, sometimes even heartache. We want to help you to parent well.

What To Look For

Just to be on the safe side, let’s talk real quick about some warning signs. The most prominent danger sign is that of them hiding their device when you enter the room. Of course hiding their device, whether it’s a tablet, phone, or laptop is never a good sign. This would also include having a passcode that you are unfamiliar with or don’t have access to which is never a good idea. This idea of I don’t want to invade their privacy or I want to give them “space to express” doesn’t apply to drinking, drugs, or piercing and tattoos, why would we leave them to figure out their sexuality on their own as well? If you walk into their room and they have a deer in the headlights look, as them where their cell phone is, you might be surprised at the response. Don’t ever ignore your “gut instinct” in these moments, it is rarely wrong. In the nearly 3 decades of youth ministry I’ve never had a parent tell me that they regretted listening to what they called their “gut instinct.” Listed below are some other danger signs as provided by

Clearing their browser histories. Clearing the history doesn’t necessarily mean that your kids have been looking at porn, but it’s worth looking into this suspicious behavior. You can stop this by applying screentime and making sure to enabling content and privacy restrictions on your kids iOS.

Spending a lot of time online at night. In 2019, Pornhub found that the most common time its users viewed porn was between 10 p.m. and 12 a.m., and the most trafficked day of the week was Sunday. Even if your kids aren’t looking at porn, being on their devices right before going to bed is a bad habit. I know a number of families that require students to charge their phones in a common area like the kitchen while in bed. Very smart! This also gives you access to check up on their screentime and app usage.

Spending a lot of time in the bathroom on their devices. Really, if you see your kids shutting themselves off anywhere with their devices for periods of time, that’s a warning sign. In our home, we asked our kids NOT to have their phones in the bathroom with them AND this also freed up the potty much more quickly!

Changing their screens when you come around. Again, why would they need to do this unless they are trying to hide something? (Even if they are swiping up their apps you can go to screentime on their iOS to see what app they were using during that time.) It is also helpful to show what apps they are using the most and how much time they are spending using them.

Acting more moody, irritable, depressed, or aggressive. Watch out for changes in your kids’ behavior or a lack of interest in activities they used to love. Also be aware that porn can be a major factor in causing child-on-child sexual abuse.

Did you know that students often use OTHER APPS other than social media to chat and send things like pictures? Check it out here: Sneaky Kids

Hailey Jenkins a 12 year old victim

"Traffickers are using Instagram to groom children in America" is an eye opening video about how father, Scott Jenkins found out his 12 year old daughter Hailey was sending pictures to an unknown individual. "I would delete messages so he couldn't tell what we were talking about..." She was soon over her head and had no idea to whom she had sent her private photos. She had eventually made plans to leave her home state of Michigan to see him in California but was kept from doing so when her parents discovered her secret. She's lucky. Some teens end up leaving anyways with the promise of something better pulling at them. Some teens end their own lives. They are riddled with the guilt from what they've done and sometimes being extorted by those they've sent pictures in a move called "sextortion."

How We As Parents Might Be Contributing

“She just looked so cute in her bathing suit.” Since moms aren’t predators of course they would have no way of realizing that the public posts on IG or even FB are being viewed as sexual even though their 12 year old hasn’t even begun developing her adult body shape. The best practice is to be careful what you post of course. The next best thing to do is to at least set your profile to private and be judicious about who you allow to follow your platforms. Jacquelyn Eleanor, mother of 3 year old Wren Eleanor found out the hard way that there are a lot of creepy people out there willing to take and sexualize videos of kids as young a 3 years old.

The next thing to do is to talk to your teen about what THEY post. I was shocked at some of the comments on the post of a young lady in our community. They weren’t overtly sexual, but they were certainly inappropriate. If an adult male is posting “Beautiful 😍” to an 11 year old’s post, it’s time to have a conversation with your little lady. How much are they posting to Instagram Stories? Sometimes what seems like a cute little Reel often contains sexually explicit lyrics or moves that are easy to find by pedophiles or other persons with bad intent.

Another parent in an article talked about how his daughter, just 10, had over 3 million views on a video of her getting ready for bed (Prior to YouTube creating a kids platform adults were able to comment on these posts). "these night routine videos" are a popular way for garnering unwanted attention. YouTube and IG are notorious platforms for finding and grooming victims. As a parent, review and be an active part of what they your kids are doing online, help them with content moderation. If you "don't know anything about that stuff" find out and be a part or limit their access.

One young lady, aged 14 admitted that she had sent nudes to another person on a social media platform because that person said they would kill themselves unless she complied. The problem is, it never stops there. Even if you block the account of the person asking for photos, they will come back becuase she has proven to be a source for new content for them. These persons are drug users and their product is your child’s image at the expense of their innocence and naiveté. Best case scenario, a perverted 15 year old boy was able to get some photos, worst case scenario your daughter or son starts saving up money to meet this person because “they are the only ones who seem to understand me or appreciate me.”

This was the case of a young girl we met with less than 5 years ago. A parent discovered the student had been using their sibling's cell phone and deleting the app after contacting an individual who claimed they were also her same age. “We even talked on the phone” she explained “I know he was my age.”

The problem is, that mom discovered a considerable amount of money her daughter had saved in order to buy a bus ticket to meet this “13 year old boy.” The problem is that often behind the “boy” is an industry that has almost surpassed the illegal drug industry. These predators are young sounding, they are kind, they are willing to be patient and to play the long game. Don’t think you are exempt or that your child would “never” do something like that. Millions of parents across the United States thought the same thing (27% of teens have received a sext) only to discover that their kids WERE in fact in over their heads in an "online exchange" or relationship.

My Kid Would Never Send A Nude

I know this isn’t going to be very popular but fathers and mothers are far too silent or even complicit in how are children are viewed as sex objects but other teens regardless of gender. I had a male student jokingly refer to prom season as “porn season” because of the posts that come out during May. Dresses are tighter, shorter, and more plunging than they have ever been. We as the parents must be willing to help our daughters not to be viewed as objects of sexual desire or the desire to be “noticed” physically.

Seriously, how lame is it that we still fall for the line “all my friends are _______________ .” If we are going to parent well, it means being present in ALL areas of their lives including that of their sexuality and how it is expressed in public and online as well. At a minimum, we can be careful how much of “our kids skin” we are posting online. We can make sure that we aren’t guilty of contributing to the struggle. We also should not parent from a place of guilt, meaning that we weren’t able to….so why should I expect my kid to live differently. Think about what it may have cost you during your teen years or how it may have contributed to past toxic relationships. I know that I am not exempt from my own mistakes so I tried to stand in the road and to help my kids to AVOID the mistakes that I made. If they had said “Well YOU did such and such…” (a common counterargument) I would tell them, why in the world do you think I am not letting YOU make that mistake?

It's not easy. But neither is holding your crying teen when they discovered that their indecent photo has been passed around by the soccer team.

Remember that verse from Psalm 127:3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.” They are not only a reward but our greatest responsibility as we raise them in love and fear of the Lord. We aren’t called to be passive, but ACTIVE, and INTENTIONAL. Consider what the psalmist writes in the next verse Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Psalm 127:4

Listen to what OTHER PARENTS are saying below...

Other Links:

The story behind the Sound of Freedom movie:

Raising Godly Kids like arrows:

One Moms Journey Through TikTok and Shocking Discovery

How to Block Porn on iOS: (best)

How to Block Porn on an Android:

How Kids Use OTHER APPS to be Social and Send Photos

What OTHER PARENTS are saying:

"I saw my teenage daughters start to change when they became active on Instagram. I had to ban it, at least until they were 16 and level headed enough to handle it. They were very upset to say the least. They are now 19 & 21, barely use social media, and thank me profusely." @synthlord9041

"Parents have no idea how bad it is. I'm currently dealing with my daughter running back to her pimp and stealing my vehicle. It's so hard to explain the intricacy of all of this. There's no help for parents or the victims really. There's a lot of cold hearts out here. They don't talk about these traffickers getting them hooked on drugs...they don't talk about the extreme brainwashing and mental manipulation. It's so hard to get help." @Godwokemeup

"This happened to my grandson. They portrayed themselves as someone he knew. He thought he was talking to her. He sent pictures and then they blackmailed him into sending them money and he did." @l.l.790

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