I am passionate about the safety of children both as a mother and an educator. I am also passionate about empowering children and providing them with a voice. I want adults and the community to embrace children’s voices and respect their choices. And that is why I write the books I do. There are many thousands and thousands of children’s books out there in the wonderful land of children’s literacy that focus on all sorts of delightful childhood wonders and excitement. My three daughters were and are avid readers, as I am. There was nothing more delightful for my family than a visit to the local library; resulting in a bagful of picture books to take home!
But the world is changing; the perimeters of childhood have shifted. Technology is here and within its bountiful positives come some very serious negatives. And one of these negatives (that I am not sure all parents and educators have truly understood) is children’s real access to online pornography. One child, one electronic device, one accidental misplaced keystroke, and a child can view images that are deeply disturbing and traumatising. Once seen, these images cannot be unseen.
You may be thinking this is terrifying and it is. Pornography is no longer simply access to images on paper. Pornography is a multibillion dollar industry, and its many forms are very complex as are its outcomes for those who unwittingly view it. Children can now easily access adult images, child exploitation material is used to groom children for sexual abuse, and predators lure victims into providing naked images or face to face meetings in order to abuse the victim.
So what can we do as parents and educators to try to reduce the effect of pornography on our children, and lessen the likelihood they will be sexually abused?
I don’t have all the answers but here are four ideas based around why I write the children’s books I do.
1. Body Safety Education:
We can educate ourselves and our children in Body Safety. We can teach the children in our care from a very early age that their body belongs to them. We can have open and honest dialogues with our kids where nothing is off the table. Conversations where we know if anything is worrying our child or they have seen something disturbing, they will come straight to us. This is why I wrote for parents and educators Body Safety Education —A parents’ guide to protecting kids from sexual abuse and for children My Body! What I Say Goes!.
2. No Secrets
We need to reinforce to children that some secrets should never be kept. Children need to know, from that first inappropriate touch or from the first sighting of inappropriate images, to tell someone they trust straight away. Secrets are the currency of sexual perpetrators. If a child knows to tell secrets that make them feel bad or uncomfortable they are less likely to be targeted for abuse. This is why I wrote my children’s book Some Secrets Should Never Be Kept.
3. NO! Means No!
We need to give our kids a voice and adults need to respect that voice especially in regards to a child’s body. We need to teach children from the earliest of years that they are in charge of their body and when they say, “NO!” it means “NO!”. We need to teach them exactly what consent looks like. This is why I wrote my children’s book No! Means No!
In summary, my children’s books are not about fluffy rabbits or picnics in the park; all of which are very valid in children’s literature. My books are about empowering children and giving them a voice. The messages in my books are messages all children need to hear, as do the adults who care so lovingly for them.