Victims of pornography users often feel powerless and overwhelmed when faced with the task of arming their children against the harm of internet pornography and teaching digital safety.
Kristen Jenson, author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series, and founder of Defend Young Minds, joins Anne on the free BTR podcast to expound on the new Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum.
This curriculum helps traumatized, exhausted victims of betrayal and abuse teach their children necessary and life-saving principles about internet safety in clear, concise, and entertaining ways. Learn more by reading the full transcript below and listening to the BTR podcast.
What is Brain Defense?
We take a stance that, because children are faced with an onslaught of technology that can actually rewire their brain, that they need help and training. They have one precious brain and they deserve to know how to defend it from the digital dangers that they grow up with so that they can grow healthy and happy and safe.Kristen Jenson, Defend Young Minds
Brain Defense is a digital safety curriculum that is designed for kids ages 8-12.
The curriculum covers all of the toxic content that kids and teens may encounter on the internet from bullying to predators to pornography and more.
Why Do Kids & Teens Need Brain Defense?
With what kids are being given and the onslaught of digital material is coming at them, they need every possible defense.Kristen Jenson, Defend Young Minds
No one knows better than the victim of a pornography user, the insidious nature of pornography. Children and teens are exposed to pornography at home and at school and need to know how to defend and protect themselves.
I Think My Child Has Been Exposed To Pornography
If you are concerned that your child has been exposed to pornography, understand that you are not alone. Mothers all over the world are experiencing the same feelings of fear, sadness, grief, and pain when they realize that their children have also been abused by the pornography industry.
Here are some steps that you can take if your child has been exposed to pornography:
- Invite your child to talk about it with you
- Understand that when a child has been exposed to pornography, whether they searched for it themselves or not, they are a victim of sexual abuse and are traumatized
- Seek out a professional trauma counselor
- Add filters to your computers and devices
- Use a curriculum like Brain Defense to help your child understand appropriate internet safety practices
BTR Is Here For You
At BTR, we understand how daunting it can feel to try to teach your children internet safety when you are in the thick of your own trauma.
Betrayal Trauma can make even the lightest of tasks feel overwhelming – and teaching children how to protect themselves from pornography isn’t a light task.
That’s why the Betrayal Trauma Recovery Group meets daily – so that women can have a safe space to process their trauma, share their difficult feelings, ask questions, and make connections with other victims. Join today and begin your healing journey so that you can be the present mother that you want to be.
Anne: Welcome to Betrayal Trauma Recovery. This is Anne.
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Kristen Jenson, “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures”
I have a dear friend, Kristen Jenson, on today’s episode. She is the author of the Good Pictures Bad Pictures series of read-aloud books. These are powerful resources to help children reject pornography and sexual abuse. Both titles are number one Amazon bestsellers and her original book is sold worldwide in seven languages. Kristen is the founder of Defend Young Minds, an organization dedicated to providing tools to help raise empowered, resilient, and screen smart kids, including her new Brain Defense Digital Safety curriculum for elementary school students, and we’ve invited her on today to talk about this. Kristen is an active member of the International Safeguard Alliance and is regularly invited to speak at national and international conferences including the United Nations Summit. Kristen has testified before the Washington State Senate Law and Justice Committee on the public health crisis of pornography.
Kristen: Thank you so much, Anne. So good to be here with you.
What Is “Brain Defense”?
Anne: We’re going to talk about Kristen’s new program which is called Brain Defense. So, let’s start with why you named your new digital safety curriculum Brain Defense?
Kristen: First of all, thanks so much for having me on your podcast. I love talking with moms and women, and your audience especially gets this. They understand the importance not only for the near term of their children’s mental health development and sexual development, but for the long term and how it can affect their future. We just take a stance that, because children are faced with an onslaught of technology that can actually rewire their brain, that they need help and training. They have one precious brain and they deserve to know how to defend it from the digital dangers that they grow up with so that they can grow healthy and happy and safe.
Anne: I’m glad you mentioned that. My audience is really interested in this because it’s true. Every woman who listens to this podcast has experienced abuse at the hands of her husband or a partner who has used pornography and has developed a bunch of grooming behaviors around it right. Lying, gaslighting, manipulation, a bunch of things to, generally speaking, hide their pornography use or sort of live a double life, that kind of scenario. So, we know as wives or as ex-wives in this situation, that it’s not just the porn that develops that’s bad for their brain but also the slew of other unhealthy behaviors that’s going to affect their relationships long term. So, dealing with a porn abuser that you’re married to is obviously a totally different situation than dealing with a child who you’re trying to help not use pornography or trying to help inoculate them for pornography use. What age group is brain defense designed for?
Who Is “Brain Defense” For?
Kristen: We designed it for kids ages 8 to 12, and the reason we did that is because this is the age that these kids seem to get very curious about sexual things. They all start to use it between 7 and 12; it just seems like that’s the age. So, since this is the critical age, this is the age we need to have an intervention, and we need to teach them how to defend their brain. We’re all about prevention and protecting minds, and we want to provide an easy way to educate these kids so that they aren’t caught off guard by dangerous people, by dangerous situations, and by dangerous content on the internet. Defense is really what they have to do.
There’s just so much coming at them, that they really do need to defend their brain, and the first step is to start teaching them about it. So, we developed brain defense to make it super easy for trusted adults, whether you’re a parent, whether you’re a teacher, whether you’re a church leader to use this curriculum. It’s an open and go kind of curriculum; it’s very easy to use, and there’s just a lot of parts that were very intentional, that is based on brain science, based on prevention science. We feel like we pulled together a really wonderful package for parents because as I said, your audience gets it, they get it, and they know how important this is. And they probably know what they’re up against. And so, we wanted to provide a tool to help children, to motivate them, because you can teach all day long until you’re blue in the face but unless they’re motivated to do something then that’s the whole fight right. To persuade them and to motivate them, especially as they get a little older, to really believe what you’ve told them and to act accordingly.
“Brain Defense” Teaches Children To Defend Themselves From Pornography
Anne: I like how you’re calling it Brain Defense. At Betrayal Trauma Recovery we consider all pornography as an abuse issue and when it comes to children, we believe that they are being abused by the pornography, right. So that the harmful content on the internet is abusing them. So, it’s essentially a form of sexual abuse of children when they’re exposed to pornography. And so, you’re really teaching kids how to defend themselves from sexual abuse and other types of abuse, when you teach them how to defend themselves from harmful material online.
Kristen: Absolutely, and what we cover is we cover a bunch of different lessons. You know, we talk about predators online, we talk about healthy tech habits and being screen safe. We also talk about being honest and kind. What to do if you’re bullied. So, this is all, you know, toxic content that is online that our kids will deal with at some point. And so, not only do they need to know what to do when they see pornography, but they also need to know how to navigate their digital world. We say Brain Defense is basically driver’s ed for the internet for a kid because they need to know how to navigate their online spaces, and how to come out the winners, how to come out protected, how to defend themselves. And you’re right, I believe that showing children pornography or allowing children to see pornography is a form of sexual abuse and I think there are some states that actually have codified that and say that pornography is, you know, hands-off, or, you know, a non-touching form of sexual abuse.
Anne: Yeah, absolutely. Even if you don’t show it to them, even if you don’t allow them to see it. If they view it somewhere, somehow that pornography has abused those children.
Kristen: Yeah, I agree.
“Brain Defense” Helps Kids Learn To Monitor Their Screen Time
Anne: I did Lesson One with my children and they loved the video. They thought it was so cute, the kids in the video, or I would say they seem like teenagers.
Anne: The teenagers in the video were really personable and they thought they were funny. There’s a section about attacking robots that’s hilarious. My kids just thought that was really funny. To them it was engaging, and it was interesting, and they really liked it. And then, in the first lesson, you asked them how much screen time they do. It was like, okay, two hours of video games. I mean I was pretty shocked when we ran through it actually. I thought, oh, this is a lot more than I anticipated, but it was partially because sometimes my kids do at home school due to the COVID pandemic. And so, it was like, four hours of online school and then you know, you add an hour of video games onto that and then maybe, you know, two TV shows and you’re already at six hours right there. So, it was pretty eye-opening to think about how much we spend on screens and then even with me I work from home, and then when I’m done working maybe sometimes, I’ll watch something on my phone or something like that. Everything I do is coming from a screen; it’s interesting to actually track it and realize how much time you’re spending.
“Brain Defense” & The Brain Gang
Kristen: Yeah, because we want to teach kids to be aware of how much time they’re spending on screens to give them ideas about what else they can do and to tell them and to teach them that it’s really important that they have a balance between, you know their digital time, and their in real-life experiences, and that they’ll be happier. And kids want to know how to be happy. So, we talked about that in Brain Defense, and you mentioned the kids that are the Brain Gang. There are six positive teen role models, and the reason we did the Brain Gang was there’s a lot of research that has come out of the DARE program, and it’s now decades of prevention science research. You know, what actually works to reduce risk in children? And of course, a lot of that DARE is all about drug use, alcohol, substance abuse, whatever. But we feel like it has a lot to say about other kinds of risks, sexual risks.
And so, the Brain Gang presents this information. It’s wonderful and it’s needed for adults to tell children how to protect themselves, how to defend themselves, right, but it’s another thing when other kids that are their older peers teach this material. It goes in, they relate to these kids. I have seen this taught in classrooms where I have kids coming up to me afterward and saying, where does the Brain Gang live, and are they going to come and visit our school? These kids are real to them, and because they’re real they listened to what they’re saying.
Trauma Mama Husband Drama
Anne: I’m going to take a break here for just a second to talk about my book, Trauma Mama Husband Drama. Find it on our books page. That books page also has a curated list of all of the books that we recommend. My book Trauma Mama Husband Drama is a picture book for adults so it is the easiest way for you to explain what’s going on to someone who might not understand it. It’s also just a good reference for yourself because it shows what’s happening with very telling and emotional illustrations, as well as infographics at the back. When you go to our books page and click on any of those books, it just takes you directly to Amazon and you can throw those books in your cart. After you have purchased the book, please remember to circle back around to Amazon and write a verified purchase review, along with a five-star rating. That helps isolated women find us, it bumps Trauma Mama Husband Drama up in the Amazon algorithm, and even if women don’t purchase the book, it helps them find this podcast, which is free to everyone.
“They Need Every Possible Defense”
Kristen: I just feel like with what kids are being given and the onslaught of digital material is coming at them, they need every possible defense. You talked about the robots. If you don’t mind, I’ll tell you a little story about how we got the robots in there. There’s a lot of other humor in there as you go through the program, you’ll see it. You’ll see mention of a donut, you’ll see mention of you know other things, and really relatable stories the kids remember.
What happened was we did a pilot, and we wrote the scripts, then we gathered all the information, all the feedback. We actually reorganized the sequencing of the content. We learned so much. Then we just took it a step further. We actually brought on a comedy writer who had written for children’s programming. And he wrote the scripts, he basically rewrote the scripts so that they would include humor. He did a fantastic job. This guy did it as a passion project. We could never have afforded him. He’s at a level where he writes, you know Superbowl commercials, that’s kind of his level. And we are really grateful to have him on our team, and so that’s how we got the robots, you know. That didn’t come from my brain.
Anne Blythe Tried “Brain Defense” With Her Kids
Anne: It felt very cool and funny to my kids. Like I talk about pornography with my kids all the time so they’re very familiar with it, it was so wonderful to have all the things that I have taught them reinforced and told in a different way by this group of positive peers. It was like, oh, I get it, you know, even though I tell them stuff and they’re really familiar with it, I think it really helps solidify what I’m teaching at home and then for parents who aren’t comfortable or don’t share this kind of stuff all the time or maybe they don’t talk about it very much. It’s such a really clear organized way to help them have those conversations and help start those conversations. So regardless of what you do in your home, right, if you talk about it every day all day long like I do, or if you’re someone who has barely mentioned it, this program will really work for you because it really helps any parent approach these topics in an organized way and in a way that will help children and they can relate to.
The “Brain Defense” Curriculum Teaches Children To Protect Themselves From Pornography
Kristen: Yes, yes. I’m so happy that it was such a positive experience. We need all the input. Like we need these kids to hear these messages from everywhere. So, this is just a way for them to hear it from their older peers, to get that, as you said, reinforced. Everything you say gets reinforced by the Brain Gang, but they do it in a cool fun way that maybe, you know, you wouldn’t. So, I think that that’s part of what really sets Brain Defense apart from other digital or Internet safety curriculums. A lot of Internet safety programs or curriculums will teach kids about predators online or, you know, don’t give away your private information, that kind of thing, but none of them tackle pornography. Like that’s the elephant in the room. That’s the biggest, most negative impact that can happen to a child really is to be pulled into pornography, to become potentially addicted to it, and to have it, like you said, all the fallout from using pornography, all the wrong concepts that pornography teaches kids. We made sure that all the content that we include in there is from peer-reviewed science.
“Brain Defense” Resources
The other thing that we make sure of is that in each lesson, depending on whether you get the parent or the family version or the classroom version, they include home connection letters. We also have Continue the Conversation videos, to continue that conversation for months. Little videos and prompts for discussions. Honestly, the biggest part is to have kids get this information and then talk to their parents about it, so they can be a team, and this is one of the feedbacks that we got from so many parents of the students in our pilot testing. They say, we loved this, it opened conversations we didn’t even know how to have. That’s a big part, so again, we’ve got the videos and the teacher scripts.
We’ve got a workbook for the kids, we call it the Brain Book, and it has all these exercises and like puzzles and learning exercises that really solidify what they saw in the video, and then they’ve got the stuff that they do with their parents at home. All of it together really forms this very strong foundation so that kids, again, can defend their own brains when they’re out on the internet, playing games, you know, entertainment, and even when they’re on there for school. So, it’s just so important for kids to be trained. You don’t throw the keys to your kids without any training on how to drive that car, but we seem to be doing that with the internet. You know, get on the superhighway of the internet but we’re not going to give you any training and they deserve to be trained, they deserve to know what to do when they encounter digital dangers and they deserve to know how to act online in a safe way, to be safe.
“Brain Defense” Promotes Safety For Kids & Families
Anne: Absolutely. Safety is the top priority for our families and for our children and training them on how to keep their brains safe is really important. Safety is our number one goal here at BTR. Safety of families, your own emotional and psychological safety, and then the safety for your kids. This is another form of helping your kids learn how to set boundaries around technology use because so many of our listeners are learning themselves how to set boundaries around emotional and psychological abuse and all of the behaviors that are coming along with pornography use and trying to teach their kids the same thing.
You know, if someone is lying to you or if they’re gaslighting you or whatever these are how you would set boundaries around that, and these are kind of the boundaries you need to set around your devices so that your brain doesn’t get hurt. There was a section there about you think about how you feel, and the one I thought was do you need to go to the bathroom? I have a son that gets so into Minecraft that sometimes he forgets and pees his pants. He’s 8, but it’s like, “Think about your body. Are you hungry? Do you need to go to the bathroom?” These are self-care things that are important for everyone to learn.
“Brain Defense Digital Safety Arms Every Kid With a Safety Plan”
Kristen: Absolutely. We want to help teach kids healthy habits for using technology. With Brain Defense, we do it in a very strategic but comprehensive way, so that it’s not a hit or miss approach. So, you can be sure that when you take your children through this curriculum, there’s just going to be so much that you hit upon, that you talk about, and you’re going to cover such a wide range of issues that they will be confronted with and you’re going to prepare them. At least you’re going to open that conversation so that you can help them through it as a mentor. Walk alongside them and have their trust and be open with them.
This is a very comprehensive and well-thought-out approach to digital safety. We just know that it helps children to avoid some of the dangers that they weren’t warned about. You know, none of us do very well when we’re caught off guard. We need to train them; we need to help them. Brain Defense Digital Safety just arms every kid with a safety plan for thriving in the digital age.
Support the BTR Podcast
Anne: Kristen, thank you so much for coming on today’s episode. We really appreciate your work and all you do to keep kids safe.
Kristen: Thank you, Anne. It’s been great talking with you today. So grateful for all the work that you are doing to help families.
Anne: Thank you. So, to learn more about The Protect Young Minds Brain Defense Program, go to braindefense.org or you can also find it at defendyoungminds.org and then click on curriculum. You can find information about their plans, pricing, and everything included in The Brain Defense Digital Safety Curriculum. You can also find them on Facebook, on Instagram, and they’ve been doing webinars. So, if you’re interested in protecting your children, which I’m sure that you are, make sure that you’re following them on social media, they have a lot of great tips.
If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week, stay safe out there.