About the Guest
LOL, BTW, ROFL--you may not know what those letters stand for, but your kids likely do. "Enough Is Enough" president Donna Rice Hughes warns parents about the dangers of internet porn and reveals some of the tricks pornographers use to lure your kids into their sites. Donna also tells parents what to do if they realize that their son or daughter has been viewing inappropriate material.
Donna Rice HughesDonna Rice Hughes, President of Enough Is Enough (EIE), is an internationally known Internet safety expert and advocate. As a respected leader of national efforts to protect children from sexual predators and Internet pornography, Donna has championed EIE’s mission to make the Internet safer for children and families since the group’s formation in 1994. In September 2005, EIE, a non-profit educational organization (www.enough.org), launched The National Internet Safety Awareness and Parental...more
LOL, BTW, ROFL–you may not know what those letters stand for, but your kids likely do.
Bob: Kids are looking at pornography online – young kids; boys and girls. Here’s Donna Rice Hughes.
Donna: There was a study just in 2009 of kids aged 12 to 15 years old. Fifty-three percent of the boys said that they’re using graphic pornography. Twenty-eight percent of the girls in that age range were doing the same.
You have to understand, you know, that what pornography teaches is the counterfeit of healthy sexuality the way God designed it. So maybe your daughter isn’t using it, but what about the boy she might be dating?
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 18th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are ways for parents to make surfing the web safer for children. We’re going to talk about that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’re talking about technology, and the internet, and our kids. You used to stand over your kids and watch them as they chatted online with—I don’t even know if kids chat as much as they used to ten years ago?
Dennis: No, it’s texting now. They barely use email anymore; but they have all these acronyms that they use to say, you know, “Parent over my shoulder,” or something. (laughter)
Bob: There’s some letter that spells that out?
Dennis: In fact, I want our guest on today’s broadcast, Donna Rice Hughes, to just share a few of the most popular acronyms. Donna is the President and Chairman of Enough Is Enough,” which is an internationally-known internet safety organization, training parents, government agencies, and children all to avoid the dangers of the internet.
In your training guide that I looked over, you had a whole list of these little acronyms used—
Bob: Are you talking about like “lol”?
Dennis: Yes, “laugh out loud.”
Bob: Everybody knows “lol” right? But do you know what “rofl” is?
Bob: “rofl”—You don’t know that?
Dennis: I don’t.
Bob: “rofl” That’s, “Rolling on the floor laughing.” That’s when something’s really funny.
Dennis: Oh, okay. I thought it was something about listening to FamilyLife Today.
Bob: How about “brb”? Do you know “brb”? That’s, “Be right back.” Oh, you’ve got to get with this stuff!
Bob: “btw” “By the way.”
Dennis: Well, you’re not the expert. She’s the expert. Go ahead, Donna.
Donna: Well, there are a lot of them. There is a whole new language that kids are using. One of the reasons is the texting because you’re limited to a certain number of letters, and words, and sentences in a text, and even less on Twitter. So you have to be able to say it quickly and everything else.
Some of the ones that are common are “asl” –“Age, sex, and location.” Some of the ones that, for instance, a predator might use would be “gnoc”—
Donna: Or even teenagers talking to each other. “gnoc” – “Get naked on camera.”
Donna: Oh, yes. There are lots of these that we have in our book because there are hundreds and hundreds of just normal ones, but we put some of the trickier ones that we want parents to know. If they see some of these things that look really benign, then they need to go, “Oh, my goodness!” Some of them I can’t even really say.
Dennis: Are you saying that an average teenager would know what most of these are?
Donna: Oh, yes!
There’s one that is “lmirl” – “Let’s meet in real life”; “nifoc” – “Nude in front of camera”; “p911” – “Parent alert”; “pal” – “Parents are listening”; “paw” – “Parents are watching”
You know, “pron” is “porn” because some of the filters will catch “porn” but not “p-r-o-n.”
Kids are good. You know, we go back to that perfect storm. You’ve got very savvy kids. You’ve got savvy predators. You’ve got savvy pornographers, and unsavvy parents!
So what we’re trying to do in our program is get that good parent to become a good cyber-savvy parent who is on top of their game—they know what their kids are doing and they understand the dangers. They’re going to be able to parent these kids online during these tough years—junior high and high school. You know, the kids are just really sitting ducks for some big problems with the misuse of technology.
Dennis: I think the average parent realizes there’s a danger; but as Bob mentioned earlier, I do think there’s a tendency to go to sleep at the stick and just kind of get lulled into a sense of, “You know what, we’ve got it covered. We’re protected.”
You tell a story about a mother who had a little boy; I mean, only 11 years of age. Is that right?
Dennis: --who started finding porn sites; and in a matter of days was exposed to unimaginable images?
Donna: That’s right. The DVD teaching series—we divided into four parts. The first is called “Pornography 101.” At the end of each segment, we have someone come up on stage with me and we do Q&A with the audience.
Rene is a friend of mine, and she is a law professor. We pick people when we tell these stories that we believe parents can relate to. We want to put a face on the problem and for parents to be able to say, “Wow! I can relate to that mom,” “I can relate to that family,” or “That little girl looks just like my child.”
So Rene’s husband found all this pornography and first came to her and said, “Rene, is there something you want to tell me?” (thinking it was Rene)
They found out it was their 11-year-old son, who had stumbled into pornography and had become very highly addicted almost immediately. They found hundreds of pictures. He is still struggling today. He’s a young man, but he’s doing a lot better. Thank goodness he was in a Christian home, and they’ve done everything that they can.
The point is that this material is toxic.
We have one young man that I interviewed. He said, “Even if you’re not looking for it, it will find you.” Another young girl, Courtney, talks about how these young women, especially who get into this material, start wanting to act and behave like the girls in pornography. When they’re in sexual relationships, the guys expect them to perform this way.
One young man also shared how he got so hooked on it that it wasn’t about sex anymore. It was about just having sex with as many girls as he could. It was just meaningless.
The reason that we share these stories is that we want people to realize this material is harmful. You know, you can never erase it from your mind. It’s so easily assessable by these kids, and younger and younger kids are getting exposed all the time.
Now, of course, with all the new technologies, whether it’s a Smartphone® or anything else, the pornographers are right on top of that. The thing that parents need to realize is that their children can get tripped up into this, not looking for it; and then it’s very hard to get out. Our whole theme is prevention. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
You need to get on top of the game and really start talking to them about how to use the technology safely, about what some of the pitfalls are (of course, use age-appropriate language and that sort of thing).
Yes, Rene tells a powerful story at the end. She’s quite convincing.
Dennis: I started listening to the amount of money—you mentioned earlier $13 billion industry. Where do they sell their smut? They’re not selling to kids, are they? I mean, you’re not talking about being able to have commerce with children under the age of 16? They don’t have a credit card.
Donna: Well, it’s important to recognize that all of the commercial pornographers who have websites—and there’s also a whole growing trend with amateur pornography, by the way—they put free pictures and free videos on their home pages. We call them free- teaser images.
The whole design is to trap you into this material. Then, if you try to get out of it, you can just see the spiritual warfare here—you hit the back button and what happens is you get looped into another image of a different variety.
Their whole marketing tactic is to keep you there until you’re defenses go down, down, down. All of a sudden, they have lured you in. It’s not until you’re well deep enough into the site that you actually have to give a credit card; but with all of the hundreds of thousands of porn sites, kids can get a lot of material without ever having to pay for any of it.
Now, sometimes they will. I have some kids on our DVD teaching series who talk about how they did steal credit cards to buy it because they wanted to see more than what was offered on the porn sites.
Dennis: And the reason the pornographers are trying to lure kids in is they hook them at an early age?
Donna: They hook them at an early age. Yes.
Dennis: So by the time they’re 18, 19, or 20 and they do have a credit card—
Donna: They’ve got them hooked. Absolutely.
Bob: Donna, there are some of our listeners who are driving along, listening right now; and a mom is thinking to herself, “Boy, I am glad I have girls because if I had boys, I would really have to worry about this; but with daughters, it’s not an issue.”
Donna: Well, it is an issue. There was a study just in 2009 of kids aged 12 to 15 years old. Fifty-three percent of the boys said that they’re using graphic pornography, depicting genital contact. Twenty-eight percent of the girls in that age range were doing the same. These kids were surveyed from 14 public schools in the Southeast United States of America.
Bob: So one in four girls and one in two boys—
Bob: --ages 12 to 15—
Donna: --ages 12 to 15—
Bob: --looking at—
Bob: --graphic pornography.
Donna: Very graphic.
Dennis: And what I would want to underline there is, “Your son or your daughter may not be the ‘one,’ but they may be friends with the ‘one.’”
Dennis: And so here we go with peer pressure.
Dennis: This is how pornography spreads.
Donna: And you have to understand that what pornography teaches is the counterfeit of healthy sexuality the way God designed it. Maybe your daughter isn’t using it, but what about the boy she might be dating?
There’s a lot of pressure now on young girls when they start dating, especially with the guys, to act out. The guys now—many of them become very entrenched in this, you know. So there’s a lot of acting out that goes on as well.
Dennis: How do you see all of this impacting these young people as they start dating and then later on get married? How is that impacting their marriage relationship?
Donna: Well, one of the things that we do know about pornography and its harms is that it really impedes intimacy, whether it’s adults who are dealing with this or young people as they’re becoming adults. You know, it can really defile the marriage bed in a lot of ways. This is where accountability is so important.
I think, you know, that real healing can occur. We explore in our program the brain studies that have been done that actually show the brain not on pornography and the brain on pornography. I talk to one of the top experts in the country. You’re actually rewiring the brain and the brain chemistry with continued use of this material.
Dennis: I think if I was a parent right now—and I’m thinking of my adult children: I’ve got a son who’s got four daughters and a daughter who’s got five sons. I just think of them growing up in this age. More than likely –more than likely—at some point, as my children raise their children, they’re going to find out that their children have found pornography.
What’s a parent to do if they find out that their child has stumbled onto a site or has visited a site repeatedly? How should they handle that?
Donna: Well, there are a lot of warning signs. One is that the computer can just go blank. You may find an unusual curiosity about sex at an inappropriate age and that kind of thing.
But the very first thing, and this would be for finding out your kid has stumbled into pornography or is actually using pornography—and the same thing with interacting with a predator or anything else—you have to remember not to overreact because what you want to be is a trusted place where that child can come and not feel shame.
Some of the kids we interviewed said, “You know, I could talk to my parents about my drug use, or my alcohol use, or even if I was having sex or something like that;” but when it comes to pornography, there’s a lot of shame around that because it is often done in secret. It’s very difficult for these kids to talk to their parents.
I think it is really, really important that the parents understand first of all, that there is a strong likelihood the kid came across it accidentally; but even if they didn’t, they need to be a safe place and be able to, then, provide counseling. If that child is really hooked, there are good counselors who know how to work with them, to love them.
I’ve got the kids at the end of the “Pornography 101” segment saying, “Don’t shame them. Don’t make them feel bad. We already feel dirty enough.” This is what the enemy does, doesn’t he? When he pulls us into temptation and we get into areas of sin, then he just puts that guilt—and guilt, and wants us to keep it a secret, and keep it in darkness.
What the parent can be is a place for it to come into the light—where there’s not that judgment; there’s that unconditional love of Jesus—you know—and recognizing that there is hope. The kids can come out of it. In some cases, it may require a lot of counseling for a long time.
Bob: I’m just curious how your materials are designed to be used. Explain what you’ve created and what’s a best-case scenario, either for parents doing this with their kids or for small group use. How do you see this material being used most effectively?
Donna: Well, we created this to be what we call a “plug and play program.” It’s a multi-media program. It’s a four-part DVD series. I do most of the teaching on stage. It’s very research-based and that kind of thing in front of a live audience. Then, we punctuate what we’re teaching with documentary-style video vignettes throughout each of the three segments. Then, we have Q&A at the end.
So, it can be used by individuals; it can be used by small groups or large groups. There’s a workbook that goes along with it. If you’re doing it in a small or large group, that’s a great way to use this program. I kind of modeled it after the Kay Arthur/Beth Moore model. Sometimes it’s easier for parents to kind of go through something like this together.
You don’t need a facilitator or a trained expert because all of the experts are in the can. We interviewed clinicians, doctors, law enforcement—went undercover with law enforcement, specifically on online gaming sites and that kind thing. We talked to teenagers and to parents.
What we’re trying to do is make this compelling. The stories are memorable. You might forget the facts; you might forget the statistics. That’s okay. What you need to remember is that your child is not immune. If you don’t take proactive measures, they’re going to come across pornography. They could get hooked on it.
The predators are going to have easy access to them, whether it’s through instant messaging or a social networking site. Online gaming is a huge issue, where predators and pornographers are actually working through those online gaming areas. Cyber-bullying is another area that we deal with.
It can be used in one full sitting. It’s a little over two hours for all four segments; or you can break it up and have an “Internet Safety” course—do three nights over the course of a month. It can be used in Sunday Schools, at PTAs. We’re partnering with PTAs across the country, for instance.
Bob: Is this something that you would have parents and children watch together or just moms and dads?
Donna: This was designed for parents, for educators, for grandparents, and even for law enforcement. So it’s really designed for adults, but we have so many parents telling us that they’ll show some parts of this to their kids because the little video vignettes that we use are very powerful. We’ve got a lot of kids, ages 8 to 16 or 17, talking about these tough subjects.
Bob: Let me ask you about cyber-bullying because I’ve heard that phrase. Honestly, I mean, it just sounds like, “Okay, so somebody comes online and says mean things about you.” I go, “Okay. Get over it.” Is there more to cyber-bullying than just people saying mean things about you on the internet?
Donna: Oh, there’s a lot to cyber-bullying. I would say that it’s epidemic. Well, the latest statistic is that it’s about 43 percent of young people who say that they’ve been cyber-bullied. I think that it’s really growing.
The problem with cyber-bullying, as opposed to just bullying on the playground as we used to know it, is that it’s 24/7 because the kids’ cyber lives and physical lives have really merged. They’re really one. They often can’t really separate the cyber world from the physical world. So now, if you have a bullying situation, it’s following that child 24/7; and it can be relentless. The other thing is that it can go viral very, very fast.
Donna: You know, it used to be that somebody wrote something bad about somebody on the bathroom wall. You can go clean it off, scrub it off; but if you have a gossip situation, that can go viral across a whole school, a whole county, a whole state, just in a matter of an hour!
Bob: Can you give an example of a cyber-bullying scenario that has been something that’s been harmful for a teenager or not?
Donna: Yes, one of the stories that we tell in our program: A mother tells of her boy and another boy—who was more the instigator—actually stood up on a toilet in the stalls of the bathroom at school. He took pictures of another little boy going to the bathroom in the other stall. Then they spread that all across their school. It was just devastating, of course, to the little boy whose privacy had been invaded.
That’s just one simple case. We’ve seen so many instances of suicides because these kids feel hopeless. They don’t necessarily think that they can ever get beyond this and that their lives have been destroyed.
Anything that you can think of creatively as a way that you could abuse the technology and hurt somebody, kids are thinking of these things; and they’re doing it to each other.
There are a lot of signs to be aware of. One of them is if your kid loves the technology and then starts avoiding the technology. That’s a really big red flag that there could be some cyber-bullying going on.
Dennis: Donna, if you were instructing a group of parents, what’s the ideal age for them to go through this material, maybe with a group of other parents?
Bob: You mean, “When their kids are what age, should they go through it?”
Donna: I think that they should go through it as soon as possible—at least by the time that the kids are four or five years old. It’s important because kids are going to be introduced to this technology in kindergarten and first grade. Alright?
So that’s a good time to start having technology safety talks because if you’re growing your children up in the area where they’re understanding that Mom and Dad love them and care, and that they want them to use this technology and use it safely, then by the time they get to be a pre-teen and they’re pushing the envelope or a teenager and saying, “Well what about my privacy?,” and that kind of thing, you’ve already parented them to understand that you are the parent and you love and care about them.
They can use the technology, but there are some bad things out there. As parents, it’s the parents’ job to make sure their kids are safe. The earlier you start; the better.
Dennis: What I’m hearing you say is that parents need to have a proactive game plan—
Donna: They do.
Dennis: As their kids move into first grade and beyond.
Dennis: If they don’t, the world does have a game plan for your son and your daughter.
I would encourage parents, who are really looking, maybe, to get together with a handful of other parents whose children are the same age as yours. It could be that the relationships you forge in that small group, going through Donna’s material here called Internet Safety 101, will really help guide all of those children all of the way through the adolescent years.
Bob: I really appreciate the fact that you’ve made this DVD series very affordable so that every parent can watch it and use it with other parents. You can get all of the information about it online at FamilyLifeToday.com. In addition to the DVDs, there’s a workbook that comes along with it.
I really like the “Rules and Tools” booklet you’ve created as well. All the information is available online at FamilyLifeToday.com; and you can order from us online, if you like, or call 1-800-FLTODAY; 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.” Ask about the Internet Safety 101 resource when you get in touch with us, and we’ll let you know how you can get a copy sent to you.
You know, it is always encouraging to us when we hear from FamilyLife Today listeners—those of you who get in touch with us and let us know how God has used this radio program, or our website, or one of our events, or one of our resources to strengthen your marriage or your family. I hope if that’s happened, you’ll take a few minutes and get in touch with us and just pass along the word. It’s a great encouragement to our team when we hear from you.
We’ve been encouraged this month because we’re hearing from a lot of listeners who are getting in touch with us for the first time to make a donation to FamilyLife Today. We set a goal this month of hoping to hear from 2,000 new listeners who are first-time donors to the ministry. I’ve been watching the little thermometer on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com to keep track of how many of you have contacted us. It’s very encouraging. We appreciate those of you who have gotten in touch with us.
If you have never made a donation to support FamilyLife Today and you can do so this month, and if, in fact, that donation can be $100 or more, we’d like to send you, as a way of saying, “Thank you,” a gift certificate to attend an upcoming Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway. We’re about to launch the fall season of getaways; we’re going to be in dozens of cities all across the country.
We would like you to attend as our guests. We’ll cover the registration costs, and all you have to do is make a first-time donation to FamilyLife Today of at least $100. Type the word “HUNDRED,” if you would, into the key code box on the online donation form; or, when you make your donation over the phone, just mention that you’d like a certificate for the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway. As long as that’s a first-time donation of at least $100, we’ll be happy to send you that certificate.
We appreciate your support of the ministry. In fact, anyone who makes a donation this month, we’re making available CDs of six messages from a recent Weekend to Remember marriage getaway where Dennis Rainey and I spoke. We’ll send you that CD sampler when you make any donation this month to help support the ministry. All you have to do is type the word “SAMPLER” into the key code box on the online donation form or request the CDs when you make your donation over the phone.
Again, it’s always great to hear from you; and we appreciate your support of the ministry.
Now, tomorrow we’re going to talk about cyber-bullying. We’re going to talk about predators online and about some of the other dangers we face when we go online. I hope you can be back as we talk about that tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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