6 ways to protect your teen

June 17, 2015

Today, I’m raising the curtain on something that’s a parent’s nightmare. What follows is content that will disturb you, and yet it’s something that every parent needs to know about in order to do their best to protect their children.   

6 ways parents2

Netflix sent me an email last month promoting a documentary produced by Rashida Jones, daughter of Quincy. Netflix had never sent me an email that wasn’t account-related, so I was curious. The documentary it touted, called Hot Girls Wanted, had been the talk of Sundance. It was an expose about how teenage girls are recruited into amateur pornography.

Please don’t get sidetracked. This is not a post about porn.  This post is about something way more important than the pros/cons of pornography. This post is about what the film exposes about our culture and also about the vulnerability of our children. Parenting teens is no picnic, and that’s even more true today.

Most of us already know that pornography is the most viewed entertainment website category. What you may not know is that the top search term on porn websites is “teen.”  Amateur porn, meaning the kind that looks like it’s home-made, is very big today and all the better if the girls are young. Or look young. A cute girl that looks young may have a chance to do porn. Not slick, high-production value porn, but “amateur” porn.

I know what you’re asking. Why would a girl want to do that?  The film gives us several reasons. Let’s hear them:

setHot Girls Wanted followed a half dozen 18-year olds who answered a Craigslist ad for models and film work. The girls came from good families. They had caring parents. Still, and somehow, the lure of being a big porn star was enough to get them to leave their hometowns and college/career plans for the bright lights of… a crummy house in Miami. It was pretty much a dump. They shared living space with each other and their “agent,” who owned the house and got them porn work.

I’ll set aside that he was a sleazy guy running an unprofessional operation, not the slick porn entrepreneurs we might have heard about. We don’t need to discuss him. What stood out most in the film was the disconnect these young girls had with reality.

The girls had unprotected sex during their scenes. The idea of a sexually transmitted disease didn’t seem to come to mind. Because they usually practiced coitus interruptus on camera, there was no fear of pregnancy. They didn’t seem to understand they could still get pregnant that way.

If a scene called for ejaculation inside the vagina, the girls were paid extra; in one case it was $100 extra.  They then spent $40 of that for Plan B, the pill that would prevent a pregnancy from taking hold.

Don’t get sidetracked: if you’re going to tell me that is a reason to not have Plan B I’ll respond that I think these girls would do it anyway. They’d pocket the extra cash and take their chances. That girl seemed proud of being able to pocket an extra $60.  $60. That’s all. For all that risk.

This is someone's beautiful teen daughter. And an amateur porn star.

This is someone’s beautiful teen daughter. And an amateur porn star.

Reality Disconnect #1: Being a porn star is something for teens to aspire to.

I was aghast that these young girls had no embarrassment at all–they believed doing porn was a chance to “be a star.”  Stars in their eyes used to mean Hollywood. Now, it’s porn? But then, why should we be surprised? Kim Kardashian is looked up to by so many young teens, and her fame came from… a sex tape.  Teens used to idolize rock stars and movie actresses, but today, it seems, success built on nothing but a sex tape seems to still be success, so why am I so surprised that some teens think doing porn is a path to stardom?

Girls that age are still girls, whether they want to believe it or not. A decision like that–to do porn–affects the rest of your life in one way or another. It can’t help but. Digital images are forever, or certainly as long as their life. Girls that young are not equipped to decide to do porn. There are too many ramifications that they can’t even imagine.

They don’t think that their father might find out or see them. Or his boss. Or their mother. A neighbor. A teacher. They don’t take in  how those images will follow them the rest of their lives. Clueless.

So, who are your daughters watching on TV, following on social media, reading about? Are they role models worth having?  Are the Kardashians role models you want your kids to have?

Very mild video vixen attire

Very mild video vixen attire

Reality Disconnect #2: Sex is meaningless.

“Sex means nothing any more,” is how one of the young girls in the film put it. No parent wants to hear this. Many parents would prefer teens abstain, but in today’s sexualized world, that’s unreasonable. But it’s worse than a sexualized world. It’s a world in which kids are desensitized to sex.  I remember seeing Madonna prance around an MTV music video in her lingerie in the 1980s and thinking, “if kids see this stuff now, what will be left for them to get off on as adults?”  And that was then. Today’s hip hop video vixens are so much more provocative even I have to avert my eyes.  The whole thing has led to a revolution in how teens dress and what is considered appropriate attire. I saw this coming, this day when teen girls could wear tiny shorts and midriff tops to school and boys would expose their underwear underneath low hanging pants. What I didn’t consider was how far it would go.

Kids sext. I mean, really, sext? One in five 11th grade students in a Canada survey said they’d sent or received a sext. Some 40 percent of boys between grades 4 and 11 said they had looked for porn online. GRADE 4??? Grade 4.

sextingThey send nude photos around. Teens make sex tapes. This happens. I know, we’d rather shut our eyes to it. But we can’t afford to. It’s happening and to kids we know. Maybe even our own.

A study of porn watchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry found reduced grey matter in their brains. This is associated with needing greater stimulation to get the same effect (as in more extreme porn) and that was confirmed by other findings. It’s also associated with decreased impulse control. Think about what that means.

I come from the Free Love generation. I’m hardly a prude. And yet, this kind of numbness when it comes to sexual matters goes well beyond that. Kids have seen too much too young. So, of course, having sex on camera is no big deal–why would it be?

What are your underage sons and daughters doing? Are you monitoring their texts and internet usage? Do you have a way of tracking their browsing history? Or do you feel guilty “snooping?”  If you do feel guilty, don’t. Your underage kids have access to things you may not want them to see. Make sure they don’t, at least not in your home.

Parents, what are you teaching your children about sex?

2007-02-05-Birds_And_BeesReality Disconnect #3. Teens are becoming numb to horrific things.

Apparently, some 40 percent of popular porn are extreme porn acts. One example is something called “forced oral sex,” in which the female is violently forced to have oral sex until she vomits (and this is going to be hard to read) and then forced to lick it up. All the while, the man is saying ugly and usually racist things to her.  It is the most horrific thing I’ve ever seen and I only saw a snippet in the documentary. It is disgusting. Teenage girls are being paid to do this in “amateur porn.”  Think about the fact that people get off on this kind of stuff. That’s what it takes.

The teenage actress justified it by saying that she “didn’t judge” how the viewer chose to get off and that it was all “really fake” because they are actresses.  The bigger issues of promoting violence, not to mention the exploitation of these teen “actors,” failed to connect with her. It was just another job.

That scene sent chills down my spine.

Older, professional porn stars (don’t laugh) are horrified, as well. “These young girls will do anything,” they say.

 Parents, what are you teaching your children about sex? If you are teaching abstinence, I admire your willingness to fight back, but it’s unrealistic. Kids need to be taught about responsible sexual behavior.

So there you have it.  Slowly, but surely, our society has shifted in ways that some of us still can’t imagine. And as much as we wish to protect the children in our care, we can’t, entirely. So we must work double time to do what we can. To expose them to messages that will counter what else they seen. And we must snoop. We must. We have to know what kids are texting and what’s on their social media accounts and we have to know their web browsing history.

Yes, I know, this is far easier for parents who stay at home. But for those who don’t, well, there needs to be a way. There must. Because otherwise, there will always be those who prey on your kids’ vulnerabilities.  So let’s talk. Let’s start a discussion about what can be done at home. Right here, right now.  I’m not talking about just wringing our hands or laws. I’m talking about what parents can do.

Take a look at the graphic up top of this post. I’d like to know what you think about them. Are they realistic? Would you add anything to the list?

Parents, you have the floor in the Comments section below. Thank you.

42 comments on “6 ways to protect your teen
  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says:

    Reading stuff like this makes me happy that I have all boys. There is so much pressure out there for girls.

  2. Wow!!! I am so glad I have time, my oldest son is 10 and my oldest daughter is 6. I am horrified at the thought of my kids having sex before marriage.

  3. sue says:

    I watched an interview about this the other day too and thought how disturbing this whole subject is. Its important that we talk to our kids about this kind of thing to better understand what they are taking from all the media hype. It always amazes me when I think to how the Kardashians became famous, a leaked sex tape! Sadly that appears to be a positive affirmation of how successful such a lapse in judgement an be. Great article

  4. Marie says:

    You made a ton of good points, I do think have children but do have nieces and all of these things could be a huge issue. Really makes you want to monitor a lot more.

  5. I am so thankful that my kids are adults now and we made it through teenager horrors like this. The rules that applied to my kids last decade went down with the smartphone and instant internet everywhere. We had one computer that was in the kitchen and there was an hour a day time limit during the days of Myspace. I could see and looked at everything. I think the biggest problem we have today is that parents want to be their kids “friends” instead of their parents. I also think that being afraid to “offend” your child by snooping is just plain ludicrous. While they lived in my home there was no such thing as privacy. If I felt the need to check their phones I did, randomly and often I also checked cell phone bills for strange numbers and was constantly over their shoulder and had parental control on the computer that sent me an email if they attempted to go to a site I hadn’t approved first. It sounds tough but they are well-adjusted, grown adults. Now I’m off to have a long conversation with my 13 year old great niece who is spending the summer with me. Thanks so much for sharing this Carol, I’ve shared it everywhere!

  6. As a mom of a teen boy I found this to be very helpful. Thank you!

  7. Jennifer says:

    OMG Carol! I am horrified and saddened. I hadn’t heard about this. The degradation these young girls are accepting and even welcoming, is disgusting. Our entire society is heading for the toilet. Frankly, I’m in shock and sick about this.

  8. Michelle R says:

    Wow. I’ve noticed some troubling trends, but did not know a lot of what you discussed. Disturbing, but thank you. There are so many troubling aspects — the high demand for teenage girls, the violence, the impulse control. No wonder many college campuses have a rape problem. Why so many young girls are willing to subject themselves to this is beyond my comprehension. But then again…so is their choice in attire and the attitude that goes with it. They say “slut shaming” or “body shaming” if you suggest the attire is too provocative. (A friend’s 15-year-old daughter used that comeback when mom suggested she dress appropriately. No thought whatsoever that her attire was like dangling raw meat in front of a hungry tiger.) As for technology…I’ve been called overprotective and a stalker by my 12-year-old son who DOES NOT have a cell phone. And NO social media. He has an iPad, that he had to buy, which stays at home and is regularly reviewed. (I worry that he’ll stumbled upon some deviant sex website and sexually “imprint” on some outlandish business! It would be nice for him to experience typical puberty without porn.) My 8-year-old girl has nothing but the home computer on which she can do homework – or my iPad for apps. And I see no need for this to change any time soon.

    • I had this discussion recently with a friend who found her young teen boy looking at porn. My fear for him is exactly what you point out: these horrifically vile sex acts would be imprinted. I would monitor, also, and restrict, like you. I just would.

  9. OMG, this is shocking and really scary. We really should be monitoring what our kids are watching/doing online and even monitor their phones.

  10. harriet says:

    I was really close with my daughter when she was a teen. It paid off for both of us too.

  11. Jaime says:

    It’s so distressing to think about this. My daughter’s still a toddler and I just don’t want to think of her as a teenager getting into this stuff. My husband and I still need to discuss how we’re going to handle the sex talk.

  12. Alicia says:

    Thank you for writing this post! Talking about these social situations is so important and the earlier the better with our kids. It is unbelievable the things our kids are exposed to these days that we did not have to deal with growing up. A friend of ours, Barrett Johnson, wrote an amazing book called “The Talks” – every parent needs to read it and be prepared to start discussing sex with their children at a young age.

  13. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. I was always grateful I had boys, and now grandsons, but we need to do a better job of creating respect with our sons in order to send them out to be responsible young men. This is very disturbing and I will be sharing it.

  14. Sheryl says:

    Frightening, eye-opening and awful! It’s so important to bring awareness to this. Relieved that I have boys so I don’t have to worry about it, but that doesn’t make it any less frightening.

  15. Frightening! I’m so thankful there were no techy devices and scary things such as this when my girls were young. Now I just fear for my grandkids. Parents need to stay on top of tech so they know where to look and what to look for to protect their children. This is a fabulously helpful post. Thanks for sharing!

  16. After teaching high school for the last 16 years, I can confirm this post is true.

  17. Timber says:

    I recently read about Denmark and how they begin”sex” education starting in kindergarten. They consider it “sexuality” education and coach them about loving themselves and have all information, based on age, available and out in the open. They have the lowest STD and teen pregnancy rates.

  18. This just makes me so so sad. I’m thankful I raised my kids before the internet became what it is.

  19. Parenting is a gentle balance between protecting your kids and exposing your kids. I love my relationship with my daughter. We covered parts of the conversation in a joking but I get your point kind of way.

    “Don’t do amateur porn”

    “Ok. Only professional.”

    “That’s my girl. If you gonna do it, do it right!”

    I love that we can joke and still get the point across in my house.

  20. Misty Battle says:

    As a mother of five girls, this made me cringe. I am so scared for them in this world. I want to protect them from all harm, but I can’t be everywhere. Thank you for posting this and bringing it attention!

  21. I thought it was tough raising my 3 daughters but jeeze Carol I have 6 granddaughters aged 19, 15, 12, 9, 6 and 5.
    We do all of the above and their parents, grandparents aunts and uncles have NO problem snooping and spying on them and they all know we do it to protect them.
    That doesn’t stop us from being nervous wrecks and so worried about what someone may be able to talk them into.
    The most important thing we can do for our girls is to make sure their self-esteem is filled to the brim and to do whatever we have to do to get them to love and respect themselves and their bodies.
    We practice ‘using your power voice’ with our boys and girls. We teach our boys that it is their job to be protectors.
    It is also so extremely important to talk to our young boys and make sure they have healthy views and expectations of sex and love and that they are aware of boundaries.
    It’s not easy to talk to them about this stuff because they laugh and assure us it will never happen to them but it is so important that we put our own discomfort aside to make sure they hear it from us. Even if it seems like they aren’t listening, they are.

  22. donna says:

    none of this surprises me. in fact you left a great deal out. When my children were under my control the computer was in plain site. I knew they went to friends homes and I called the moms to ask what kind of controls they had. One very, very close friend derided me for my hatred of pornography and told me I couldn’t keep my son away from it. I told her without blinking I would do anything to protect all of my children from pornography. Pornography is addicting it changes the brain, it sells fantasy. It is the reason for divorce over and over again. It is not harmless…..see who makes the porn, they are the victims. My daughter got married a month ago, she and her husband were both virgins. Do you know what it wonderful about that? She never had to worry about pregnancy, std’s, or if she had been used. And the best part is it was her choice. I told them life was better to be celibate before marriage, but if they weren’t it was their choice. And I would not judge that choice. I only had a few rules for my teenagers, the one about the computer and phone, group dating, home by midnight, they didn’t drink or do drugs….their close friends followed the same patterns so it was easier. my daughter was student body president, cheerleader and homecoming queen..when my son was in high school he was captain of the football team and homecoming king, no one made fun of them because of the way they lived their lives. One dad asked my husband one day how do you get kids like that? He told him, We didn’t ask anything of them we didn’t require of ourselves. They didn’t feel they had to do outrageous things to be popular. I on the other hand rarely express how I really feel about anything. I hate the push back, which I am sure even this comment will produce. But is reasonable to think kids can be celibate. And it is a whole lot easier.

  23. Elizabeth O. says:

    This is scary. I have two small grand daughters and reading about this really scares me. Monitoring what our kids do online makes us responsible parents.

  24. I saw this on Netflix last week. Really eye-opening about the horrors and scumbags out their looking to prey on the young. I have two daughters and constantly stay on top of them about what they transmit over the internet.

  25. This is such a well written post and I actually just saw that same documentary a couple weeks ago on Netflix and although I knew girls were doing this it was so sad to watch and the disconnect and fact they were jeopardizing everything for a 2 month stay in that disgusting house in Miami. Great advice and it gives me soo much to think about when I’m raising a teen. I’m about to have my first baby this month. ahh!


  26. WendysHat says:

    I agree. Being involved in every part of their lives daily and setting a good example are important.

  27. Carolann says:

    You bring a hugely important topic to surface here. I have one daughter and one son, thank goodness they are past those years. I’ve read some horror stories about male teens doing exactly the same thing for money so it’s not just about the girls it seems. I raised them both with the same values and morals and I’m so blessed they listened. This is a timely read for me as I’m currently writing a piece on the disappearance of values and morals. The sexting is especially upsetting as millions of teens are practicing this daily without thought. So glad you wrote about this Carol – you nailed it!

  28. Our society is going to hell. It’s getting worse by the day. Parents need to teach kids right from wrong even if it makes the kids mad. This is so sad and by the time these girls realize what they’ve done to their lives, they will be stuck in it more than likely.

  29. Liz Mays says:

    It just sickens me to hear about girls being led down the wrong path, and rewarded for risky behavior. I need to watch this, even though it will be difficult.

  30. Beth says:

    I have been very lucky to have two kids that I can talk to open and honestly about these type of things. I’ve always told them I would much rather they ask me questions than find out about it on the internet. Our conversations are extremely healthy and I trust them but I don’t trust anyone else’s kids so they knew I was always watching their computer and phone use. Even if the kids come from “good” families I guarantee if you dig a little bit under the surface most of them would say either their parents were too strict or completely unavailable. You can have money, education, great jobs, a good home but it doesn’t make you a good parent. Talk to your kids and pay attention to everything.

  31. Michelle Hwee says:

    This is definitely a very important topic to speak about. Sometimes its hard but both parents and teens should have a open relationship and be able to speak about it.

  32. Ugh. Thanks for writing this. I did not realize it was this bad.

  33. Emily says:

    Okay, so you have already made me feel afraid about my future children (I passed my teenage just 5 years ago, so children is something in very distant future for right now) but I do have a teenage sister and I know how protective I and my family are about her social media interaction. She is a sweet kid, but still it’s scary how open this generation is about sex. Plus the ‘don’t judge’ thing is really the excuse for everything for today’s teenagers.

    Thanks for the post. Really informative.

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