A Book Your Son Will Read

Sep 26

My Son's Reading Choice?


Harry Potter doesn’t do it for my nine-year old son.¬† While he did not start out as a reluctant reader, I’m beginning to think he’s headed in that direction.¬† Only a year ago, he would hop off the school bus with a chapter book in hand, touting that he’d read halfway through it during the ride.¬† Boy, it made me proud.¬† My son, the literary whiz.¬†

Things have changed.

I’m beginning to realize it’s not so much that my son has changed, but rather the books.¬† He likes to complete an entire novel within an hour… Maybe two.¬† Any book that requires focused reading for more than that is “boring.”¬† Of course, now that he’s entered grade four, the books in his age group (officially middle-grade fare) are longer and harder.¬† Now, when he walks in the door reading¬†The Adventures of Super Diaper Baby, I’m not impressed.¬† “You’ve got to move on,” I beg him.

Every once in a while I manage to bring home a book that he can’t put down.¬† Of course, Diary of a Wimpy Kid¬†was an instant classic in our house¬†(he introduced that one to me.)¬† The formula?¬†

  1. Can be read within an hour and a half,
  2. Is very witty, and
  3. Has cartoon drawings. 

There is another, lesser known, series out there that I stumbled upon while researching for my own book’s market.¬† Star Jumper: Journal of a Cardboard Genius is the first in a series of three books written by Frank Asch.¬† They follow a formula similar to Diary of a Wimpy Kid (the names sound kinda’ similar, too – don’t ya’ think?)¬†

My nine-year-old read them back to back in one weekend.¬† Now he’s¬†returned to perusing the Guinness Book of World Records and re-reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid.¬† I’m¬†looking for another book with that perfect formula.

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Children’s Exposure to Online Porn – A Parent’s Guide

Oct 06

Posters of the movie Zack and Miri Make a Porno hang from the theatre where you take the kids to watch Igor.  The family-friendly Knight Rider (airing at 8pm) shows teens swapping jokes about porn while shooting hoops.  The latest “It” girl is barely dressed on the cover of at the counter where you buy little Mikey a lollipop.  As our pornified culture seeps ever deeper into the daily activities of a typical family, parents can be forgiven for thinking that the only way to shield their children from its effects is to bar them from ever leaving the house.  As ridiculous as it sounds, even an overzealous strategy such as that would not necessarily prevent exposure to porn.  In fact, the most explicit porn is most likely to be viewed in the home, thanks to the internet.

While parents ask “What do I do if my child sees porn on the internet?” the more realistic question is “What do I do when my child sees porn?”  In fact, many parents may never find out when that actually occurs.  According to a study on youth aged 10 to 17 years (Mitchel et al. 2003), a quarter of them had been exposed to unwanted sexual images, with only about half of these exposures being reported to a parent or friend.  In a study on Australian youth aged 13 to 16 years (published in Youth & Society), only 8% of kids will tell their parents if they’ve seen something disturbing. 

No wonder filter software is a multi-billion dollar industry, soothing the worries of anxious parents hoping to erect a barrier between Lego.com and Openlegs.com.  I personally have blocking software that requires a password to enter any website other than those I’ve approved.  So far, it’s worked.  But, my kids are young and easily stumped by short passwords and basic firewalls.  With age, kids grow increasingly web-savvy (surpassing the limited techie know-how of parents) and learn quickly how to overcome barriers to get where they want to go online.  In fact, despite the rush to buy the latest blocking software, studies – such as the Australian survey – have concluded that filters do little to prevent exposure. 



The proliferation of cell phones with internet access has only exacerbated the problems that parents face.  Results of a study of wireless search behaviour indicate “Adult” entertainment to be the top google search, making up almost 20% of all queries. 

It’s enough to make any parent throw their hands in the air and lament, “there’s nothing I can do.”  This is too serious an issue to just let it be, according to Pamela Paul, author of .  In her book, she describes what children learn through porn. 

“Watching pornography, kids learn that women always want sex and that sex is divorced from relationships.¬† They learn that men can have whomever they want and that women will respond the way men want them to.¬† They learn that anal sex is the norm and instant female orgasm is to be expected.”

Parents face a daunting task, no doubt.¬† But there is hope.¬† According to the Australian study, porn exposure was most likely among the most frequent internet users (that is, those who¬†surfed online¬†every day, or more.)¬† Therefore, a rational first step is to limit children‚Äôs internet access.¬† And while it‚Äôs virtually impossible to totally prevent a sexual image from popping onto the screen, parents can more readily address exposure, when it does happen,¬†by regularly reviewing the¬†surfing history.¬† Microsoft provides easy instructions on how to do this, and other simple methods to ensure children’s online safety.¬† Their website is http://www.microsoft.com/protect/family/guidelines/basics.mspx.

Having frank and open discussions about sex is also important in helping children put the sexual images into context.  That means including a chapter on pornography when you teach your child about the birds and the bees.  In Pornified, Paul interviews Al Cooper, past director of the San Jose Marital and SexualityCenter and an expert on Internet pornography.  His advice is to accept children will see pornography, and to talk to them about it.

“Not only can all children see pornography online, they will see it.  All kids today will see sexually explicit stuff and they will see it constantly… When a parent finds a pornographic picture on their six-year-old’s computer they need to have a talk with the kid.”



In other words, don‚Äôt cross your fingers and hope that your child will be the one in a million who doesn‚Äôt see porn.¬† And, on the other end of the spectrum, think twice about shrugging it off with the age-old argument that it‚Äôs “a normal part of being a boy.‚Äù¬† Both are forms of denial.¬† A mix of prevention tactics with open discussion about pornography will go a long way in helping children learn to recognize the fallacies and dangers of pornography, and to censor their own online exposure.¬† Because, truly, the best filter around, is the one within us all.¬†¬†





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