There is a need for good children’s books that tackle digital age subjects (like online safety, pornography, predators, etc.) head-on. Someone Should Have Told Me, by Holly-ann Martin, is a needed addition to that small but growing library of resources for parents to read to their kids.
Martin is the founder and director of Safe4Kids, an Australian organization built on the successful Protective Behaviors program. Martin has taught thousands of children and adolescents–as well as their parents, teachers, and caregivers–about protective behaviors that keep them safe from child abuse, bullying, drug use, and youth suicide.
Her unique program has been widely recognized throughout Australia, and she is the author of a number of books designed for parents to read to their children, including this latest publication.
Someone Should Have Told Me is a book for children and their parents to read together to start a discussion about the online dangers children will inevitably face.
The first 18 pages or so focus on the main lesson of the book: the things that children need to know about when they are online, how to avoid those dangers, and what to do when they stumble upon things they shouldn’t see.
The last eight pages contain an amazing set of resources specifically for the parents. Packed into this section are discussion questions for each page, strategies for what to do when your child sees pornography, and some additional helpful information for parents about various related topics and issues.
The short book covers a lot of ground (not just stumbling on pornographic images, which she calls “private pictures and private movies.”) The list includes overhearing other kids talking, pop-up ads, and predator awareness.
Most important, she gives simple, practical strategies for what kids should do when they come across ‘private’ stuff in these scenarios. The responses she shares here are also consistent with the lessons in her other books and what she teaches in person to children.
Unfortunately, the first half of the book reads a little bit like a list as she covers the various things “I wish someone would have told me.” For example, “not to type private words on the computer,” or “not to click on pop-up while I’m playing online.” If simply read straight through, these pages could come across a little too much like a preachy list of “don’ts”, which is why Martin includes the discussion questions for parents. Each page could, and should, be an opportunity to pause and talk about these situations.
Unlike some of her previous books, this one doesn’t read as much like a story. For example, Hayden-Reece Learns What To Do if Children See Private Pictures or Private Movies tells a story of Martin speaking to a classroom of kids and later, one of the children finds himself in the exact situation Martin told him about. The story concludes with how he handles the images he sees, and therein is the lesson of the book.
While this book doesn’t follow such a plot structure, it definitely makes up for it in the addition of the tasteful, hard-to-ignore illustrations (kudos to illustrator Marilyn Fahie!) The artwork, together with the presentation of online situations and the useful parent’s guide, helps make this book a powerful lesson for children.
In all, Someone Should Have Told Me will make an important addition to any parent’s toolbox. Pornography, especially, is such an uncomfortable subject for most parents to broach with their kids. Holly-ann Martin’s book gives them an effective way to open that door and begin a critical conversation.