The Protect Young Eyes team is confused.
Our speaking team has over six decades working with families in various teaching and ministry roles. None of us has ever met a parent who flat-out didn’t care about the safety of their children. Not one. We’ve met parents who weren’t very good at parenting. But if you were to ask them, “Do you care about the safety of your children?” even bad parents will typically say, “yes.”
Too Many Young People with Too Much Social Media
Three weeks ago, I spoke to around 900 total students at a public middle school in a typical rural community. This is a strong community with a strong faith foundation. As is our preference, I was able to speak to each grade separately, which afforded me the opportunity to tailor the message to each grade and hone in on issues specific to each grade. For example, with the eighth grade students, I could link internet permanence to their future college applications, athletic scholarships, and jobs.
For sixth grade, I began by asking all 300 of them to raise their hands if they had at least one social media account of their own. I’m pretty decent with numbers and estimate that 70% of the gym raised their hands.
Most kids were 11. A handful were 12. None were 13.
This is common in our talks. No matter what type of school (public or private) or what type of community (urban or rural) or what part of the country, the results of our informal polls of kids in grades 3-6 are the same.
Too many kids have too much access to digital spaces that they just aren’t ready for.
The Perplexing Gap in our Digital Parenting
So, back to our confusion. We’re left wondering “why?”Why do parents who are concerned about the safety of their children consistently make reckless digital parenting choices?
What we’ve found is that there’s a perplexing gap that exists between what parents tell us (“I’m concerned about the safety of my child”) and the decisions these same parents are making (“We gave our sixth grade son an iPhone for Christmas”).
This means one or multiple of the following is true:
- They’re lying when they tell us they’re concerned about the safety of their child (unlikely),
- They’re too busy to care as much as they should, or
- They don’t know that what they’re doing is risky.
For most parents, in our experience, it’s usually a combination of #2 and #3.
The Grace Period for Ignorant Parenting is Over
The Internet as we know it (ignoring its military infancy) is approaching 30 years old.
The iPhone is now over a decade old.
We have enough peer reviewed science to know that glowing screens are impacting the brains of our precious young people.
We know with certainty that teens are acquiring a distorted view of love through pornography and are becoming exposed early and often, hopelessly hooked to the dopamine rush, and are abusing each other.
We have amazing insights from researchers like Dr. Jean Twenge, and her book, iGen: Why Today’s Super Connected Kids are Growing up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – And Completely Unprepared for Adulthood that point to more suicides, more depression, and less ability to handle life due to technology.
We know through individuals like Sean Parker in the video below that social media giants have been knowingly exploiting the psychological weakness in most human beings that craves purpose and significance.
We know that tech moguls protect their kids from the very devices they create, like Steve Jobs’ children not being permitted to use the iPad or Bill Gates not giving his kids a smartphone until high school, and Silicon Valley executives that send their kids to tech-free Waldorf Schools.
We have the March 2018 Medium.com article from Anastasia Basil who took a deep dive into Musical.ly (now TikTok) in response to constant pressures from her 10-year-old daughter to use the app. There, once submerged, horrified to find 8-year-old girls scantily clad (child porn in some states), masturbating men, hashtags glorifying violence, self-harm, suicide, and anorexia and a constantly changing code language used by young people with words like whooty, thot (“that ho over there”), hottie, sxy, sin, etc., etc. All in a day’s browsing.
Listen – middle school doesn’t need more drama! It’s a stage of life when kids are searching for identity and their place in the pack. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that this is often the time we open up their precious hearts to the unrelenting, immoral, and distorted messages that come with open access to YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Google.
The grace period for parental ignorance is over. It’s time to stop the madness. It’s time to parent differently. It’s time to say “no” more often. Your kid won’t die or become a social outcast without a smartphone. It’s time to get together with other parents and collectively decide that kids don’t need a screen to survive (we love the Wait Until 8th Movement). It’s time to call out Snapchat and Instagram for what they really are.
- Snapchat was never intended for kids – let’s not forget Snapchat’s roots. It was created as a college sexting platform. It now boasts features that admittedly prey on vulnerable teenage anxiety tendencies (the Snapstreak) and a Discover section rife with sex, explicit words, and edgy cultural trends, with no ability to turn it off. This is an app for kids who are at least 15 years old. I took screenshots of miscellaneous articles from a Sunday, which could be any given day, and this is what we found:
Related post: Snapchat Releases Cosmo After Dark (It’s P*rn)
- Instagram has a massive content problem – Instagram has zero filters and zero parental controls. You can now follow hashtags full of filth. Once you know which ones to target, quick searches provide instant access to explicit. And, if you’re a parent, there’s no way to stop it or know that it has happened. Parents need to wake up to the reality that Instagram does not care deeply for kids. It took the suicide of a young girl in the UK for the app to even listen to cries for change to its self-harm content. They’re always reactive and always thinking of the bottom line. We do not recommend Instagram for kids under age 15.
Related post: Instagram has a Porn Problem (Instaporn)
#waitingisloving – Parents, it’s Your Time!
Most of what parents hate about technology is our fault. Too many screens. Too many accounts. Too busy to notice. Too tired to say no. Too many principals cleaning up messes that started at home. And, then too many parents complaining that the principals aren’t doing enough.
- This isn’t just a principal problem (although some could do more).
- This isn’t just a Snapchat problem (although the app could give us parental controls).
- This isn’t just an iPhone problem (although Apple create safer devices).
- This isn’t just a teenager problem (although they could certainly make better choices).
- What we have is primarily a parenting problem. #waitingisloving
Let’s get back to basics. Checkers. Dinnertime together. Device-free car rides. Face-to-face. Monopoly. Solitaire. Yes, some screens. I’m not telling everyone to join an Amish community and disconnect completely. But, put off access to social media as long as possible and seriously take stock and ask yourself if based on the evidence, your parenting decisions line up with your concerns.
#waitingisloving. We love parents! Protect Young Eyes is here to help.
Frequently Asked Question:
Q: Chris, so, do we just wait until high school to teach them everything? That doesn’t seem right either?
A: This is a great objection, and it was raised in a Facebook comment. If I said, “I don’t think kids should drive until age 16,” that wouldn’t mean I’m against putting kids through a rigorous training program before putting them behind the wheel. The same holds true with social media! Our motto is:
Tell them no, but train them as if you’ll eventually say “yes.”
This means we absolutely place them in well-controlled digital environments long before they navigate solo, so we can see how they respond. We provide practical examples of how this training might look in our popular post, What’s the Right Age to Give my Kid Social Media?
Thank you, Heather, for asking this question!
Parents – Here’s a Next Step:
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*Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. We constantly test products to make sure we only recommend solutions that we trust with our own families.