The One Thing Parents Need to Do to Protect Their Kids Online

protect your kids online

In my years of writing on parenting, I’ve given parents a lot of advice and warnings. I’ve maybe even bossed you guys around a little. Or a lot. But #sorrynotsorry, I’m really just trying to help! Today, I’ve got reason to think long and hard about one thing I wish I could communicate to parents, or even force parents to do, to protect kids online, to keep them safe on social media, on the internet, and even in their text messages. So listen closely, moms and dads:

The one thing parents need to do, MUST do, to protect kids online is GIVE A CRAP.

Pardon my coarse language, parents, but I don’t know any other way to say it. The word “care” is what I mean here, but it’s not a strong enough word to express my exasperation and frustration. Because, every day, over and over, I see the consequences of kids’ destructive online behavior online and on their smartphones…and a lot of these terrible consequences could have been avoided if, way back when, these kids’ parents would have given a crap about what they were doing with their tablets and smartphones.

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You see, today’s parents have fallen into many traps when it comes to their kids’ online activities. Some of these traps are:

  • “Everyone has social media. It’s fine.”
  • “My kid is too smart to {insert dangerous behavior here}”
  • “Kids will be kids”
  • “They’re going to do it anyway”
  • “I don’t have time to read every single text message”
  • “My child would tell me if he/she was having a problem”

All of these traps can pull the wool over your eyes, parents. To really protect kids online, you need to be willing to throw them aside.

Hear me when I say: closely monitoring your child’s online, social media, internet, tablet, and smartphone activity may be the most important thing you can do for their mental, emotional, sexual, and overall physical health.

The second most important thing you can do is talk to them about ALL THE THINGS. I am a parent to a 14-year-old firstborn, rule-following, afraid of getting in trouble honor student. Does his predilection for the straight and narrow make him immune to suicide, self-harm, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, porn addiction, unhealthy emotional relationships, dangerous friendships, or being groomed by a stranger?

NOPE.

As painful and awkward as it has been, my husband and I have already had conversations with our soon about all of the above. And they are all ongoing conversations…none of these is a “one and done.” I’ve even made up a theme song that goes, “Awkward talks with Mommmm! Awkward talks Mom!” so that he knows when one is coming, ha ha. (He loooves that, I tell ya.)

My husband and I also monitor our son’s email, text messages, browser history, and YouTube activity with an app called Bark. He doesn’t have social media accounts yet, but if and when he does get them, Bark can monitor that too. I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend it; it catches everything, even photos that your child takes or downloads to a phone or tablet that might be questionable. It sends you large portions of text message conversations to have you context about concerning words or phrases. It is a LIFESAVER, literally, for many families! {side note: I literally got a bark notification for my son’s YouTube activity WHILE I was writing this! It was, fortunately, just a spam comment in reply to one of his comments.}

Despite the fact that there are many resources for parents like Bark out there, most parents don’t use them. They rely on trust, but no matter how trustworthy your child is, parents, your trust of your kids cannot protect them online. It’s not enough.

And so today, moms and dads, if there’s one thing I could beg you to do today, it would be this: give a crap about what your kids are doing on line, and then allow that genuine concern and care for your children to LEAD TO ACTION. In a recent conversation I had with Chris McKenna of Protect Young Eyes, Chris said about his mission to educate parents about how and why to protect their kids from porn, something to the effect of, “I feel like I’m a doctor in the 1950s warning people that smoking is going to kill you.”

I feel that statement 100% when talking to parents about not giving their kids social media, smartphones, and other online privileges. No one listened to those doctors back in the 50s and a lot of people died because of it.

Please, parents, let’s not let that be the case with our kids. Let’s protect kids online. Let’s give a crap, and make a difference for our kids’ futures.


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Jenny Rapson
Jenny Rapson is a follower of Christ, a wife and mom of three from Ohio and a freelance writer and editor. You can find her at her blog, Mommin' It Up, or follow her on Twitter.