How Moms want their Kids to Engage with the Internet

Stephen Wunderli
by Stephen Wunderli — 1 year ago in Family 3 min. read
18

We spent some time talking to moms about their kids and how they use the Internet. The answers were varied but the theme was the same. Every one of them wants more control.

The solutions were interesting: Limit time on their phones and no phones at dinnertime. Keep the computer in the family room not in the child’s bedroom. And lots of parental control software, which was interesting because none of the parents were totally happy with any of the options.

“Just seems like no matter what I do the bad people are still going to win,” one mother lamented. 

Here are some of the tactics they tried: Don’t get a child a phone until they are 16. The downside: their friends all have them and they are left out of social groups. Sports teams use texts to announce game and practice times. And there are those times when as a parent, you wish you could call your kid and see where they are, who they are with and when they are coming home. A lot of parents worried about emergencies. “I want my daughter to have a phone just in case there is an emergency and she has to call me,” one mother said. Made me wonder how all those generations of kids survived emergencies without cell phones. 

Some moms get their kids skeleton or dumb phones. These are phones with no apps, only text and calls, yet it still looks cool. Some just get their kids flip phones. But there comes a time when a child needs a phone that has Internet access, for school work, for social events, and for entertainment. You can’t leave them in the dark forever. At some point they have to enter the digital world.

And that’s what scares the bejeezus out of most parents. And most parents don’t know half of what lurks out there on the Internet. There are the media stories about 14 year old girls sneaking out of their homes at night to run away with 30 year old perverts. But those stories are rare, but they take center stage in a parent’s mind. There are also the risks of being hacked, which 1 in 3 people are. There’s the risk of being tracked by behavioral profiles, which nearly everyone is. That’s how marketers know which ads to serve up, and newsfeeds know which stories to promote and how one-sided and fake news spreads. 

But the one fear at the top of the list is, as one mother put it: “Pornography will find my kids no matter what I do.”

And it’s true. Nearly every child ages 8 to 18 will see pornography before they exit that age of innocence and enter the real world. Study after study shows how damaging this is to a child’s future ability to have a healthy relationship, and how it predisposes them to mental health issues.

The majority of parents, particularly moms, don’t want to sequester their children from the digital world, they want them to participate in it, on terms that favor the child and parent, not the marketer and the purveyors of inappropriate content. They want their kids to have access to educational programs, classes and information, to have healthy social relationships online, to participate in school activities that rely on social media so they feel included. And they want that emergency lifeline. They just don’t want everything else that comes with it.  In short: parents want more control. And they’re pretty upset about not having it. They want control over content, privacy, their own data, even how their photos and videos are stored and shared. And for now, they put up with the inadequate systems out there; frustrated that there isn’t something better.

Sound familiar?

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