As all parents know, raising kids can sometimes feel like it is you against the world. Even the most engaged parents know that the everyday can quickly overwhelm, leaving you to wonder if you’re truly there for your child in the ways they need you.
But the emergence of new technology has created new threats for our children that few parents currently have the confidence and tools to effectively combat. Addiction, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, and even suicide are being encouraged online.
TPPF published a research paper earlier this year that underscored the qualitative and quantitative reality that our children are facing a civilizational crisis online. They long for meaningful relationships, feel despairingly hopeless, wind up in hospitals for self-harm and suicide attempts at rates never seen before, and are experiencing a holistic deterioration of their sense of self having been reared and weaned by digital devices. Many of these children know that their addiction to smart devices and online services is to blame—but when the urge to use is tantamount to gasping for air when submerged underwater, this dissonance does not drive change.
Parents across Texas and America are at the forefront of this fight. Our campaign has talked to many of them, and they have made their voices heard at the Texas Legislature. Their message is clear: We need to be empowered to parent our kids in the online age.
But don’t take my word for it.
WPA Intelligence recently conducted a poll for TPPF evaluating parents’ opinions on the need for stronger controls over kids’ online activity. It was conducted April 13-17 and has a margin of error of 3.5%. Here are some of the toplines:
When parents were asked if social media companies do enough to protect children, nearly 80% disagreed, with 60% in strong disagreement. This is an important finding, as tech lobbyists who come to the Texas Legislature in attempt to kill bills that keep kids safe online have the same tired, out-of-touch talking point: “Rather than pass this bill, leave it up to industry to improve. Trust us when we say kids’ safety is one of our top priorities.”
Texas parents have spoken, and social media companies certainly don’t have the trust of moms and dads across the state.
We then asked Texas parents what kind of tools they feel they need to keep their kids safe online. 91% of parents believe that they should be empowered to approve or deactivate the social media accounts of their children if they so choose. When asked if parents should be given tools to monitor the time their child spends online, control privacy settings, approve of data collection, and more, more than 90% of parents said they would support each and every one of these tools.
When you think about it, this kind of near unanimous support for empowering parents to have more control over their child’s online use is tragic. Tragic because this means there are millions of parents throughout Texas who feel ill-equipped to be strong, fully involved parents in this digital age. When you think about the fact that parents are up against companies with trillions of dollars in net worth that are working daily to develop new technologies addict children more and more, this truly is a crisis.
As put by Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, “We are giving children crack cocaine and their brains cannot handle it.”
For all these reasons and more, Texas state Rep. Shelby Slawson has filed a bill (House Bill 18) to give parents more control and power to keep their kids safe online. And for the more than 90% of parents who requested the tools we asked about in polling questions? This bill would do just that and more.
It’s time for Texas to step up and lead the nation in kids online safety. While Texas remains a beacon for the rest of the nation in promoting liberty and strong family values, absent the ability of parents to parent the way they see fit online, this vision is under siege. HB 18 is a critically important bill to tackle one of the greatest threats our kids face today. Now it is time for the Legislature to finish the job and stand up for kids and parents online.