• Nina R.

Toddlers & Technology: How do we protect our children from a virtual world?

I’ve seen the post go viral. I have read all the articles. Some are purely terrifying, while others try to call it a fabrication and it wasn’t quite that big of a deal. I wasn’t sure what to believe, but something in my gut told me that something wasn’t quite right. I don’t care if it was 1 child or 100 children, that is 1 child too many to be exposed to something evil. But at the end of the day, those post and articles are just that, posts and articles, that someone else created or wrote. Most of the time, you don’t have your own experience to match the articles, but you relate because you have small children that you want and NEED to protect. That is, until it becomes real. And it’s no longer just an article, now it’s real life.

If you are unsure what I am referring to, I am talking about the images or videos that are creeping into the innocent videos that our kids are watching on YouTube and YouTube Kids. Images like an evil character called “Momo” and small snippets of videos in Peppa Pig and other seemingly kid-friendly videos showing how to cut yourself for attention and/or results and other horrifying images that no child should be exposed to.

I am not a perfect parent and yes, my kids do enjoy YouTube videos, but only from the YouTube Kids app. I never dreamt that my 2 and 3 year old babies would have been exposed to such scary things, because I made sure to restrict everything I could. I didn’t watch every video, and half the time never truly knew what was being watched, but I thought since I set certain restrictions, the videos they were watching were safe and innocent, because that is what I gathered from the ones I have seen. But a conversation this morning has made me so sick to my stomach and scared for our little babies.

Me: Hey buddy, do you know who Momo is? (I am fully expecting him to have no idea.) Jax: Who? Me: Momo. Jax: Oh, yea. (He said this in a very casual way like I was asking him about Mickey Mouse, and at this point, I still am not very concerned, because I feel like he isn’t understanding and thinks I am talking about something else. He likes to agree to things without knowing what he is agreeing to.) Me: Who is it? Jax: Um, kinda like a weird creature. (My stomach is in my throat at this point.) Me: What kind of creature? Jax: Kind of like a scary skeleton. (I am seriously about to throw up.)

He began telling more details about the character and with every bit of information, I could feel my stomach knot more and more.

At this moment, I knew he fully knew who I was referring to and I've never experienced so many emotions before in my entire life.

1) Sickness. I am so sick. My stomach is in knots and I am on the verge of throwing up.

2) Fear. What did he see? When did he see it? What has his little mind been exposed to that I can’t take back?

3) Anger. WHO ON EARTH WOULD PUT THESE THINGS IN A KID-FRIENDLY, INNOCENT VIDEO? I have so many words for these people.

4) Sadness. Guys, Jax is 3. His video limitation is so strict with age restrictions and content. How did this happen? How is there such evil in this world that someone created something so evil and wanted it to be seen by the smallest and purest minds? I pray that what he saw isn’t already burned in his mind, but I know part of it is since he could clearly identify who I was talking about. My heart breaks for what I have allowed his innocent mind to see.

5) Failure. I have failed. I have many jobs as a parent and one is to protect. I have failed. I failed to protect his mind from seeing evil. I never thought this day would come so soon. I know as a parent, it is impossible to protect from all evil, but like I said, I never thought I would be dealing with this at the ripe age of 3.

Now, I have to react. And my first instinct is to take it all away. No more videos, no more YouTube. But that still doesn’t feel right. It feels like I am punishing my child for something that someone else has caused. Not all of the videos out there are bad. And I hate giving the evil the power at winning. Evil people do things to get a reaction and right now they are getting that reaction out of every parent on the internet. So what do we do? How do we make sure this never happens again?

It’s a scary world out there and all I do know is that until I come up with a better option, the videos are gone, unless I have watched the video beforehand and can safely give it to my child and I will remain present during their viewing, just like I would if I took them to a movie. My job is to protect and if that means my child loses something momentarily or forever for their safety, then that is what I have to do. Fair or unfair as it may be, this is what we have to do as parents and guardians.

I think with technology and the ability to set restrictions on apps and such, we, as parents, have trusted outside sources to pick and choose what is ok and not ok for our children to watch. This whole thing has been a large wake up call for my family. It is easy in today’s world to trust that things are working the way we expect them to, but the reality is, we still have to be in control and properly vet what our kids watch and remain present through their screen time. If the video is coming straight from the source and I am aware of the content, then the kids will be able to watch it, otherwise it’s off limits until something changes and this evil is longer present.

To my babies: I am so sorry I didn’t see it sooner. I am so sorry I was too busy to know what you were watching. I promise you your innocence will not be compromised again. I promise to do everything in my power to protect your minds. I pray every day for your safety and I am sorry that for a moment, you weren’t safe. Every day, I will instill good thoughts, love, and morals into your little, impressionable minds, and I pray that will be enough. We live in a world where kids are forced to grow up way too fast, but I promise you that I will allow you to be a kid for as long I can. I wont ever again let an image or message slip through the cracks and compromise your innocence.

To the other parents: Don’t hide in fear and let the evil win. But also, don’t be naïve to the fact that the evil is closer than you think. Don’t ever for one minute think that it could never happen to you or your child because you took proper precautions, because where there is a will there is a way, and the will for evil to perpetrate the minds of our children is very strong. Guide and protect, stay involved and active. I urge you to fight the good fight and show the presence of evil that we are stronger and more powerful because we are present and focused at protecting our children.

They might have won the battle by bringing out their exposure, but I’ll be damned if I let them win the war. We must band together and bring awareness to stop this in every household.

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