If there were a food that your child wanted to eat and you knew that if they ate it they would be at increased risk for: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, bullying, sexism, racism, obesity, radicalization and being preyed upon by sexual predators, would you let them eat it?

If they really wanted to eat it (all their friends were eating it!) yet you knew that it was likely to: decrease their literacy, their empathy, their ability to read social cues and their engagement with family, relatives, neighbors, community and the natural world, would you let them eat it?

If they really, really wanted to eat it (and your child hated you because you wouldn’t let them eat it) but you knew that that they would, upon eating it, spend hours alone in their room and  become disengaged from family meals and activities, and you also knew that when this food ran out, or it was time to buy more, there would be bitter arguments between you and them (and there would likely be lying and sneaking on their part, in order to get it if you denied them more). Would you have this food in your house?

Would you let them eat it so that if they decided to eat that food when they were older that they would have “practice” with having eaten it earlier (remember those increased risks: anxiety, depression, radicalization, bullying, lack of empathy…)? Would you want them to eat it so that you could “talk to them about it” (remember: this food makes kids much less receptive to the adults who should have influence, another one of it’s effects is dividing kids from the adults who care for them)?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until their brain was more fully developed before exposing them to such a risky food? Wouldn’t it make more sense to support immune health–made up of knowing oneself, connecting to the natural world, having interests that come from within, being embedded in community, and having a soft heart– before being exposed to such a dangerous substance?

Yes, your child may get extremely angry at being denied what they want; that is likely and, also, fine. It has never been our responsibility as parents to give our children what they want; it is our responsibility to make sure we are providing what our children need.

In the area of the internet what our kids need is: protection from gaming companies who use our understanding of neuroscience to lure and addict kids (not a very different model than the one used by Juul), protection from Youtube algorithms designed to manipulate, radicalize and prey on the young and vulnerable, and protection from a social media culture where conformity rules, bullying is commonplace and armoring oneself becomes a necessity due to the wounding that is rampant.

When you mess with immature brains and tender emotions, you get serious consequences that affect not only current, but also future, development. We need to take a clear-eyed look at exactly what we are allowing exposure to when we allow access to YouTube, Snapchat and facebook. We cannot afford to be hazy-eyed, out-of-touch, “cool”, “relaxed” or laissez-faire in this area of parenting; the stakes are far too high.


{This post was inspired by: learning who PewDiePie is, hearing one too many tweens claim that their goal is to be “an influencer” when they grow up and hearing from several parents over the course of a few weeks about how their white teen boys were becoming more misogynistic and anti-semitic after spending time on Youtube.}


Want to learn how to support healthy emotional development (beyond nixing Youtube) – Heart Matters: The Science of Emotion begins in two weeks.