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Parents' Biggest Fears for Their Kids Have Evolved

The Short of It

The annual C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll results are in, and the rankings of parents' biggest concerns have changed thanks to the digital age.

The Lowdown

While parents in the past worried most about teen smoking and pregnancy, today's parents now rank Internet safety as the fourth-biggest childhood health threat, according to the poll. Sexting rose from parents' 13th biggest worry last year to sixth place this year.

"The increasing level of concern about Internet safety and sexting that are now ranked even higher than smoking as major childhood health issues really dominates the story this year," said poll director Dr. Matthew Davis, a professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the child health evaluation and research unit at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a news release.

Childhood obesity, bullying and drug abuse were the top three parental concerns, while child abuse came in fifth, according to the survey. Smoking, school violence, teen pregnancy and stress filled out the Top 10.

The Upshot

Today's parents, having grown up without the Internet and social media as part of their daily lives, often struggle on how to protect their kids online. Experts suggest keeping kids off social media until age 13 or older, making sure privacy settings are used, and checking their phones and accounts occasionally for sexts or bullying. Most of all, talk to your kids and make sure they know you'll help them—and not punish them—if they ever find themselves in a dangerous or uncomfortable position online.

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