Nearly two years ago, during his campaign for governor, McAuliffe infamously stated during a debate that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” While he lost his campaign, McAuliffe’s patronizing and dismissive attitude towards Virginia parents hasn’t disappeared. Instead, other lawmakers continue to denigrate the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education and upbringing.

Just a few weeks ago, Sen. Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg) was captured making “hot mic” comments regarding bills pending in the Virginia Legislature. Mason said that a bill (SB 1515) requiring creators of adult sexual content to verify users’ identities was “parental garbage.” He also derided the idea of verifying adults’ identities on explicit sites as “stupid.”

As a parent, I certainly don’t want my young daughters accessing pornographic content under any circumstances, let alone without my knowledge or consent. I think most Virginia parents, regardless of their political party, would agree with this sentiment. Yet Sen. Mason thinks protecting children from indecent material online amounts to a “garbage” policy that’s “stupid.”

Unfortunately, his remarks didn’t end there. While SB 1515 thankfully passed the Legislature—Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed it into law earlier this month—it did not include an additional amendment suggested by the Governor to strengthen its protections.

Youngkin’s amendment would have required that parents give their consent before children set up social media accounts or use websites that collect, and potentially sell, user data. Here again, this proposal represents a common-sense way to ensure parents have input into their children’s online habits, particularly given the way in which social media have worsened children’s mental health in some instances.

But to Sen. Mason, this reasonable way to protect Virginia children was nothing more than “all a part of this parental crap that [Republicans are] selling.” At that point, Rep. Shelly Simonds (D-Newport News) agreed, chiming in that Democrats “have to keep the Senate…because the House is in the hands of the Republicans, and they can push through all kinds of stupid things. We rely on the Senate to kill it all.

While the pornography industry, or Big Tech companies intent on addicting children to their harmful websites, might appreciate the comments from Sen. Mason and Rep. Simonds, ordinary Virginia parents should not. We all recognize the many potential harms that children face every time they go online, from sexual imagery and violence to online bullying and body image concerns.

Particularly after teachers’ unions kept schools locked down for months on end during the pandemic, youth across the Commonwealth and across the country face countless mental health challenges. The bill that the Legislature passed, and Gov. Youngkin’s amendment that did not, would give parents some modest yet reasonable tools to try to protect their children in an increasingly troubled world.

For Sen. Mason and Rep. Simonds to attack these sensible proposals as “parental crap” and “garbage” doesn’t just insult the rights of parents across Virginia. It also belittles the very real concerns Virginia children face, and the way in which constructive parental involvement can mitigate the effects of the seedier aspects of our culture—and in the best-case scenario, prevent mental health problems from spiraling out of control.

To put it bluntly, parents don’t just deserve better than the patronizing attitude of Sen. Mason and Rep. Simonds. My two daughters, and children across the Commonwealth, also deserve better—they need lawmakers who will look out for their interests, rather than spending time focused on petty politics and childish insults.