Our children and youth are dying right in front of our very eyes and most of us are doing nothing about it – in fact, we are the ones handing them “loaded guns.”
Those were the exact words one mother used when describing what she had done to her child.
Had she really given her a gun? Not literally.
But in a figurative sense, she had. She gave her a smartphone with unfettered access to social media and the internet, and it destroyed her daughter’s life.
Collin Kartchner has shared this mother’s story and hundreds of others on his Instagram account as he tries to tackle the mental health crisis that is destroying our youth today.
And I stand right there beside him.
Kartchner is most well known for his viral TEDx presentation that he gave in Salt Lake City about the harmful effects of social media and smartphones. It definitely struck a nerve.
He is now “on a mission to save the kids. That starts with exposing the dirty underbelly of social media and how it increases anxiety for children and parents alike.”
If you haven’t seen his TEDx presentation, do so now. You can watch it in its entirety below.
In his presentation, he shares a personal story of how his smartphone use was impacting relationships with his own children. After a particularly rough day with his daughter, he lashed out at her, asking her why she was acting the way she was. She responded by asking, “Why do you care more about your phone than me?” That led to some soul-searching and a realization that something needed to change.
One teenager reached out to Kartchner and shared her own experience with how smartphones have affected their family.
The issue of deteriorating family relationships is rampant, and what’s needed is more face-to-face, distraction-free interaction.
While parents’ cell phone usage plays a huge part in that, teen smartphone and social media usage creates monumental problems of their own.
Over two years ago, an NPR article title stated: The Risk Of Teen Depression And Suicide Is Linked To Smartphone Use.
An excerpt from the article reads:
A new study found that teenagers are increasingly depressed, feel hopeless and are more likely to consider suicide. Researchers found a sudden increase in teens’ symptoms of depression, suicide risk factors and suicide rates in 2012 — around the time when smartphones became popular, says Jean Twenge, one of the authors of the study.
Twenge’s research found that teens who spend five or more hours per day on their devices are 71 percent more likely to have one risk factor for suicide. And that’s regardless of the content consumed. Whether teens are watching cat videos or looking at something more serious, the amount of screen time — not the specific content — goes hand in hand with the higher instances of depression.
This study also debunked one theory about why kids are feeling so much anxiety and depression these days – because of academic pressure. In fact, more time on homework was found to be beneficial.
The idea that they’re under an increasing amount of academic pressure, and they’re spending more and more time on schoolwork doesn’t turn out to be true when you look at these large, nationally representative surveys. For example, there’s a large survey of entering college students, so that’s exactly the population you’d expect would feel a lot of pressure to have spent a lot of time on homework and extracurricular activities. Among that group, when they report on their last year in high school, homework time is about the same as it was in the ’80s, and the time they spend on extracurricular activities is also about the same … The other thing is, we also found that teens who spend more time on homework are actually less likely to be depressed.
I’ve included just a few of the messages that Kartchner has shared on his account that help illustrated the severity of the problem we are facing thanks to social media and smartphones.
“We had to take our daughter to the ER because she was suicidal and now she is in a mental health facility. This is a parent’s nightmare and I 100% know that the smartphone, Instagram, Snapchat, and text messaging contributed to where we are now.
We had no idea how bad things could get. If I could go back in time we would have never given her a smartphone. She has struggled with anxiety and depression since the 7th grade and that’s when we bought her her first iPhone.”
One of the greatest and most eye-opening statements Kartchner made in his presentation was in response to the question of when to give your kids a smartphone? His response?
When do I give little Johnny a smartphone? Well, when are you OK with him to start looking at pornography?
When should I get little Katie an Instagram account? My reply is, When are you OK with her to start feeling anxiety and question her self-worth?
The minute we start handing our kids these devices is the minute they stop being a kid.
Another interesting part of Kartchner’s presentation is when he asked the youth to fill in the blank after the following statement, “One thing my parents don’t know about social media is…”
Here are some of the responses he shared:
One thing my parents don’t know about social media is…
- how much I love it and hate it at the same time.
- how addictive and awful it is.
- it makes me very very very insecure.
- social media makes me sad and depressed.
- it puts pressure on me to be perfect.
- it nearly ended my life.
Kartchner gets thousands of messages a week from kids who have heard him present or discovered him online. Below I’ve included some of the messages that are flooding his DMs.
“Just 10 of the messages kids sent me this week. I have 30,000 more like these screenshot saved on my phone. Let’s let our kids be kids again. No more allowing our kids to be lab rats in this tech experiment so app/game developers can all drive Ferrari’s while our kids’ mental health suffers. If you’re thinking about getting your tween a smartphone or letting you daughter get on Instagram, send me your email I’ll Dropbox you 30,000 reasons to wait. #SavetheKids”
The most important thing you can do as a parent is to be present. Do you have a phone addiction problem? If so, consider what you can do to be more engaged in the life of your spouse and children.
Also, have you talked to your children about their smartphone usage? Are they showing symptoms similar to the ones that Kartchner says are epidemic among our youth today?
Sit down with them and watch Kartchner’s presentation and talk through things with them.
Our daughter, who got a cell phone for her 17th birthday, decided that she would only have apps on her phone that fit into the four elements of the youth program (physical, spiritual, intellectual, social) after watching Kartchner’s presentation. Our youth are awesome and are desirous to make positive changes in their lives – and more than anything they want to be happy!
Please be more present as parents, and please don’t feel like your kids need a smartphone with social media. Kids need to be kids.
Help spread Collin Kartchner’s message of saving the kids, and let’s do everything in our power to combat this attack on our youth.
How have smartphones impacted your family? Comment below or DM us at Called to Share on Instagram.