According to the Global Web Index, 79% of people take to their social media accounts whenever they experience a life changing event. Posting a selfie was, however, probably the last thing on Collin Kartchner’s mind when he learned that the daughter of an old friend had committed suicide. He recalls vividly this friend admitting to giving her daughter what she called a “loaded gun.” This statement, while not meant literally, may have been somewhat accurate. This “loaded gun,” was a cell phone with access to an endless variety of social media apps, and harmfully conflicting views on personal worth.
Since its inception in 1997, social media has become a basic aspect of daily life for millions. Sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook serve as platforms for an infinite array of people and their experiences, and gain more “followers” every day. One of these followers is the aforementioned Collin Kartchner, a resident of Pleasant Grove, Utah, and creator of the #savethekids movement. Kartchner’s campaign centers around fighting the negative influence of social media on mental health, especially that of teens and young children. Having begun this program, ironically, on Instagram, Kartchner is “fighting Instagram with Instagram.” He says this approach is applicable to all social media platforms.
Beginning his public speaking career after the tragic death of someone so close, Collin says, was a matter of educating and preventing similar occurrences. Overall, his message is one of empowerment. He says, “I hope young people know that if social media is depriving them of real connections, dignity, and their self-esteem, they have the power and strength to stop it.”
Kartchner reinforced this powerful message at presentations for Morgan Middle School and Morgan High School students on Tuesday, November 6, 2018. Attendees were extremely impressed with Kartchner’s sense of humor, knowledge, and passion for his message. He fearlessly tackled topics such as the influence of social media on teens, and the resulting mental health repercussions (depression, anxiety, decreased self-esteem, suicidal ideation, etc).
Collin expressed great faith in students, saying that they can, “be the generation to change the world, and change the effect social media has on it.” He challenged everyone listening to take up the gauntlet and see what changes they could make in their social media interactions. “I want you to go home and take a good look at who and what you’re following. If there’s an account that doesn’t make you happy, unfollow it.”
This challenge, alongside others, was repeated later that day when Kartchner spoke at a parent meeting hosted by Morgan Middle School. His message there was adjusted slightly, focusing on the role of parents in the ongoing struggle against, and between, adults, kids, and social media. “We’re losing trust, and we’re losing connection,” he said, addressing the action some parents have taken in relieving their children of their phones. “I don’t want you to go home and take your kids’ phones. Instead, I want you to go home and raise your kids. We can’t let apps raise them for us.” He recommended books such as Glow Kids (Nicholas Kardaras), Untangled (Lisa Damour), Boys Adrift (Leonard Sax), How To Raise An Adult (Julie Lythcott-Haims), and iGen (Jean Twenge), to anyone interacting with children, teens, and young adults.
Kartchner also suggested that parents have a central charging station in their bedrooms, where all household electronics are kept at night. “Give your teens a break,” he begged, saying that, “if your kid has a phone in their room at night, they are NOT asleep.”
Kartchner admonished Morgan County to, “be a good village.” He urged, “When you see something or hear something that may indicate a child or teen you know is at risk, that kid has to become your kid.” He implored community members to be united in caring for those struggling with depression, especially when social media is involved. “Appreciate the social part of social media, and come together as a community.”