During his presentation Sept. 4 in Alamo and Sept. 5 in Panaca, a popular speaker encouraged parents to take a metered approach to social media.
Collin Kartchner highlighted the importance of not going “full antitechnology” by telling stories of how children had extreme reactions to having their devices taken away cold turkey, such as emotional breakdown or even attempted suicide.
Instead, Kartchner suggested that parents understand the threats kids face when they enter the online world, starting with Instagram. He discussed the existence of social media accounts called “Finstas,” short for fake insta. These accounts are free and a single user can have up to five separate accounts, giving them a wide variety of options when it comes to harassing others in an anonymous manner. The result is that kids can have one “normal” account to show their parents, but then have other accounts hidden from view. Kartchner used the example of a young woman he knew who took her own life after sharing her depression on a Finsta account. A conversation with the departed girl’s mother was eye opening.
“She said, ‘A few years ago, I handed my daughter a loaded gun,’” Kartchner related, “and then she reached into her pocket. She didn’t pull out a Glock 9, she pulled out [a smartphone].”
The Utah-based advocate travels the nation to speak on his #SavetheKids theme, highlighting the growing mental health problems linked to technology overuse. The Lincoln County School District arranged his visit to the county, where he held separate sessions with students, teachers and parents.
As he spoke with parents, he highlighted dangers associated with SnapChat, YouTube Kids, modern video games like Fortnite and various other applications that can expose kids to pornography, predators and bullying. Mental health problems and suicides have spiked right alongside increased smartphone and social media use among teens.
The proliferation of cyber bullying, according to Kartchner, reflects on the generation’s inability to feel empathy for others. Between the overindulgence in video games and the anonymous nature of comments made by people hidden behind screens, the separation of reality and digital fantasy makes it easier for such emotions to be held at bay.
Kartchner went on to talk about how misinformation can be easily spread throughout the world because someone said it on the internet.
He warned against giving kids a smartphone with unmetered access, likening that to giving a Ferrari to a kid who just got his or her driver’s license. He said smartphones are essentially supercomputers that provide access to both the good and bad in the world. He encouraged parents to have a family plan for technology use.
He offered up the Collin Challenge, which is as follows:
- Make sure your children get eight hugs a day for eight seconds each.
- Parents should evaluate their own digital behavior and make the necessary changes. Throughout the presentation, Kartchner showed a selection of notes from kids wishing parents would pay more attention to them. One of the more sobering notes was the request that he tell parents to stop “phubbing” kids (short for phone snubbing).
- Create a family tech contract to help kids and parents stay true to their goals and to help enforce punishments for breaking the contract.
- Schedule no phone and no iPad activities including anything that gets people moving and away from their devices.
- Read up on how much social media can harm people. Kartchner suggested a wide variety of books, like: “Glow Kids” by Nick Cardaris, “Untangled” by Lisa Damour (specifically catered towards girls) and “Boys Adrift” by Leonard Sax (focuses on boys). He suggested letting children read the first few chapters of “Glow Kids” to help familiarize them with the problem, and then having parents work with them to determine a solution.
- Get a central charging station immediately. The number one cause of teen depression, according to Kartchner and the sources he cited, is sleep deprivation. Separating kids and their phones (which use a blue tinted light to encourage the user to stay awake) helps to promote healthy sleeping habits and provides a natural disconnect from the online world. Alarm clocks still exist.
- One day a week, have a nophones period from 5 to 9 p.m. Kids need to interact with their families in person. In Kartchner’s words, “Talk like it’s 1994.”
- Do something awesome as a family and don’t share it with anyone.
- If your child is struggling, and you don’t know what else to do, get them into therapy ASAP. Kartchner shared many more suggestions such as “don’t be a lawnmower parent,” and “don’t shame your kid when they need your help the most,” but the real message of the presentation was that the best parent is YOU.