Mental Health Awareness Month

Navigating Mental Health in the Digital Age

May is Mental Health Awareness Month! While individuals of all ages face struggles with their mental health, children today are confronted with unique challenges due to growing up with smartphones and social media. From parent-driven initiatives to proposed legislation, let’s dive into the ways people are advocating for the mental health of children:


Social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, explores why we are seeing a decline in kid’s mental health in his book “The Anxious Generation” and concludes that smartphones are part of the issue. Haidt argues that a child having a cell phone to simply communicate with is not necessarily bad but the access to social media leads to mental health issues. "Millennials went through puberty with flip phones, and flip phones aren't particularly bad. You use them just to communicate. It was when we gave kids smartphones and then right around that time, they also got ... social media accounts. When kids move their social lives onto social media like that, it's not human. It doesn't help them develop. And right away, mental health collapses," Haidt said. Parents are also fighting back against smartphones with initiatives like the Wait Until 8th pledge, which advocates waiting until the end of 8th grade before giving their children a smartphone.


Critics of social media highlight the negative impact that too much scrolling has on young minds. While parents fight their own battles against their kid’s social media use, the government is also getting involved. The Kids Off Social Media act updates legislation that was introduced last spring and would keep kids under 13 off social media and forbid social media companies from “pushing targeted content using algorithms to users under the age of 17.” A survey conducted by Count on Mothers shows that mothers support these restrictions, with 87% agreeing that social media companies should not be allowed to use personalized algorithms to push content to children.


On May 7th, Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, The Kids Mental Health Foundation (KMHF) and the Mental Health Storytelling hosted a panel to announce the launch of the children's section of the Mental Health Media Guide. The Guide is a resource for storytellers and content creators to help portray mental health authentically. "Understanding children's mental health is the first step toward supporting and improving it. In portraying authentic mental health narratives, content creators aren't just crafting better stories - they're empowering their audiences with knowledge and helping them build empathy," said Ashley Kolaya, Director of the Mental Health Storytelling Initiative.