Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are marking World Mental Health Day by amplifying the voices of parents advocating for safer online spaces.
Through their Archewell Foundation, the couple hosted a summit in New York on Mental Wellness in a Digital Age, where they brought together families who’ve experienced loss connected to their child’s social media use. Among those speaking at the event were grieving dads Ryan Gill, Taj Jensen and Chris Dawley who each shared personal stories of how social media impacted their children’s lives and how they want to create meaningful change so other families don’t have to experience the same loss.
“A year ago we met some of the families, and at the time, it was impossible not to be in tears hearing their stories because it’s just that devastating,” Meghan shared.
“For us, the priority here is to turn pain into purpose and provide as much support, as well as a spotlight and a platform for these parents who have come together. To heal together, to grieve together, but also to collectively focus on solutions,” Harry said.
The group discussed the lack of online regulations and protections for children, how social media giants are keeping kids addicted to their platforms, ultimately impacting their mental health and how algorithms are exposing children to harmful content.
“If someone is looking for something, please don’t feed them that thing that they’re not looking for that’s going to harm them,” Meghan said. “The algorithms are very powerful, but I’m confident that with more ears, and as my husband said, more awareness and visibility on what is really happening, we can make some significant change together.”
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U.S Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also joined the conversation, discussing why he believes the online space is so unhealthy and how to make it better:
“We need to be in an environment that’s supporting the well-being of our kids not detracting from it. And I just feel what has happened that is so profoundly wrong here is that we’ve placed the entire burden on managing a rapidly-evolving technology and social media that few people fully understand, that’s designed by the best designers and product engineers in the world, and we’ve put the entire burden of managing that on parents and kids… that is the definition of an unfair fight.”
The panel shared their thoughts on ways to move forward – from exploring better social media regulations, “an induction process” as Harry suggested, or simply working with other parents collectively, as a team.
“What we’re going to need is to work together and partner with other parents,” Murthy said of restricting social media use. “Because it’s a lot easier to do if you are a part of a group of parents who say we’re going to do this for our kids. Whenever one of our kids say, ‘I’m the only one not on it,’ we can say, ‘No, Harry and Meghan’s kids aren’t on it either!'”
Since starting the Archewell Foundation, Meghan and Harry have been focused on promoting mental wellness, uplifting communities in need and improving the online world.
In 2022, the foundation announced philanthropic grants to five organisations taking the lead in digital civil rights, tech justice, innovation and more:
“Archewell Foundation believes that new innovations in technology and media should strengthen our communities, empower families, restore trust in information and ensure that all of us – especially our children and grandchildren – can experience a better and safer world online.”
(Feature Image Credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Project Healthy Minds)