May 25, 2023

By Courtney Wise

Good morning, MindSite News readers! In this edition, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy calls for lawmakers and tech companies to take ​​“immediate action” on social media, which he warns is harming the health of children and teens. In other news, Millennial husbands are doing more parenting than fathers in other generations but receiving too little credit, one author says.

Also in this issue: The grief of parenting without our own parents. A 10-year-old whose book helps kids process overwhelming events. And more.

Surgeon General warns that research shows social media can cause “profound harm” to teens

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a new warning earlier this week admonishing the public on social media’s threat to the mental wellbeing of children and teens. The advisory points to research that finds youth who spend 3 hours or more on social media are two times as likely to experience mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. That’s significant because most teens who use social media do so for an average of 3.5 hours per day. Moreover, Murthy added, the content is often “extreme, inappropriate, and harmful” – and it can be shared in less than a second. 

​​“Once on social media, it’s easy for kids to get sucked in because their frontal lobe –the thinking part of their brain—is not fully developed,” psychologist Jaclyn Halpern told CBS News. “The content keeps them coming back for more even when it’s not good for them, even when it makes them feel bad. It really hits on the emotions that can make them more vulnerable.” 

The most effective defense is time away from social media itself, so Murthy encourages parents and caregivers to help youth resist the urge to quench boredom by reaching for a phone. “Drawing boundaries around the use of social media in your child’s life so there are times and spaces that are protected, that are tech-free, that can be really helpful,” Murthy told the Associated Press.

“Doesband” should go the way of “daddy day care”

“Doesband.” It’s a term I’d never heard until this piece in The Guardian, though I quickly realized I’m very familiar with the concept. (“Hus-band/does-band – get it? The irritating phrase was apparently coined to mean “a husband who does his share of parenting chores). “Active or involved dads” is a phrase I’ve even used, typically to mean a dad who does as much as a stereotypical mom. Like the writer, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, every dad my age who I know is very hands-on with parenting, from diaper changes and school performances to packing lunches on school days and leading bathtime at night. And for me, a freelance journalist with other jobs and family responsibilities outside my own household, it makes a great difference in my life to have my husband sharing parenting and domestic chores. 

Of course, it’s not all a chore. As reader Yvonne Williams, responding to Cosslett’s piece, wrote in a letter to the editor, “The fashion for portraying parenting in terms of chore load is so reductive.” She encourages parents to remember that the routine work of raising children isn’t just a tiresome burden to be shared by mothers and “doesbands.” Instead, she says, such work brings joy to both partners and should be acknowledged and appreciated. “Any mention of the countless ways in which the most ordinary daily experience brings bursts of happiness?” Williams writes. “Nappy changes are moments when babies and parents interact, bath times and school runs are not just experiences to get through but times when the bond is sealed through important chats on the way… Neither of us wanted to pass up the opportunities.”

In other news…

Atlanta 10-year-old Ta’kari Tatum recently published a book to help children process overwhelming life events. Titled Snap It, the story follows Tatum himself as he learned to cope with his grandfather’s death during the COVID-19 pandemic. He told News 11 Alive that he struggled for a while, but with the support of a teacher and his grandmother, Tatum received help and later created ‘Snap It’ bracelets to remind people that they aren’t alone in moments of crisis. “My book is an extension of telling people that mental health matters and it is a serious thing that almost everyone goes through,” he said. The Atlanta Hawks recently purchased 50 copies of Tatum’s book to further spread his message of mental health to other children in the area.

Renewed grief in parenting without one’s own parents: Indi Bains thought she had finished grieving the death of her parents years before she herself became a mother. But after her children were born, she was presented with new things to grieve: their absence at birthdays and graduations; the reality that she’d never drop her baby off for grandma and grandpa to babysit; no one to remember which milestones seen in her children matched her own. “Parenting brings constant reminders that all that history, knowledge, and support are lost to the sands of time,” Bains wrote for Insider, “to a time before I even knew I would crave that support or have those questions to ask.”

A new documentary, Anxious Nation, has hit all major streaming services and shares the experiences of youth who struggle with anxiety and their families. It offers unexpected images of anxiety as filming began just a couple of months before national shutdowns for the COVID-19 pandemic. In this six-minute clip from the Today Show, one mother-daughter duo talk about why they decided to share their experiences with anxiety on film. 

Parenting journeys are dotted with moments of agony and unspeakable bliss. For Kelsey Dallas, it even changed her relationship to her faith. She writes about her experience in this brief piece of flash nonfiction in Deseret News.

In case you missed them, we wanted to let you know about these recent MindSite New originals involving kids and mental health: a package of articles and first-person essays by young writers on the power of sci-fi and fantasy fiction in mental health, as well as a piece on “kindness projects” schoolkids are creating to help each other cope with fear and anxiety.

If you or someone you know is in crisis or experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect in English or Spanish. If you’re a veteran press 1. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing dial 711, then 988. Services are free and available 24/7.

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Type of work:

Courtney Wise Randolph is a native Detroiter and freelance writer. She is the host of COVID Diaries: Stories of Resilience, a 2020 project between WDET and Documenting Detroit which won an Edward R. Murrow...