BLACKFOOT – The Blackfoot School District sponsored Collin Kartchner, the founder of the non-profit #SavetheKids organization, to speak at four different school assemblies on Thursday.
The district also arranged for Kartchner to give a public presentation at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center on Thursday evening.
Kartchner’s message was simple: both parents and kids spend too much time on their mobile devices and not enough time with other people. Kartchner backed his position up with humor, statistics, and real life stories.
“Suicide rates in younger teen girls has tripled since 2000,” Kartchner pointed out in his presentation to the students at Blackfoot High School. “What’s happened between then and now? The explosion of social media.”
Before 2018, Kartchner ran a video production company in Utah. He also ran campaigns on social media to raise funds for different causes like hurricane relief and kids with cancer. He changed direction after coming face-to-face with a social media tragedy.
Kartchner told the true life story of Whitney to a hushed auditorium of teenagers at BHS.
Whitney was the bubbly, cheerful daughter of family friends. She spent a lot of time when she was younger going out and doing things with the Kartchner family. Then the Kartchners moved away.
Thirteen years later, Kartchner met up with Whitney’s mom and asked about her. The sad news was that Whitney had killed herself in 2016. Whitney’s mom related how her daughter stopped being a happy-go-lucky kid after she was given a smart phone.
“I gave my child a loaded gun,” she told Kartchner, “when I gave her a cell phone.”
Whitney became depressed and socially isolated after becoming immersed and then bullied on social media. This led eventually to addiction and suicide.
Whitney’s mom saved one text message that came through on Whitney’s phone, which she shared with Kartchner. He displayed it to his audience.
It read: “You’re so fat and ugly. Why don’t you kill yourself?”
“So ask yourself,” Kartchner told the high school students, “go through your accounts and ask yourself about each one, does this account bring joy into my life? If it doesn’t, just delete it. You don’t have to be connected to all these accounts that compare you and make you feel worthless because you’re less than perfect. You don’t need thousands of followers on Instagram and SnapChat. Those platforms aren’t about you — they’re all about someone else and how you don’t compare to them.
“You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to be always happy and smiling in every selfie. It’s okay to be just you the way you are.”
SAVE THE KIDS
Whitney’s death became Kartchner’s catalyst to his crowdfunded “You are Loved” and “You are Beautiful” billboard campaign. It also became the motivation to address the parents of school-aged kids in his own town of Pleasant Grove, Utah, on the subject of how social media affects children.
Kartchner shared some of his thoughts after his talk, as he rushed out the door to catch some lunch before speaking at Independence High School.
“There’s such a disconnect now in families, and when there’s a disconnect, there’s fear. When you’re afraid as a parent — and I have four kids, so I know — then you avoid stuff and you don’t talk about stuff. … Kids tell me all day how depressed they are. I think a lot of these kids are starving for connection and community.”
SAVE THE PARENTS
Kartchner gave presentations about dropping negative accounts and spending less time on mobile devices at four school assemblies: Mountain View Middle School, Blackfoot High School, Independence High School, and Snake River Junior and Senior high schools.
His main message was really for the parents and guardians of school-aged tweens and teens. “Kids need to spend less time on their phones but parents need to put the phone down and talk to their kids. It can’t be one-sided.”
That was the main message of his talk on Thursday evening at the Blackfoot Performing Arts Center.
“Half of these kids go home every day and no one talks to them. No one looks at them, no one hugs them, there’s no more dinner waiting for them at the table, and there’s no more connection at home. When they go home, their parents are on their phones and they are on their own phones. Social media can do so much good but it’s also disconnected a lot of people. And we’re human beings and we need to have real connections.”
More information on the subject of breaking the screen-addiction habit and reconnecting kids and parents can be found at savethekids.us. The website also has videos of previous Kartchner talks for those who may have missed the Thursday evening presentation.