Sanders’ Letter to Governors, Arkansas Legislature Concerning the Mental Health Crisis Kids are Facing Driven by Social Media

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Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders sent a copy of Jonathan Haidt’s book, “The Anxious Generation,” to the governors of every U.S. state and territory along with a letter encouraging governors to come together to limit social media and screen use for kids and encourage outdoor play to combat America’s mental health crisis. A similar letter was sent to Arkansas state legislators. The text of the letter is below and can be found here:America’s kids are facing a mental health crisis. I know this isn’t news to any of you. As governors, we’re all searching for ways to help our state’s children and reduce depression, anxiety, and suicide among our young people. 

Recent research shows us the driver of this crisis: phones and social media. The average American teen now spends nearly 5 hours a day on social media. Spending three or more hours a day on social media doubles kids’ risk of mental health problems. 46 percent of young teens say social media makes them feel worse about their body. 

Since smartphones and social media became widespread, suicide rates have tripled among young teens, self-harm among girls has gone up nearly 200%, and depression among teenagers has increased 150%. Teen math, reading, and science scores have dropped in the United States and other developed nations since 2012, while school alienation has risen across the board. Big Tech companies got American kids addicted to their products by preying on adolescent insecurities and basic human psychology. The result is a public health crisis that’s devastating childhoods and destroying lives. 

The statistics are grim. But there is a path forward. In recent years, a bipartisan group of states have enacted legislation to protect kids online. In Arkansas, we passed the Social Media Safety Act, which requires parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts. States have also pursued legislation to protect kids from social media advertising, enacted online privacy protections for kids, and required mandatory social media safety features for kids. Unfortunately, Big Tech-supported interest groups have blocked many of these laws and policies. 

Despite these setbacks, we must continue our work to protect kids. In the book I’ve sent you, The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt, the author joins experts to offer commonsense recommendations, which I believe we should work together to promote and implement when possible: 

1. No smartphones before high school 

2. No social media before 16 

3. Phone-free schools 

4. More outdoor play and childhood independence 

It’s an agenda I plan to pursue, and I hope you read this book and join me. Millions of American kids have fallen into the dark sewer of social media and screen addiction. As governors, we need to come together and help save this generation. 

Heather Pedersen

Heather Pedersen (125)

“Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.” -C.S. Lewis