Guest post by Elizabeth McGlynn, Executive Director of Girls on the Run of Montgomery County
It’s hard to be a kid.
Most of us recognized this fact even before October 1 when Frances Haugen, former product manager at Facebook, shared confidential documents with the Wall Street Journal that revealed research on Instagram’s, a Facebook company’s, damaging effects on young girls. But our alarm bells went off when we learned social media companies were purposefully ignoring their impact
According to research from 2019 on Instagram’s effect on teenage mental health, 1 in 3 girls reported when they felt bad about their bodies, the platform made them feel worse. The research went on to reveal these teens consistently blamed Instagram for increased anxiety and depression - conditions that are rising to frightening levels across the country. We’re outraged that this research took so long to come to light.
This phenomenon alongside existing research revealing girls’ confidence levels fall by 30 percent between the ages of 8 to 14 is devastating. It’s essential for Facebook to acknowledge the significance of this research and take responsibility for its role.
Girls deserve access to programming that supports and inspires them to be the best version of themselves, whatever that looks like for them. The good news is there are many programs that exist to support girls as they develop, and Girls on the Run is privileged to be one of them.
Our research-based programming is focused on spreading joy, teaching healthy habits, and building confidence in all girls - regardless of family income or area code. We do this work alongside volunteer coaches who help thousands of young girls a year develop skills and strategies on how to handle social pressure, reframe negative thoughts and unleash their limitless potential.
The effects of social emotional programming on children’s mental health are proven. Our own 2018 study showed 85 percent of GOTR participants reported improved confidence, competence, caring and connection to others. By increasing their self-confidence, developing healthy relationships and feeling good about themselves, they expressed greater feelings of empathy and sympathy – allowing them to be better to one another.
Though our curriculum is unique, we’re not the only program that’s working to combat the very issue that Facebook executives are dodging. There are hundreds of programs – many right in your neighborhood - that exist – to empower kids to explore their interests and unlock the greatest version of themselves. Let’s use this moment to hold social media platforms accountable. At Girls on the Run, we truly believe a brighter future is ahead because we have the tools to make it happen. Let’s invest in the programs and solutions that make our communities stronger and safer for girls offline. Starting now.
Girls on the Run of Montgomery County is a partner of Crimsonbridge’s Women and Girls Leadership and Civic Engagement program. Learn more about GOTR MoCo at https://www.girlsontherunofmoco.org/news/details/https-www-girlsontherunofmoco-org-news-post-building-a-safer-futures-for-girls-starts-now.