If there was one thing I wanted after doing my last show (The Social Media Fairytale), it was to create a healthier relationship with my device and better enable my kids to do the same. However, I needed a framework and a coach to help me maneuver how to do that. The great news is that I found a digital guru who has harnessed the power of social media for the greater good. 

Her name is Larissa May, or as she goes by, Larz, and in 2020, she was named a Business Insider rising star in her brand marketing for your role in launching multiple million-dollar ventures in the products Otherland and Kin Euphorics. She also founded #HalftheStory, an organization that empowers teens to have healthier relationships with how they engage and use social media.

What Is Digital Health and Wellness?

Citrix describes digital wellness as “the pursuit of an intentional and healthy relationship with technology, both in the workplace and personal life.” But as moms, it can feel hard to disconnect when so many parenting-related items are connected to our phones, like playdate and sports coordination, calendars, school newsletters, etc. I was excited to pick Larz’s brain on what parents could do to get more involved in the Digital Wellness Revolution. Here are five simple ways to get involved after interviewing her in episode 207 of the MomShine podcast

5 Ways to Develop and Join the Digital Wellness Revolution 

1) Put an end to passive scrolling for improved digital well-being 

Changing your approach from passive to intentional is a significant difference in using social media.  Recognize the importance of transparency and visibility into personal lives and how to leverage it as a business tool. A new approach to posting could be sharing valuable information about how to use AI to support wellbeing or better ways to free up more of your time to do what you love as a mom. Posting purposefully can help shift why we are all drawn to these apps. 

We can also liken the screentime conversation to a similar conversation about climate change. According to Larz, there are many parallels between the two. One is how we measure and quantify our wellness on digital to our carbon footprints. Similar to how the climate crisis came about with capital means as an end cause, devices are no different, and not all screen time can be treated the same. The difference in the outcome of your digital and emotional experience is rooted in whether or not you have an intention while doing it. 

Questions to ask yourself: How much time are you online versus offline? How does your device play a part in your quality of life? We can start teaching mindful consumption by asking ourselves these questions. We set these bars for physical and sexual wellness and can always make modifications as we go. Instead of being victims to the system, teach kids to be players in the game instead. 

2) Educate yourself on how to take back your digital well-being and online agency

Our kids are the products right now, and there’s a lot of room to grow and improve. Educating yourself and including curriculum around technology in school systems can help, and this is why Larz started #HalftheStory, a non-profit dedicated to empowering the next generation’s relationship with social media. #HalfTheStory has become a leading youth 501(c)3, receiving over 30,000 stories from 99 countries worldwide.  

When CBS reported that tech companies made $11B from kids on social media in 2022 alone, it’s important to ask kids how they’re using it and for them to understand the capitalist game they’re a part of. More policies can help protect our kids. Last year, in California, Larz worked with Gavin Newsom on the California AB1394 bill to get that passed. This bill is to get tech companies to put more defense mechanisms around sex trafficking and very harmful content deemed as sexual abuse on the internet, which is a low stake. It’s just an example of how far we are behind and actually protecting young people in the digital world, so Larz is spending a lot of time thinking about this approach with big tech. 

Do we need to take more of a climate approach to build more bills and incentivize tech companies to invest in mental health instead of just having them be on defense and paying fees to the government? Could there be bills around algorithmic monitoring?  This is difficult, especially in a state like California that depends on multi-billions in debt and relies on tax dollars from these tech companies. The state is a business, too. Understanding both sides and bringing together minds in psychiatry, technology, and the economy could be the best approach to seeing all sides of the coin. At least with this newest bill, the state can hold tech accountable if a photo or content is submitted to respond within 36-48 hours to remove it if it directly harms someone.

Lastly, AI is coming fast and swiftly with more technology to disrupt the industry. On the side, I write in cybersecurity, and the speed at which things move is fascinating. Deepfakes are videos kids can make to impersonate others in minutes. Just one was done to impersonate Joe Biden, and brand impacts can be devastating. Taylor Swift herself was a recent victim as well. There was even an instance when Larz heard of a dad who said his son worked in security, and someone made a deepfake of him saying something that he didn’t say. The video was luckily intercepted before it was received in his college applications. Parents need to know how to help kids protect against these issues in the future.

3) Be a positive tech influence — show your kids what digital health is

Unfortunately, the onus will remain on parents to have the most substantial positive and negative influence on our kids regarding tech. We can’t wait for some person in a marble tower to pass a bill that might save our kids. It requires us to build that support ecosystem within our schools and find parents with like-minded screen time goals so that when you send your kids to a friend’s house, you know there’s a mindful approach to screen time and app usage. There’s also solace in knowing that you’ll be responsible, and only then can you work to be as much of an expert and support within your school and community as possible to cultivate positive outcomes.

4) Digital health resources: Join the waitlist for Social Media U

The #HalftheStory program started in 2020, working with researchers and curriculum writers to build a scaffold of a journey from 6th grade through high school. Three initial pilots were launched in the public school areas in San Rafael and Terra Linda, and some positive outcomes have resulted from those initial pilots. 

For instance, 90% of middle and high school students would refer the program to their friends, and Larz is even exploring some potential statewide rollouts. The great thing about the program is it also offers night sessions for caregivers and educators to get up to speed regardless of their current knowledge in tech. 

Their goal is to be able to serve a million students by 2028. It also doesn’t need to be only in school environments. It could also involve after-school programming like Girl Scouts, which they’re also piloting in the Bay Area to develop their next phase to scale. The goal is to create more positive experiences in the plight of more digital well-being.

5) Digital wellness activities: Participate in the Global Day of Unplugging

Mark your calendars cause Larz also helped to elevate the Global Day to Unplug on the 1st Friday in March. The goal is to stay off any application for 24 hours. This is just another way to start making digital changes. Kim Cavallo, Co-founder and Executive Director of Unplug Collaborative said the goal of this day is to take the shame out of this day to disconnect or reconnect with life. “It’s about making active choices and not being on your phone for 24 hours,” says Larz. Take the pledge online and note that there are workplaces and school toolkits to make this a phenomenal opportunity for us all.

Final Thoughts on Digital Health and Wellness

While writing in HR Tech for over a decade, I hope every organization takes note and makes this a massive opportunity in the coming year to reset some boundaries related to our devices and encourage parents and employees to re-engage in things they love.  I can’t help but wonder if the rising epidemic in mental health could be related to phones and devices. When I sit at lunch at times, it’s hard to find people not buried in them these days, and I’m trying to make more active choices to stop doing that.

Opening up the dialogue about digital wellbeing can go a long way in helping kids form healthier relationships with devices from the get-go. Teach them that real connections and experiences can’t be replaced but that their device does serve a purpose. Guide them to use it effectively and not passively. This movement is not meant to minimize how many of us make a living. It’s how I’m getting this message to you and how a lot of us receive our news, so make it count when you are on it! 

Scroll with purpose, and when in doubt or if you’re wondering where to start, we have an excellent Family-friendly Tech Agreement to help get that conversation going without shame or negating how your kids feel throughout the process. Listen to my complete and delightful interview with Larz on Apple or Spotify. 

Let’s all work together to make this mental health crisis trend in a better direction. We can all do our part today!