Jennifer Garner: ‘show me articles that prove social media is good for teenagers’

Jennifer Garner has a new Apple TV+ mini-series out based on the Laura Dave book, The Last Thing He Told Me. I was going back and forth on reading the book. Now I’m debating if I read it or just watch Jen’s series instead. It’s got a great cast with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aisha Tyler and Angourie Rice (Siobhan from Mare of Easttown). But Jen’s the lead and she’s out promoting it. She said the project spoke to her because it’s so much about becoming a parent (she plays a stepmom to Angourie). While on Today, Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie asked how Jen was able to keep her kids off social media. Jen said she requires them to submit a scientific argument of the benefits if they want to log on. However, she acknowledges that while it’s worked to keep 17-year-old Violet off, she’s got “a few more to go” and who knows if she’ll hold out on her decision.

The 50-year-old actress served as a guest on Tuesday’s installment of Today and told hosts Hoda Kotb and Jenna Bush Hager that she challenged her teenagers to show her how social media can be beneficial.

“I just said to my kids, ‘Show me the articles that prove that social media is good for teenagers, and then we’ll have the conversation,'” said Garner, who shares daughters Violet, 17, and Seraphina Rose, 14, along with son Samuel, 11, with her ex-husband Ben Affleck.

She added that she also told her three children to “Find scientific evidence that matches what I have, that says that it’s not good for teenagers. Then we’ll chat.”

As for how they’re coping without social media, Garner said, “My eldest is grateful.”

The Yes Day star added that only time will tell if she has a change of heart with her two younger children.

“We’ll see. I mean, it’s a long haul,” she shared. “I have a couple more to go, so just knock on wood. We’ll see if I really hang in there.”

People via Today]

The article said it was Hoda and Jenna Bush Hager but that’s not correct. Jen came back on in the fourth hour and hung out with those two, but the social media discussion happened with Hoda and Savannah. I love Jen’s ‘submit an article to support your request’ approach. I’m all for making kids do their own research for what they want. My oldest was getting some of his political information from Discord servers and other spurious outlets. So we started asking him to cite sources for his more dubious claims. It’s forced him to look up information before he brings it into discussion. Jen’s article research would have the same effect. By having to find the information, the kids will read up on the pros and cons of social media. She’s said before her kids have more to worry about because both her parents are famous. Now they have a famous stepmom. I think Jen’s doing this right.

As far as holding out, I hear ya’ Jen. If Violet is “grateful” to not be on social media, it makes it easy to stick to her guns. But if Seraphina or Sam get vocal, she might change her mind. It’s the Law of Multiples – we just don’t recognize who we are as parents by time we get to the last one! But seriously, parents change the rules/minds for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they just change, sometimes it’s because of who the kid is, sometimes it’s circumstances. I appreciate Jen acknowledging this about parenting.

Photo credit: CoverImages and Xavier Collin/Image Press Agency/Avalon

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34 Responses to “Jennifer Garner: ‘show me articles that prove social media is good for teenagers’”

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  1. mtos says:

    I have a 12 y/o and she does not have social media. No social apps on her phone. Screen time activated and parental controls. You can’t be too careful. I think SM is dangerous to their mental health.

  2. Kittenmom says:

    Just saying…my kids weren’t allowed on social media for a while, but they were all able to create hidden accounts (that i eventually found, but still) I’ll bet her daughter has found ways to use these apps, even if she isn’t actually posting stuff. And my policy certainly did change between child 1 and child 4 – different kids, different personalities, different needs.

    • lucy2 says:

      I was thinking the same thing, there’s a chance they have hidden accounts, but who knows. Even if they do, Jennifer having these discussions with them about the dangers of it is helpful and smart.

    • Loco Moco says:

      Some kids actually listen to their parents. Not all, but some do. I remember my 17 year old son woke me up one time at 3am to ask if he could walk to the 7-11. It never occurred to him to just next out as I used to do when I was young.

  3. Flowerlake says:

    I am sooooo happy I grew up without it.

    I can’t imagine all the stresses of socializing at school and then having no rest of that when you’re at home.

  4. BothSidesNow says:

    SM is a dangerous affair and I love that JG is tasking her children to find for themselves the affects that SM in order to possibly entertain the idea of allowing them complete access.

    I think that SM carries an enormous toll on everyone’s psyche and the more we address it the better it is for everyone engaging. The world of SM is slippery slope which is much too harmful for young people and even adults as well.

  5. mtosti says:

    New fear activated.

  6. SAS says:

    I just finished watching The Children in the Pictures (doco about police worldwide who fight online child exploitation) and for such an inspiring doco about the heroes that walk among us, it ended on the scariest note about how much more daunting they find it fighting crimes against children on the emerging giants of social media vs the previous hunting ground of the dark web. It made me want to delete every app I have. Thank god I’m not a parent.

  7. TwinFalls says:

    My teenager is on Snapchat and it consumes his life. I one hundred percent regret letting him have it.

    • Louisa says:

      My 18 yo is also and I don’t care for it either. I held out for a while before letting him get it but it got to the point where he had no choice as the kids make ALL their plans and have all their conversations on it. That’s why I question a little any parent of a teenager who says their kid is not on any SM. How do they keep in touch with their friends?

      • Sass says:

        My kids use their school computers, one has an iPod where any friends with an apple product can get ahold of her, and anyone else is welcome to call or text on my phone. They also speak to them at school, and play closed Xbox live games together.

        Kids will find a way to communicate without social media; they are creative and resourceful.

        Once my kids are 18 I can’t control their consumption. That’s fine. 🤷‍♀️ My job in the meantime is to protect them and inform them so when they are adults, they make smart choices about what they share on SM. They don’t have the maturity for that yet.

  8. Frippery says:

    Can oversaturation of social media be harmful? Absolutely.

    Can social media also help kids who can’t express themselves in their family or in their hometown? Yes.

    Can social media offer a lifeline to kids who are struggling, who are suicidal, who are abused or who need to get out of bad situations? Oh wait …..

    It’s almost like social media, like television, is a tool that can be good or bad depending on how you use it and “Oh I don’t allow child to have social media” is just the new “Elsbeth is only allowed to watch one hour of television a week” or “Parkerr isn’t allowed to have any refined sugar, just carob bars.” It’s first world white suburban mom bragging because they’re so much better than those lazy loser parents whose kids are on Facebook.

    • Jo says:

      Agreed. The trans and queer kids (including my own) we know had a lot of help from social media. We also get a lot of info on adhd from there, which my kids need, because despite having it, we are all different.
      The fact that we use the same platforms has helped immensely. They see what I do when I’m abroad for work and even catch some of my activist posts.
      However, they also feel like it can be negative and most of them are off it at the moment. It really depends on how you use the tools – which SM is totally – and what you do with them.
      For us it was important to let our kids express themselves. I had a long conversation with one of them about selfies (which for me are cries for help) and they explained it helped them with their self-esteem bc they took pictures when they felt good about themselves and that inspired their whole day afterwards. They developed a much more sane relation with their self image, and most of the are not as skinny oriented as I was, especially the girls.
      So, yeah. This sounds so holier than thou it kills me, and arrogantly ignorant of what SM is and what kids are doing these days and what their issues are. It’s a humblebrag (I told them to get research – that they can get on sm!!!!). Oh well. Rich white lady worries for sure.

    • lucy2 says:

      I did think that as well, one benefit would be a sense of community for kids who don’t feel they have one, especially if they are dealing with bigotry. And it’s possible she and her kids have discussed that who knows.

    • Emmi says:

      Yeah, I mean I don’t have kids and would be terrified of social media, frankly. What age is a good age to start? Because you have to let them use it at some point, preferably under some supervision. And teach them how to use to it. I feel like this is the equivalent of my mom explaining to me what to look out for when I go out on the weekends, how to keep my drink in sight etc. It’s still not entirely safe but if you apply some common sense, it can also be great.

      And like you said, she doesn’t know if maybe it could help her kids find their group. They might be rich white kids but that also means they move in very … particular circles.

  9. MsIam says:

    Well my kids grew up in the MySpace era so it seemed easier to control access to the family computer. No smart phones then. And then when Facebook came along I made them “friend” me so I could kind of get an idea of what was going on. But with all these different apps? Man it’s got to be tough for parents. And I agree, I don’t see the benefits to teens being on social media. It seems to put gossiping and bullying on steroids.

  10. Sass says:

    Our two kids are very different and very close in age. One you cannot tell him anything. He has to learn for himself and deal with the consequences of his choices. He has actually told us he is not ready for the responsibility of having his own iPod or smartphone so he doesn’t have one. The other is more easygoing in regards to rules but will also attempt sneakiness. But she’s…remarkably bad at dishonesty? She was grounded from her iPod (no phones yet) for 6 months because she made a Reddit account (against the rules). I only found out about it because the day after she set it up, her iPod was sitting next to the charging station in the tv room and I tapped the home button to see if it needed charging and there was a pop up notification about someone replying to her Reddit post. That was that. She only got it back as a reward for making honor roll (not an expectation, it just happened to coincide).

    I like Jen’s approach here. We have always been a family who enjoys discussions and debate and I challenge our kids to think critically with their opinions. I think I’ll try this approach the next time one of them asks if they can pleasepleaseplease download SM. I think only one friend of theirs doesn’t own a smartphone (he has a basic flip phone). Our own social media consumption as parents is pretty limited, curated, intentional (not counting this, I have a locked down family and close friends only IG which I plan to phase out in the next year, and I use Reddit for more in-depth feedback about products etc. My husband uses FB to buy and sell cars.)

    Her iPod is now totally locked down and the only other personal electronics available to them are their school computers which are also locked down. I regret not locking her iPod down sooner but we have always had a trust policy with them. She abused and broke the trust – part of the deal in getting it back was parental controls and weekly check ins. 🤷‍♀️

  11. Lila says:

    Good for her. The data on how hard companies work to keep consumers hooked, how powerful the algorithms are, and how much money they make off users is scary. Combine that with what it does to the brain by giving yourself a digital pacifier and not allowing yourself time to think, be bored, be creative…it’s disturbing. She’s doing her kids a solid.

    • Ravensdaughter says:

      She really is a great mom. I hope things don’t go to pieces when the kids are with Ben and J Lo.

      • Susan says:

        One thing I will say about JLo, love her or hate her, she is all about self control and self discipline. She rarely drinks, doesn’t do caffeine, etc. I love how seemingly accepting she is of her kids, and I’d bet she’s not the worst step mom out there.

      • Joey says:

        Oh stop it. You don’t know what kind of parent Jlo is. Her kids seem very well adjusted and you don’t see them posting on social media at all

  12. Lucy says:

    My 9 year old has been asking for a phone for two years, because she knows kids who have them. And those kids have Tik Tok. 7 and 8 year olds with Tik Tok is basically my nightmare.

  13. trillion says:

    I hate this kind of argument. “Show me the article proving that”….. If the studies haven’t been done, there’s no “article”. There’s a zillion subjects about which no study has been done. That doesn’t prove anything. I’m not saying her point is wrong. I’m saying her “sound bite” weakens it.

    • Loco Moco says:

      Yeah, but it’s her children and her choice, so she doesn’t really need an argument.

    • Lux says:

      But your argument in this case doesn’t apply because there are many studies done on the effects of social media. To say that you can’t use “scientific study” and articles to back up arguments because there aren’t enough on every single subject is actually more harmful than it is helpful. Look at the studies that have been done and deduce from them what you will. Too often people today can’t cite credible primary sources to save their lives. Any encouragement of deep and thorough research is beneficial and if the answer is, “there is no study,” at least you’ve pored through all the existing articles and become the wiser for it. It’s a win-win in my book.

      And just saying, they have conducted studies on coffee mug rings…there are countless studies on the most random and inane things. I doubt you’re really going to find nothing on any given subject.

  14. Joey says:

    I absolutely agree with her on this. Social media is proven to cause depression and body dysmorphia.
    She still bugs me though, lol! Her “wholesome down to earth” brand is so disingenuous when she is pushing $60 a bottle shampoo and conditioner SMH

  15. Emma says:

    The Internet is an adults playground – not a great environment for kids

  16. WhereisJohnMiller says:

    Everyone should keep their kids off social media the world would be a better place. Where is Garner’s man at during these red carpets and holidays, family time? I believe she is still single after her divorce. But I hope she doesn’t wait forever to really date again, she should. Her interviews involving Ben (ugh) please move on he is an ex for a reason and not family for quite some time.

    • Carolnr says:

      It has been reported that he was there in the audience AFTER she walked the red carpet in the audience supporting her.
      I am so glad that social media wasn’t around when I was growing up..

  17. brailler says:

    I don’t know….I allow my 13 year old daughter on social media and it’s been fine…? A lot of the Tik Tokkers and Instagrammers she follows are young feminists who have given her some really good info and helped her become an informed and nuanced thinker on some social and political issues. She shares a lot of what she consumes and we discuss it together. In fact a lot of what she shares with me are things I have already seen on Instagram or Twitter and it makes her feel I am connected to and up to date with the larger culture and it’s a fun way for us to connect. She also follows some comedy accounts about cultures and heritage she identifies with and that’s been great for her developing a sense of community. She is an only child and Snapchat helps keep her connected to various school and camp and other friend groups and also is now helping her to take charge of her schedule a bit more so I don’t always have to manage everything for her…? She is in a very intensive dance program and now I don’t always have to keep track of every rehearsal etc, because she can Snap the other girls and find out where she needs to be and when so I don’t always have to take that on anymore. The rare time I have heard her mention something that sounds questionable I check in with her about it and have been satisfied that she is not engaging with anything sketchy and is keeping herself safe. I used to worry a bit about body image issues due all of the “beauty” influencers and photo filters but luckily as of now she has a very healthy body image and often expresses happiness and contentment about her appearance.