The last few years have posed a lot of questions around how our kids are using technology. With the world at their fingertips, it’s impossible not to spend time online. And with the dopamine rush one can get from likes and comments, it’s almost impossible to disengage and focus on face-to-face connections. But all of the scrolling is taking a toll: Studies show that American teens who use social media for over three hours each day face twice the risk of having negative mental health outcomes, including depression and anxiety symptoms. And adults are facing similar consequences. 

I recently had an eye-opening conversation with my friend Stephanie Harrison, a well-being expert, social media sensation, and author of New Happy, who has such a unique perspective on youth and technology. We talked about the idea that it’s not the technological tools themselves that are causing mental health problems — but rather, it’s the narratives young people are being told and are then being amplified online which cause anxiety and endless comparison. 

Here are a few lessons I took away from our conversation:

Social media isn’t all bad. 

It’s easy to tell our kids not to use social media at all. We keep finding out more information about how harmful these social media platforms can be when they surface hurtful content and expose them to negative influences, cyberbullying, and unrealistic standards. But at the same time, how we use technology matters. When used responsibly, social media can be a positive way to connect with one another and learn and share information. The problems arise when teens are using social media to compare themselves to one another, engage in bullying, or replace in-person social interactions with virtual ones, leading to feelings of isolation and inadequacy. Once we can acknowledge that truth, we can start teaching our kids the importance of spending time online responsibly. 

We, as adults, need to be doing more. 

Our culture grounds self-esteem in comparison with other people, which is why it’s easy for young people to go online and start comparing themselves to their peers and individuals they don’t even know. As parents and leaders, it’s our job to safeguard our kids and make sure they have the support they need to navigate the online landscape without succumbing to its negative effects on their mental health and well-being. If you’re a parent, talk to your kids about what they’re seeing online. Emphasize the importance of being kind, respectful, and responsible online — and encourage an open dialogue around social media, and how it can often serve as a highlight reel instead of reality. When we can encourage healthy conversations, we can put healthy habits into place and promote mindful tech use in our homes.

This generation is facing new types of pressure.

These problems don’t exist in a vacuum, and it’s important for us to acknowledge the set of problems Gen Z is facing. Not only were they deeply affected by the pandemic and the broader instability in the country, but they’re also staring down the climate crisis and the multitude of challenges the world is currently facing. When they log into social media and see what’s going on in the world, that stress can affect their mood, their relationships, and their overall well-being. When we can acknowledge how these stressors are affecting our youth, we can take action to help them cope with what they’re seeing online and set boundaries accordingly. 

It’s important for us to lead by example. 

We might not be able to eliminate the anxieties that this generation is facing, but we are able to walk the walk when it comes to how we use technology. If you’re a parent or guardian, show responsible social media usage yourself. Demonstrate the healthy online behaviors and habits that you want your kids to commit to. Navigating the digital world is new for all of us, and when your kids observe your actions, they’ll be more likely to set boundaries for themselves and find a safe space for open dialogue. 

Fixing the root cause will take time, but it’s not impossible. 

Stephanie writes in her book about the three lies we’ve been told: we’re not good enough, we need to achieve fame and wealth, and we need to do it all on our own. This is society’s false definition of happiness: what she calls “Old Happy.” And in order to achieve “New Happy,” we had to unlearn these lies and ask ourselves what really brings us joy and meaning. Today’s young people are still working to unlearn. We all are. It will take time to rewire our brains to focus on our innate joy instead of what others expect of us, but it starts with simply having the conversation. The pressures our kids are facing are new but incredibly familiar, which is why we have to work together to build each other up, spread positivity, and offer support. Fixing the root cause won’t happen overnight, but it will happen — with empathy, kindness, and an unwavering commitment to change.


  • Jen Fisher

    𝗩𝗼𝗶𝗰𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘄𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗯𝗲𝗶𝗻𝗴 + 𝗵𝘂𝗺𝗮𝗻 𝘀𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗯𝗶𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 | 𝖡𝖾𝗌𝗍𝗌𝖾𝗅𝗅𝗂𝗇𝗀 𝖠𝗎𝗍𝗁𝗈𝗋 | 𝖳𝖤𝖣𝗑 𝖲𝗉𝖾𝖺𝗄𝖾𝗋 | 𝖧𝗈𝗌𝗍 #𝖶𝗈𝗋𝗄𝖶𝖾𝗅l | 𝖳𝗁𝗋𝗂𝗏𝖾 𝖤𝖽𝗂𝗍𝗈𝗋

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well"