Navigating Potential Harm on Social Media

Angela Glymph
Peer Health Exchange will always work in the interest of young people – online and elsewhere – to advance health equity and improve health outcomes of young people.

Young people are immersed in an unprecedented digital culture that can affect their sacred rights to privacy, security, mental health, education, and more. Almost every day, there is a new piece of research or court case published on the impact of young people on social media, e.g., 41 states filed lawsuits against Meta last year, accusing the company of violating privacy laws and making its platforms’ features addictive to young users. According to the report by the U.S. Surgeon General released last year, there are concerning correlations between social media use and youth deteriorating mental health.  As a mother and the leader of a youth-facing health nonprofit, safeguarding the security and wellbeing of youth online is of upmost personal importance.  

Peer Health Exchange (PHE) is focused on creating safe, inclusive, and educational spaces for youth wherever they are, and we know they are online. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of young people report having used a social media platform at least once. The Surgeon General’s Advisory also reports, “research suggests social media-based and other digitally-based mental health interventions may also be helpful for some children and adolescents by promoting help-seeking behaviors and serving as a gateway to initiating mental health care.” With millions of young people searching for helpful information about #mentalhealth online, PHE is not only present in those spaces, but ensures our social channels are full of engaging, relatable, and verified health-related content, publishing a few times per day.

We are honing our digital engagement efforts, especially on TikTok. With an audience 33K followers strong, Peer Health Exchange on TikTok educates users with safe, relatable, inclusive, and engaging content on mental health, relationships, identity, and sexual health, while also sharing resources and uplifting youth voice. This effort has not gone unnoticed. PHE is a recipient of TikTok’s Mental Health Media Education Fund, has been featured in TikTok’s trending ‘Publisher Success Spotlight’, and is part of the app’s Mental Health Awareness Hub.

In addition to our presence on social channels, we are committed to ensuring that our online platform, is truly a safe and inclusive space for young people. Since the very beginning, we have worked with our youth advisors, mental health professionals, and legal experts to ensure that selfsea meets the highest standards for safety. We take our users’ privacy and safety seriously and exceed the requirements outlined by COPPA. We also integrate children’s rights into our development approach by aligning with Designing for Children’s Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

Lastly, Peer Health Exchange is among the first cohort of signatories to The Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Inspired Internet Pledge for 2024. The Pledge is a commitment by tech and media companies to make the internet a safer and healthier place for everyone, particularly young people. As a signatory, PHE will engage in regular convenings with experts and leaders from across industries, workshopping the most challenging questions surrounding the impacts of technology on young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. At the end of the year, the Digital Wellness Lab will issue an annual report on the progress made.

Looking forward, we will continue to use our two decades of expertise in co-designing with and for young people to inspire future positive change. Peer Health Exchange will aways work in the interest of young people -- online and elsewhere – to advance health equity and improve health outcomes of young people.