Jennifer Garner joined the “Today” show to promote her new show, “The Last Thing He Told Me” on Apple TV+, a show about “motherhood” that led the 50-year-old actress to feel “called” to the role. In addressing motherhood, hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie asked the actress to discuss how she keeps her children off social media. The actress shares three children with ex-husband Ben Affleck: Violet, 17, Seraphina, 13, and Samuel, 11. “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. Find scientific evidence that matches what I have that says that it’s not good for teenagers, then we’ll chat,” the star admitted. She went on to say that her oldest is “grateful” for the restriction. “I have a couple more to go, so just knock on wood. We’ll see if I really hang in there,” she added.
Garner has been an advocate for her children’s safety and privacy for years. In 2013, she and actress Halley Berry testified in a California state assembly in support of SB 606, which increased jail and financial penalties if photographers were deemed to be harassing children under 16 years old. It also increased parents’ abilities to take out restraining orders. Both Berry and Garner had very young children at the time and stated that the paparazzi should leave their children alone. “I chose a public life and understand that this means sacrifices in terms of privacy for our jobs. In my case, this means that I am sometimes photographed. However, my three children are private citizens and more than that – at one, four and seven years old – they’re just little kids,” said Garner. She revealed how a stalker had been caught behind her daughter’s preschool, hiding amongst the paparazzi. “There are violent, mentally ill stalkers who can now get close to my kids by simply following mobs of photographers and blending in like the very man who threatened to cut the babies out of my belly. Who was arrested waiting behind our daughter’s preschool, standing among the throng of paparazzi,” she said. The bill was eventually passed.
Garner’s concerns about the impact of social media have been shared by a number of studies. An internal report from Facebook, which owns Instagram, revealed that 40 percent of Instagram users reported feeling “unattractive” after they began using the app. Seattle Public Schools has filed a complaint against social media companies, noting the mental health crises that many of its students are facing. “The reality is that our young people are under incredible strain, facing unprecedented learning and life struggles that are amplified by the negative impacts of increased screen time, unfiltered content, and potentially addictive properties of social media,” the complaint stated. Utah has become the first state in the United States to require parental consent for minors to use social media. The law also requires social media companies to verify the age of any users and mandates they give parents access to their children’s social media accounts. Senator Josh Hawley has pushed for a federal law that would ban anyone under 16 years old from using social media. “Children suffer every day from the effects of social media. At best, Big Tech companies are neglecting our children’s health and monetizing their personal information. At worst, they are complicit in their exploitation and manipulation. It’s time to give parents the weapons they need to strike back,” he said.