Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

As digital advertisers, we all have a part to play in protecting youth mental health

By Simon Akers, CEO of Archmon and NDA columnist

I don’t need to peddle too many stats on this to state the obvious, but both user advocacy, and with it advertising spend is growing on digital platforms and much of this derives from the audience of young adults, and sometimes even younger than that. Driven by much growth and adoption since the pandemic, user-generated content is exploding in TikTok, Snap and IG, not to mention fake accounts and various visual and written forms being multiplied and augmented by AI. According to Insider Intelligence, we are looking at 900 million TIkTok users globally next year, likely on course to top the 1bn by 2026. That is a lot to police.

However, the greater the monolith the bigger the shadow it casts. With more young people online than ever before, the darker side is only increasing. Online bullying, mental health problems in our youth, algorithms serving the curious minds of our malleable young, anxiety and depression, self-esteem attrition thanks to self-image issues of the perfectly curated online realities, and sometimes these lead to the very worst outcome imaginable.

According to the Anti-Bullying alliance data last year. 19% (basically 1 in 5) of children aged 10 to 15  in England and Wales experienced at least one type of online bullying behaviour in the year ending March 2020. That works out to roughly 764,000 youths in this age group who suffered from online bullying. And that was in 2020. Since Covid and key platform growth, that is only expected to be worse now. Let’s not even start with the impact on the self-image of teenage girls. Harrowing stats indeed.

The reality is, the platforms do their bits, from Guardian Guides to Family Centers. But a lot of it is self-policing, and put into the hands of responsible users rather than, let’s be honest, the platforms taking the issue by the scruff of the neck. It is hard of course, but more could be done.

This brings me to you the reader. What can we do between us to make the places we buy our digital media better perhaps?

Thankfully, there are initiatives, learning, guidelines and not-for-profits like the Conscious Advertising Network set up to combat such issues. 

To that end, I wanted to do something about it and bring some resources together. As an independent marketing consultancy, I wanted to do my bit to help here, where I can use my cross-sector sitting to corral a document and guidance on this. I did this to raise funds for a brilliant charity so please allow me to quickly plug the Youth Suicide charity, Papyrus, that me and my small business, Archmon have supported with a percentage of profit, fundraisers and the like. I wanted to mention it here where there are eyeballs of digital practitioners, agencies and advertisers. Feel free to link to the original blog here, including links to download the document, watch a walk through and even donate if that is your way of supporting. Every little action, update, donation or consideration helps.

As I say in the deck, The future is online right now, so let’s make those changes. There are many quick wins. Let’s action it. Today.


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