NEW YORK (AP) — Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Tuesday called for social media platforms to adopt better content-moderation policies and other fixes, saying modifications need to be made to addictive apps that can harm young people’s mental health.
The couple spoke at a panel discussion coordinated by their Archewell Foundation in New York City as part of a second annual mental health awareness festival hosted by a nonprofit called Project Healthy Minds.
Harry and Meghan’s comments came after hearing from panels featuring a handful of parents who lost children due to mental health challenges tied to social media use. The parents spoke about their loss and how a community that the foundation has created to talk about these issues is helping them find support.
Harry said the foundation has been bringing parents together through Zoom during the past year because many of them didn’t have the opportunity to connect with others who’ve gone through a similar tragedy.
“For us, the priority here is to turn pain into purpose,” Harry said at the panel, which also featured Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and was moderated by NBC host Carson Daly.
Harry said he and Meghan also want to “provide as much support, spotlight and platform for these parents to come together, to heal together, to grieve together and collectively focus on solutions so that no other family anywhere has to go through what they’ve been through.”
Meghan, who has talked about her own mental health challenges in the past, said the couple is focusing on what they can do behind the scenes to make social media use “safer, better and more positive.” Without naming names, she said they’ve had conversations with tech executives who’ve said they’ve created guardrails around their platforms. But she added parents aren’t always comfortable navigating these platforms and need better solutions.
“People are getting hurt – and people, specifically children, are dying,” she said.
In the United Kingdom on Tuesday, Harry’s brother, Prince William and his wife Kate also participated in a separate forum to draw awareness to young people’s challenges with mental health. The two launched the next phase of their campaign to support the nation’s mental health with a call for “concrete action” to help the next generation.
At the event, Kate gave a speech to young people gathered in the city of Birmingham for a day of workshops and discussions around the issue to mark World Mental Health Day, and told them their goal is to “shape fairer, safer, kinder, more equal societies.” William joined a public discussion after Kate’s speech and told the young audience that talking about mental health helps chip away at the stigma related to the issue, “but there’s a lot more to do.”
In New York, Murthy said the burden on parents – and their kids – to figure out rapidly evolving technology can be too much. He said data that shows most young people are struggling with loneliness and 1 in 3 high school girls have seriously considered taking their own lives indicates we’re in a “mental health crisis.”
“We’ve taken too long to act” on social media, said Murthy, who earlier this year called for tech companies and lawmakers to take immediate action to protect kids and teens’ mental health.
Meanwhile, Harry issued a call for social companies: “Please stop sending children content you wouldn’t want your own children to see,” he said. “I think it’s a very simple request and its an easy fix.”
The event comes as the couple is stepping up their philanthropic efforts to draw attention to issues they want to highlight. Earlier in the day, the two stopped by The Marcy Lab School in Brookyln, which runs a fellowship program geared toward students who want to pursue “a purpose-driven career in technology.”
During their last public appearance in New York City, the couple set off alarms when they claimed they had been dangerously pursued by paparazzi in a “near catastrophic car chase” in Manhattan. That led New York City Mayor Eric Adams to condemn the paparazzi chasing them as “reckless and irresponsible.”