Lifestyle & Human Interest

'I Gave Her a Loaded Gun': The Heartbreaking Story That Inspired a Movement


According to a 2018 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds report they own or have access to a smartphone.

That percentage doesn’t notably vary between different genders, races or socioeconomic backgrounds.

Forty-five percent of teens also claim to be online on a “near-constant basis” —  a 21 percent increase from 2014-2015.

If our teens are engaged online as consistently as this study suggests, what kind of impact is it having on their mental health?

Collin Kartchner argues that teens’ access to social media through smartphones is directly related to the uptick in anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts their generation is facing, so he has started to spread the word in order to bring awareness to what he calls a “national public health crisis.”

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‘I Gave Her a Loaded Gun’: The Heartbreaking Story That Inspired a Movement

Kartchner first noticed the effects of the social media community while his wife, Elizabeth, was an active mommy blogger and influencer.

As the pressure to live up to the perfect life began affecting his wife as well as other friends in that community, his wife encouraged him to use his witty personality to make fun of the “perfect life” often depicted on social media.

His satirical videos resonated with many people on the internet and his videos, starring a made-up Instagram influencer persona, quickly began to go viral.

His following continued to grow because of these videos. He told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, that at one point while at the local gas station he ran into Roxanne, an old friend he hadn’t seen in almost 12 years.

As they caught up, Kartchner eagerly asked how her daughter Whitney was doing, but as soon as the question left Collin’s mouth, tears came to the mother’s eyes.

“I thought you heard,” Roxanne told Kartchner. “Whitney died last year.”

Kartchner could hardly believe it, but the grieving mother further explained how her daughter died in 2016 in her early 20s from drug overdose, but Roxanne knew that her daughter’s problem’s started much earlier.

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“You know what it really was, though? When she was in middle school, I gave her a loaded gun,” she said.

Confused, Kartchner asked her to clarify. Roxanne pulled a smartphone out of her purse and said, “No, I gave her this loaded gun.”

“Handing her that phone was the day I lost my kid,” she said. “I just didn’t realize it.”

Heartbroken, Collin decided to take a break from his comedic videos and use his own social media audience to share Whitney’s story.

The response he received was overwhelming; other people began sharing their own stories of loved ones who had been negatively affected by social media, which made him realize just how many people this was affecting.

He then decided to start a crowd-funding campaign to purchase billboards on a Utah interstate not only in honor of Whitney but also to help combat the negative self-image spurred on by excessive social media use.

According to KUTV, it took only nine minutes for him to reach his $3,000 goal and less than 24 hours to reach $14,000, further proving that this was an issue that the community wanted to address.

View this post on Instagram

Hey friends— just popping in to show you these. When you drive down I-15, you’ll see these everywhere. “You are Beautiful.” “You are Loved.” Never forget it. Thank you Roxanne for sharing your story, and the 100’s of you that made this all happen. Check out @kutvfreshliving today at 1pm where I was asked to come discuss how social media comparison and usage among is the underlying link to our state’s epidemic levels of depression & anxiety, eating disorders, self-harming, suicide ideation, and suicide itself. Parents please talk to your kids about social media usage. More and more research coming out every day showing the harmful effects of giving your kids untethered access to theses apps. Just like when doctors used to prescribe cigarettes to pregnant women before the research was all there, we will see a day soon when we’ll look back and say “I can’t believe we used to let kids do this.” ✌?out.

A post shared by Collin Kartchner #SAVETHEKIDS (@collinkartchner) on

The Stats Back It Up

Kartchner continued to share the stories he received and realized that this was affecting people across the country so he began to dive into research about the correlation between social media and declining mental health in teens.

According to an empirical research article published by the Association for Psychological Science in 2017, adolescent mental health issues increased significantly beginning in 2010, only three years after the first iPhone was released.

“Adolescents low in in-person social interaction and high in social media use reported the highest levels of depressive symptoms,” the article stated.

“We need to save the kids,” Kartchner told Liftable, recalling his reaction to the statistics. “I’ll just start a movement. This has got to end.”

So he began to transform his Instagram into a platform to spread awareness of the correlation between social media and teens’ mental health, using the hashtag #SavetheKids.

“These kids are not prepared for it,” Kartchner further explained. “They’re not psychologically prepared, emotionally prepared, and parents are then handing them these phones with social media — Instagram, Snapchat, whatever it is — and some of these poor kids I’ve talked to that are 15, 16, 17, their whole childhoods have been robbed.”

In April 2018, he was invited to speak to a small group of girls at a local church in Utah. Ever since then he has been invited to speak at events across the country to both students and parents including a TEDx talk that has gained over 200 thousand views on YouTube.

Kartchner thinks his message is catching on so quickly because it affects people from different genders, races and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I’m tired of seeing young people suffer needlessly,” he said.

What’s The Solution?

Kartchner said his main motivation to keep building the #SavetheKids movement is his concern for the younger generation’s future. He believes that teens haven’t had to cope with emotions, boredom, loneliness or stress and that when this generation has to grow up and face these difficult things that it will end in “disaster.”

“There are a lot of great kids that are using social media to do great things, but for a majority of them, it’s ruining their lives,” he stressed.

That’s exactly why he considers this uptick in mental health issues within the upcoming generation a “national public health crisis.”

Even big tech figures recognize how addictive smartphones and tablets are; both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs regulated how much time their children used these devices.

Kartchner proposes two solutions for this crisis depending on whether or not your child already has a smartphone: parents need to stop giving smartphones to their children at such a young age — and if their children already do have one and are already addicted, he suggests wise and intentional meditation.

It’s something he and his wife practice with their own four children.

Kartchner has also partnered with Stephen Dalby and Landen Ainge to kick-start a safe alternative to the modern smartphone that still allows teens to be connected to friends and family while eliminating unsolicited internet access.

Gabb Wireless is a completely separate cellular network that works with phones that look like average smartphones but have no access to the internet.

Ultimately, Kartchner believes that parents have to step up and protect their children’s mental health.

He said, “They have to say, ‘Look, we all got hooked to the same drug. We need to put our screens down. We need to put our phones down, reconnect with our kids, and we need to take the kids back from the tech and then let us lead the tech rather than let the tech lead us.'”

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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