By Jamie Leary
LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Littleton teens are bringing people together with one simple idea: Ditch the social media. Offline October was created by 25 teens who wanted to make a difference. Its only requirement is to stay off social media for one month.
The initiative was a response to teen suicide. It’s the second leading cause of death among Colorado teenagers. In September, the Littleton community saw two suicides, just one day apart. Stunned classmates of those who died knew something had to be done.
“I think we noticed all the pressure everyone’s under on social media and just getting off it really helps. Because everybody feels like you have to be perfect, and just living your life is bigger than that,” said Owen Hearty, an eighth grader at Goddard Middle School and one of the founders of Offline October.
For many students, Snapchat is the primary form of online communication. Hearty says before he went offline, he never sent text messages or made phone calls. Everything he did was through Snapchat or Instagram. It was the same for Hearty’s classmate Thomas Jackson.
“It’s like, it gets embedded in your brain: ‘Okay, go on Snapchat and check out everybody else’s stuff,'” said Jackson.
Goddard’s Assistant Principal Kerri Lind says she sees it every day.
“Those direct conversations you have with kids, it’s really vital to let them know that you really aren’t defined by what you post on social media,” Lind said. “In the end, did you really live your life to the fullest and did you experience it with the people you wanted to experience it with?
“I really wish people would take it to heart and realize you can do it, you just have to delete that app, and that works.”
In just a few short days of Offline October, those who took the pledge are noticing a difference. It’s bringing friends as well as families together.
“Have breakfast with your entire family instead of sitting up in your room for an hour and a half and getting yelled at to come down and go to school,” laughed Jackson. “It’s weird. It’s a good weird … we’re not sitting on our phones and not looking at each other, we’re going and doing stuff.”
The concept of Offline October was appealing to so many that over 200 schools in six different countries have picked it up. Thousands of kids and adults have taken the pledge.
Adults, of course, are on board but this effort is all thanks to the students of the Littleton community.
SHARE YOUR STORY: Share A Together 4 Colorado Story Idea With CBS4
“For kids to realize that they have control over a situation and not wait for somebody to tell them what to do … They’re the ones who are leading this effort — and then as adults? Wow, what a lesson we can learn from them,” said Lind.
Jamie Leary joined the CBS4 team in 2015 and currently works as a reporter for CBS4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. She couldn’t imagine a better place to live and work and will stop at nothing to find the next great story. Jamie loves learning about and hearing from her fellow community members, so connect with her on Facebook or Twitter @JamieALeary.