"This way, they're not the outcast," the actress tells PEOPLE of the idea she and husband Patrick Brown are proposing to protect their kids from the dangers of social media
Laura Benanti is taking a hands-on approach when it comes to her daughter and social media.
The Tony-winning actress shares two daughters with husband Patrick Brown:Louisa Georgia, 18 months, andElla Rose, who turns 7 on Feb. 14. And though she's still got plenty of time with her youngest, she's already strategizing about how to protect her daughter from the downsides of apps like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and X.
"Social media, it is a poison," Benanti, 44, tells PEOPLE during a conversation about her new solo showLaura Benanti: Nobody Cares — which plays at Audible’s Minetta Lane Theater in New York City through Sunday and will be available to stream on the audio app in the future. "I really do think that at a certain point, the Surgeon General is going to have to come in and issue a warning like they did for cigarettes."
She goes on to reference a best-selling book called Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, which tackles the impact social media has on one's mental health and productivity, as well as the benefits of unplugging.
"We're not meant to communicate with as many people as we communicate within a day. That's just not normal; our brains don't know how to handle it," says the No Hard Feelings star. "Every time we see a notification, it spikes our fight or flight, and our body's like, 'You're running from a lion.' So all of our adrenals are tapped all the time. It's really, really unhealthy and scary, and it makes me really, really sad."
"So I don't know how many studies need to be done, where it shows how unhealthy it is for all of us, but in particular young people and in particular young girls," Benanti continues. "I don't know how much more we need to hear before we all go, 'Let's not do this anymore.' "
Even more challenging is that Benanti finds herself having to use social media for herself. "I do it because that's how you get the word out about your work now," she laments. "I feel like such a hypocrite because what I want to do is burn it to the ground, and yet I'm a party to it because, what else am I going to do?"
But that inner conflict is something she and Brown are trying to prevent for their daughter Ella. In fact, they've taken a proactive approach to it, proposing a pack to fellow parents in the community that will protect all of their children from it.
"My husband and I have just committed to figuring this out together," Benanti says. "He's really interested in going to some other people within our town, and within Ella's friendship group, to say, 'Can we all make a pact that -
we're not going to give our kids phones or social media 'til they're 16 at least? So this way, they're not the outcast. Can we commit to that as a group?' "
"I don't know what will happen, but I think it's a great thing to try," she notes.
Benanti is not the first celebrity parent to express their fears when it comes to social media and their kids.
Many stars have made headlines in the past about keeping their children off the apps, including Kelly Clarkson, Matthew McConaughey, HGTV's Erin and Ben Napier, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Gwyneth Paltrow, Drew Barrymore, Eva Mendes and Jennifer Garner — who in April admitted that her eldest daughter Violet, 18, is "grateful" not to be online.
"I said to my kids, 'Show me the articles that prove that social media is good for teenagers, and then we'll have the conversation,' " explained Garner, who shares Violet and kids Seraphina Rose, 15, and, Samuel, 11, with her ex-husband Ben Affleck. "Find scientific evidence that matches what I have, that says that it's not good for teenagers. Then we'll chat."
"It's a long haul," she added, of the struggle to keep her kids away from the platforms. "We'll see if I really hang in there."
That's something Benanti can surely relate to. She teases to PEOPLE she's working through those ongoing fears by "mostly just marinating in them and freaking out."
"Being a parent is so bonkers," she says. "It is the hardest, scariest thing I will ever do. It's fully relentless. There are zero breaks. You're just in it, it's nuts. And you're bound to make mistakes. The only thing you can hope for is that you can look back one day and feel like it all worked out in the end."
To help her through those emotions, Benanti talks to a therapist, and she had a child therapist for Ella, too.
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Still, the biggest thing Benanti is hoping to instill in her daughters is the importance of loving yourself unconditionally.
"It's the number one thing that I work on: self-compassion, self-forgiveness, especially as it pertains to my kids," says Benanti. "As a people pleaser, as a perfectionist, as someone who has always punished myself for anything I perceive as wrong. Every single day, I make multiple mistakes as a mother. And finding a way to forgive myself is really hard. It's a daily practice, and I'm terrible at it."
"I'll let you know if I figure it out," she jokes.Tickets forLaura Benanti: Nobody Cares— which is written by Benanti, with original music by Benanti and Todd Almond — are on sale now.