Kids on social media: New surgeon general warning targets kids’ social media use
Social media and its impact on mental health for minors ‘is not an issue we can afford to wait years to take action on,’ the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, told Axios
The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, published an advisory Tuesday that warns against social media use for minors and its impact on kids’ mental health.
CNN said that the advisory “calls for increased research into social media’s impact on youth mental health, as well as action from policymakers and technology companies.”
Online news outlet Axios reported, “The advisory adds to scrutiny over the effects of excessive use and harmful content,” which has been speculated to cause health effects including interrupted sleep patterns and suicidal thoughts in kids.
“What kids are experiencing today on social media is unlike anything prior generations have had to contend with,” Murthy told Axios.
“We have placed the entire burden of managing social media on the shoulders of parents and kids, despite the fact that these platforms are designed by some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on them,” Murthy told CNN. He added, “So that is not a fair fight. It’s time for us to have the backs of parents and kids.”
The new advisory
Key takeaways from the surgeon general’s advisory can be found on his website and include:
- Up to 95% of youths ages 13-17 report using social media on at least one platform, with two-thirds of teenagers on social media daily.
- More than three hours of daily social media use for children or teenagers can double the risk of mental health problems, such as experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- 46% of teenagers ages 13-17 report social media makes them feel worse about their body image.
Murthy told CNN, “We’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harm that kids are experiencing.”
The advisory states that while social media may yield benefits, like helping youths feel connected to one another, “We must acknowledge the growing body of research about potential harms, increase our collective understanding of the risks associated with social media use and urgently take action to create safe and healthy digital environments.”
The advisory suggests families create media plans for the whole family to follow and push children to make friends in-person as opposed to just online, CNN said.
Efforts to limit social media
Axios said plans to help alleviate social media use for youths are in the works at the White House and include “creating an interagency task force on kids’ online safety” and establishing the best practices to teach digital literacy and habits.
The surgeon general has previously stated that he thinks age 13 is too young to participate on social media. He told CNN Newsroom that evidence has shown age 13 to be a very impressionable time for youths and their self-worth can be “skewed and often distorted” because of the environment of social media.
The Deseret News has previously reported on the ‘Protect Kids on Social Media Act’, a bill introduced last month that would prohibit social media use for those younger than 13.
Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, co-sponsor of the bill, told reporters, “If a child is, say, too young to sign a contract or too young to open a bank account in the real world, they’re too young to sign terms of service agreements and use social media in the digital world,” per the Deseret News.