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News Update

Surgeon general warns social media may harm youth

The United States surgeon general issued a public warning about the risks of social media to youth, as the New York Times reported, urging a push to grapple with the potential “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

In a 19-page advisory, Dr. Vivek Murthy noted, “There are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

The report included recommendations to help families curate children’s social media use. It suggested that families keep mealtimes and in-person gatherings free of devices.

Murthy also called on tech companies to enforce minimum age limits and to create default settings for children with high safety and privacy standards. And he urged the government to create age-appropriate health and safety standards.

Adolescents “are not just smaller adults,” Murthy said in an interview with the Times. “They’re in a different phase of development, and they’re in a critical phase of brain development.”

Survey results from Pew Research have found that up to 95% of teens reported using at least one social media platform, while more than one-third said they used social media “almost constantly.” As social media use has risen, so have self-reports and clinical diagnoses among adolescents of anxiety and depression, along with emergency room visits for self-harm and suicidal ideation.

Murthy’s push for caution joins a growing body of calls for action regarding youth and social media. The American Psychological Association issued its first-ever social media guidance recently, recommending that parents closely monitor teens’ usage.

The surgeon general’s advisory noted that social media platforms have “extreme, inappropriate and harmful content,” including content that “can normalize” self-harm, eating disorders and other self-destructive behavior. Cyberbullying is rampant.