The U.S. Surgeon General Wants To Place Warning Labels On Social Media Platforms That State How They’re Harming Adolescent Mental Health

Monkey Business - - illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

These days, the youth are experiencing a mental health crisis that has never been seen before, and social media isn’t exactly helping. In fact, it’s far from it.

That’s why the U.S. Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, wants to put warning labels on social media platforms that state how social media is harming the mental health of adolescents.

“The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency—and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” Murthy wrote in an opinion piece for the New York Times. According to a study from 2019, adolescents who spend more than three hours per day on social media have twice the risk of developing anxiety and depression symptoms.

As of last summer, the average daily use of social media for teens is 4.8 hours. One expert compared social media to tobacco products in the past, highlighting how warning labels can lead to positive behavioral changes.

“Social media today is like tobacco decades ago: It’s a product whose business model depends on addicting kids,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of Fairplay, an organization aimed at ending marketing to children. “And, as with cigarettes, a surgeon general’s warning label is a critical step toward mitigating the threat to children.”

However, a few experts have noted that social media isn’t necessarily harmful to children’s mental health, as several studies have led to mixed results.

In 2023, Murthy pointed out that social media can have positive impacts. It allows kids to connect with each other and create communities they may not be able to find elsewhere.

But he also called attention to the fact that half of adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17 claim that social media worsens feelings about their body image.

Some states have passed laws in an attempt to limit children’s use of social media. For instance, the European Union recently established rules for online protection and to make it harder to share illegal content. Before Murthy’s warning labels can be carried out, they must first be approved by Congress.

Monkey Business – – illustrative purposes only, not the actual person

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