California; Hayward — Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has issued a warning about the detrimental effects of social media on the mental health of American teenagers. In a recently released report, Murthy highlights the growing concerns surrounding social media use and its contribution to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems among young people. The advisory calls upon policymakers and social media companies to share the responsibility of managing children's and adolescents' social media use.
According to the report, approximately 95% of teenagers aged 13 to 17 use social media platforms, with about one-third of them being engaged with social media "almost constantly." Murthy identifies youth mental health as the most significant public health issue of our time and urges policymakers to establish robust safety standards to protect adolescents and teens from harmful content and excessive use.
Jim Steyer, the founder of Common Sense Media, applauds the advisory as a clarion call for parents and policymakers, emphasizing the need for focused efforts and resources to address this issue. TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram are identified as the most popular social media platforms among teenagers.
Negative impacts on mental health stem from disrupted sleep patterns, reduced face-to-face social interaction, feelings of exclusion, and harmful comparisons with others. The report outlines recommendations for technology companies and lawmakers, urging the establishment of strong safety standards and age restrictions to protect children from harmful content and excessive use. Technology companies are called upon to develop better tools to safeguard teenagers and minimize features that encourage prolonged online engagement.
Parents are encouraged to create "tech-free" zones at home and engage in conversations with their children about the emotional impact of social media use. However, there is a growing demand for the industry to be held accountable for creating addictive platforms and features, highlighting the need for a national discussion on this matter.
While most tech companies set a minimum age requirement of 13, the report emphasizes that nearly 40% of children aged 8 to 12 use social media. Determining the appropriate age for social media use requires further data, but some experts suggest setting the minimum age at 16 and implementing regulations to protect future generations.
The surgeon general's report underscores the detrimental effects of social media on teens' mental health and emphasizes the need for collective efforts from policymakers, social media companies and parents to ensure the safety and well-being of young users. By establishing robust safety standards, enforcing age restrictions, and fostering open conversations, we can mitigate the negative consequences of social media use on adolescents and create a healthier online environment.
Noumaan Faiz, (he/him) is a journalist and entertainer from Hayward, CA who covers culture and entertainment.
Edited by Nykeya Woods