Tuesday 18 June 2024

Surgeon General Calls For Warning Label On Social Media For Young People

 Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling for a mandatory warning label on social media, warning users about the mental health risks for teenagers.

In an opinion article for The New York Times published Monday, Murthy said he wants a surgeon general’s warning on social media platforms similar to the warning labels that appear on tobacco and alcohol products. The tobacco warnings have been shown to “increase awareness and change behavior,” Murthy said.

“The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor,” Murthy wrote.

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” he said. “A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe.”

The mental health crisis among teenagers has been partly driven by social media’s explosion over the last decade or so, during which the ratesof teenage depression have skyrocketed, especially among girls.

Murthy noted that adolescents who spend more than three hours on social media a day have twice the risk of anxiety and depression, and teens, on average, spend longer than this, about 4.8 hours a day on such platforms. Nearly half of teens say “social media makes them feel worse about their bodies,” he added.

Murthy also called on Congress to pass legislation to protect young people from online abuse, exposure to “extreme violence” and sexual content, and to bar social media companies from collecting “sensitive data” from children and require them to limit features like push notifications, autoplay, and infinite scroll. He also said social media platforms must be required to share their data on health effects with the public and submit them to independent safety audits.


“While the platforms claim they are making their products safer, Americans need more than words. We need proof,” Murthy said.

Murthy also placed some of the responsibility on parents to protect their children from the negative effects of social media, calling on them to wait until after middle school to allow their kids to use social media and not allow phones at meals and social gatherings.

Murthy added that schools should also keep classrooms free of phones.

“Why is it that we have failed to respond to the harms of social media when they are no less urgent or widespread than those posed by unsafe cars, planes or food?” Murthy wrote. “These harms are not a failure of willpower and parenting; they are the consequence of unleashing powerful technology without adequate safety measures, transparency or accountability.”

“The moral test of any society is how well it protects its children,” he said.

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