U.S. Surgeon General says social media presents mental-health risk for youth


U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said on Tuesday that social media use could lead to mental health issues among children and teens. Murthy called on policymakers to enact stricter guidelines, writing in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory: “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.” 

Murthy said the advisory is not meant to be exhaustive on the topic, rather it draws on available public evidence.  He tweeted“Nothing’s more important to parents than keeping our kids safe. And when it comes to protecting kids’ wellbeing on social media, parents need more support.”

In the advisory, Murthy points to a 2019 longitudinal study that concluded adolescents spending more than than three hours per day on social media “faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes including symptoms of depression and anxiety…Our children and adolescents don’t have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of social media’s impact. To date, the burden of protecting youth has fallen predominantly on children, adolescents, and their families.”

A general advisory is a public statement that calls attention to an urgent public health issue and provides recommendations on addressing it. The Surgeon General’s document listed several suggestions for parents, lawmakers and tech companies, which included creating so-called “tech free” zones and establishing scientific advisory committees to help craft policy.

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