Opinion | US Surgeon General Vivec H. Murthy Warns Children on Social Media

Vivek H. Murthy is the United States Surgeon General.

“It’s a different kind of love, love for children,” my father used to say when I was a kid. When I became a parent and found myself walking over the crib late at night to make sure my kids were okay, I understood. Nothing is more important than keeping children safe and giving them every chance to grow and thrive. This means paying attention to how social media can affect their health and well-being once they reach puberty.

When I travel around the country and talk to parents, the number one question they ask me is about social media. “Is it safe for my child?” Nearly 70% of parents say their jobs are harder today than they were 20 years ago, largely because of technology and social media.

Nearly all US teens (95%) use social media platforms, with two-thirds using them daily and more than one-third using social media platforms “almost constantly.” Parents want their children to withdraw into their bedrooms, spend hours alone in front of screens, endlessly bombarded with perfect bodies and unrealistic ideals that embarrass them and hurt their self-esteem. Told me I was watching Their children are still too young to watch R-rated movies, but they frequently encounter inappropriate sexual and violent content on social media.

GUEST VOICE: We are senators of both parties. It’s time to protect our kids on social media.

I have published the Surgeon General’s Recommendations on Social Media and Youth Mental Health, summarizing what is known and what is not known about the benefits and harms of social media. The bottom line is that there isn’t enough evidence to conclude that social media is safe enough for children. In fact, there is growing evidence that social media use during adolescence, a critical stage in brain development, is associated with harm to mental health and well-being. Given the ongoing adolescent mental health crisis, we can no longer ignore the potential contribution of social media to the pain experienced by millions of children and families.

The recommendations outline steps policymakers, technology companies, researchers, parents and children themselves can take to make social media safer for children.

Certainly, some children may benefit from using social media. Easily connect with friends and family, express yourself freely, and find support in difficult times. This is especially true for marginalized youth, including those in the LGBTQ+ community. Data show that these children are also more likely to experience cyberbullying.

However, while some children benefit from social media use, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with the risk of harm to adolescents’ mental health. They are generally exposed to extreme, inappropriate and harmful content, and those who spend more than 3 hours a day on the platform are twice as likely as her to experience mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. exposed to This is especially problematic given that the teenager spends an average of three and a half hours a day on her social media.

Many children are also exposed to persistent online bullying. Nearly six in 10 of her adolescent girls say they have received an unpleasant contact from a stranger. Nearly half of adolescents also said that social media made them feel bad about their bodies.

Studies have also linked young people’s social media use to less sleep, poor sleep quality, and depression. In fact, about 1 in 3 adolescents report using screen media, usually social media, until midnight on weekdays. Lack of sleep in adolescents has been linked to depression, changes in brain development, and other problems.

This is particularly alarming as adolescence is a critical period for brain development and a time when children are most susceptible to social pressure, peer opinion and peer comparison. All of these pressures are dramatically amplified on social media.

For too long, parents have taken full responsibility for controlling social media use. Certainly, there are steps parents and children can take to set boundaries. But they don’t have to do this alone. Most social her media Her platform is designed to maximize users’ time and engagement, so ultimately a teenager and her parents are the world’s most talented engineers and product developers. You will have to fight someone. This is not a fair fight.

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Furthermore, parents do not know the full extent of the dangers or how to protect their children, as the platforms do not provide researchers with access to the data they need to better assess the impact of social media on their children.

In contrast, manufacturers of physical products, from pharmaceuticals to car seats, toys to automobiles, are required to meet safety standards. Consumers are not expected to self-assess the safety of these products. The same should apply to social media.

All you need is safety first This approach requires companies to share responsibility for protecting children.

Policy makers establish age-appropriate health and safety standards that prevent exposure to harmful content and limit features designed to manipulate children into excessive and unhealthy use of social media. can. Tech companies may be required to disclose data on health effects and to enforce or enforce age limits. While many platforms now require users to be at least 13 years of age, they rarely enforce it. And the totality of the evidence has led me to believe that 13 is too young for children to use social media.

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Technology companies can design health and safety protections into their products, and independent researchers and parents are asking what the data shows about how social media is affecting children. We need to be transparent with the public, including

Social media has fundamentally changed the way children communicate, build relationships, and see themselves and the world. Just last week my daughter asked me and her wife about posting photos on social media. she is only 5 years old. Considering all we know, me and my wife are not going to let our kids use social media in middle school. (We know this is easier said than done.) Based on the maturity and development of children, and whether effective safety standards are in place to protect adolescents. Re-evaluate how in high school.

For too long, parents and children have done their best to deal with the potential harm of social media with limited information and support. They don’t have to do it alone. The time has come for us to take action to protect the health and well-being of children.

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