The U.S. Surgeon General has issued an advisory warning about the dangers of social media use for children and adolescents. The advisory, which was released on Tuesday, cites a number of studies that have found that social media use can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, including depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
“The most common question parents ask me is, ‘is social media safe for my kids.’ The answer is that we don’t have enough evidence to say it’s safe, and in fact, there is growing evidence that social media use is associated with harm to young people’s mental health,” Murthy said in a statement. “Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends.”
The Surgeon General’s advisory comes at a time when social media use is skyrocketing among children and adolescents. A recent study found that 95% of teens use social media, and that the average teen spends more than two hours a day on social media.
Murthy said in an interview earlier this year that children younger than 13 years old should not be able to join social media platforms. “You have some of the best designers and product developers in the world who have designed these products to make sure people are maximizing the amount of time they spend on these platforms,” he commented. “And if we tell a child, ‘Use the force of your willpower to control how much time you’re spending,’ you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers.”
The Surgeon General’s advisory is a wake-up call for parents and policymakers. It is clear that social media can be a dangerous place for children, and that we need to take steps to protect them.
Chinese authorities seem to understand the effects of TikTok: children under 14 years old who use Douyin, the version of TikTok available in China, are only permitted 40 minutes of screen time each day and cannot access the platform at night.
NEW: Today, I released a Surgeon General's Advisory on Social Media and #YouthMentalHealth. This is the next step in our office’s work to address our youth mental health crisis. https://t.co/6JadYlxORy 1/7 pic.twitter.com/UrHNP1Uq15
— Dr. Vivek Murthy, U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) May 23, 2023