Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued a warning regarding the impact of social media and its “profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” In the 19-page advisory released on Tuesday (May 23), Murthy urged Americans to pay close attention to this “urgent public health issue.”
“Our children have become unknowing participants in a decades-long experiment,” the advisory stated. “In early adolescence, when identities and sense of self-worth are forming, brain development is especially susceptible to social pressures, peer opinions and peer comparison.” According to the advisory, up to 95% of youth ages 13–17 report use a social media platform. More than a third of that says they use social media “almost constantly.” Even 40% of children ages 8–12 also use social media.
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
In an interview with The New York Times, the Surgeon General said children are impacted by too much exposure to social apps. “They’re in a different phase of development, and they’re in a critical phase of brain development,” he told the publication. The report also encouraged parents to monitor their children’s social media use. In addition, implementing a “family media plan” where screen-time expectations could be set.
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Social media exposure is linked to conditions including eating disorders, body dysmorphia and low self-esteem, per the report, with some evidence also pointing to attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Though Murthy’s advisory didn’t condemn social media use for young adults and children, it concluded: “We do not yet have enough evidence to determine if social media is sufficiently safe for children and adolescents.”
Last week, Montana became the first state to issue a statewide TikTok ban. The legislation passed in both the state House and Senate this spring. It cited both security concerns and argued that the popular social media platform “directs minors to engage in dangerous activities” in order to generate content, such as “throwing objects at moving automobiles, taking excessive amounts of medication,” and “licking doorknobs and toilet seats to place oneself at risk of contracting coronavirus.”
To protect Montanans’ personal and private data from the Chinese Communist Party, I have banned TikTok in Montana.— Governor Greg Gianforte (@GovGianforte) May 17, 2023