The United States surgeon general Dr Vivek Murthy issued an extraordinary public warning on May 23 on the perils of social media towards children and young adults.

According to a New York Times report he urged for a push to fully understand the possible “harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

Advise from the Surgeon

In the advisory, Murthy said that the effects on adolescent mental health were not fully understood and social media can be beneficial to some users but he wrote that, “There are ample indications that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

The report recommends that families guide social media use and that mealtimes and physical gatherings are free of devices in order to help build social bonds and promote conversations.

The surgeon, Dr Murthy also urged tech companies to enforce a minimum age limit and create default settings for children with high safety and privacy standards.

“Adolescents are not just smaller adults. They’re in a different phase of development and they’re in a critical phase of brain development.”

While many lawmakers were not exposed to social media as young people since it wasn’t much in existence at the time, the same people are now unsure of how to limit its usage.

The New York Times also reported that in Montana Tik Tok has been banned from operating in the state and in March, Utah became the first state to prohibit social media services from allowing users under 18 to have accounts without the explicit consent of a parent or guardian. That law would definitely stop youth form accessing Instagram and Facebook.

Pew on Social Media Risks

According to a survey by Pew Research, 95% of teens reported using at least one social media platform, while more than one-third said they used social media almost constantly. As social media use has risen, so have self-reports and clinical diagnoses among adolescents of anxiety and depression.

In early May the American Psychological Association issued its first-ever social media guideline, recommending that parents keep watch on teenagers usage of social media. It also asked tech companies to reconsider features like limitless scrolling and the ‘like’ button.

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The photo above is from a YouTube screen grab