Social media and youth mental health defining challenge of our time: Surgeon general

Creating a surgeon general warning for social media is a necessary step to respond to the “defining public health challenge of our time,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told ABC’s Elizabeth Schulze on Monday. News in an interview.

“We live in the midst of a youth mental health crisis, and I have said publicly that this is the defining public health challenge of our time. I firmly believe that. And social media has become a major contributor to that youth mental health. crisis, so it is urgent to make social media safer for our children by warning children and parents about the harms associated with social media,” Murthy said.

“It’s part of addressing the broader mental health crisis we’re experiencing,” he said.

The warning, which would appear universally on social media to raise awareness about the risks of social media to teen mental health, would require Congress to take action. Tests would then be conducted on the best messages and frequency of warnings, Murthy said, with the goal of “driving toward behavior change.”

“I got questions from parents all over the country about social media and they wanted to know if it’s safe for my kids. And what we can conclude, based on our research and talking to experts around the country, was that social media is not safe.” has shown that media, first, is safe for children and, second, there is growing evidence of the harms associated with social media use,” Murthy told Schulze.

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“That’s why we want to make sure parents and kids know. And that’s where a warning label comes in.”

The issue is also urgent because 95% of teenagers are on social media, Murthy said, echoing an argument he made in a New York Times op-ed.

“The data tells us that children who spend an average of three hours or more on social media a day experience a doubled risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression. That’s pretty profound, but also particularly disturbing considering that La average amount of use by teenagers today is 4.8 hours a day,” he said.

When tobacco warnings were implemented in the United States in 1966, 42% of Americans smoked, Murthy said. Today, that figure has dropped to 12%. However, that change took almost six decades and was only one step in a larger effort at education and reform.

“While we are late as a society in making these platforms safer, it is urgent that we start taking action now. Because the truth is, there is nothing more important for the mental health and well-being of our children,” Murthy said.

“I say this not only as a general surgeon and as a doctor, but as a father of two young children who worry me, just as millions of parents are worried about the mental health and well-being of their children.” Murthy said.

Murthy said his children are not allowed to use social media until they graduate from high school, at which time he and his wife will review data on safety and whether any regulation of the platform has been implemented, as well as the your children’s ability to navigate it safely.

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For kids who are already on social media, the goal should be to create phone-free zones, she said, such as dinnertime, social interactions and bedtime. She encouraged parents to build communities around phone-free zones, because it’s “much easier to do when we do it collectively as a group of parents.”

Murthy acknowledged that, on a larger scale, the ball is in Congress’s court, both in implementing warnings and providing broader safeguards against the mental health risks of social media. Particularly in a tense election year where legislative gridlock is the norm, that poses a problem.

“But as a nation, we can do difficult things when it comes to protecting and safeguarding our children. We should be prepared to do everything possible to achieve that end,” Murthy said.

In the meantime, Murthy is committed to raising awareness in the hopes that parents and children will start limiting screen time.

“The bottom line is, again, the key is to make the platform safer. But until then, until that actually happens, it’s important that we make sure that parents and children know what we know now in medicine and public health, which is this association between the use of social networks and damage to mental health.

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