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Social media is driving teen mental health crisis, surgeon general warns

0 8 months ago

Advisory calls attention to growing concerns about the link between social media use and depression and anxiety in children and adolescents.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, long a proponent of mental health awareness, has issued a warning that social media use is a main contributor to depression, anxiety and other problems in the nation’s teenagers.

The report, released Tuesday, calls attention to growing concerns about the effects of social media use on children and adolescent’s mental health. The advisory urges policymakers and the companies that make the social media platforms to share with parents the burden of managing children’s and adolescents’ social media use.

Murthy calls youth mental health “the defining public health issue of our time,” urging policymakers to help ensure strong safety standards to help protect adolescents and teens from exposure to harmful content and excessive use.

The surgeon general has warned that social media harms kids. Should they be  banned until they're older?

Up to 95% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 say they use a social media platform, according to the report. About a third say they’re scrolling, posting or otherwise engaged with social media “almost constantly.”

“At this point, we do not have enough evidence to say with confidence that social media is sufficiently safe for our kids, Murthy said in an interview. “We have to now take action to make sure that we are protecting our kids.”

The report pulls together research that links social media use and poor mental health in adolescents, such as a 2019 study that found teens who spent more than three hours a day on social media “faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

As of last year, students in grades eight and 10 who were surveyed said they spent even more time each day on these platforms: three hours and 30 minutes, on average.

Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media, an organization that advocates for laws and policies to make media more child-friendly, said the advisory was “absolutely spot on” and “should be a clarion call to every parent in this country, every policymaker, that we need to put focus and resources into this effort.”


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