U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is calling for stronger guidelines for social media use among children and teens, pointing to a growing body of research that the platforms may pose what he described as a “profound risk” to young people’s mental health.
In a report issued on Tuesday, Murthy urged technology companies and lawmakers to take “immediate action” by formulating policies to protect young people from “addictive apps and extreme and inappropriate content” on platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat. Current guidelines on social media use have been shaped by media platforms and are inadequate, he added.
“Our children and adolescents don’t have the luxury of waiting years until we know the full extent of social media’s impact,” Murthy said in the 25-page advisory. “Their childhoods and development are happening now.”
The Surgeon General advised parents to create “tech-free zones” for their children and to model healthy relationships with their devices as more definitive research about social media usage comes out. It also urged young people to refrain from sharing deeply personal information online and to reach out for help from trusted adults if they are harassed or bullied.
Social media also can have a positive impact, such as helping teens “develop social connections” and creating “spaces for self-expression,” according to the Surgeon General.
While the research on the mental health impacts of social media usage isn’t conclusive, many parents have expressed concern about the impact of tech on teens. For example, nearly three-quarters of U.S. parents of children under age 18 think social media imaging tools and filters are detrimental to young peoples’ body image, according to a national survey conducted by the The Harris Poll.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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