The US Surgeon General has issued an advisory warning about the potential harm social media poses to the mental health of children and adolescents.

The advisory, issued by Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Tuesday, acknowledges both the positive and negative effects of social media but focuses on recommendations for policymakers, technology companies, parents, caregivers, adolescents, and researchers.

It suggests that policymakers should strengthen safety standards and restrict access to social media, while better protecting children’s privacy.

Technology companies, meanwhile, should better and more transparently assess the impact of their products on children, Murthy recommended.

The Surgeon General also said Parents and caregivers should establish “tech-free zones” and be more involved in teaching and modeling responsible behavior, while adolescents should limit their exposure to social media.

“Nearly every teenager in America uses social media, and yet, we do not have enough evidence to conclude that it is sufficiently safe for them, especially at such a vulnerable stage of brain, emotional, and social development,” Dr. Murthy said in a recent tweet.

He goes on to say that “Much of the evidence we do have indicates that there is enough reason to be deeply concerned about the risk of harm social media poses. For example, adolescents who spend >3 hours per day on social media face double the risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety.”

Use of Social Media is Linked to Increased Anxiety Among Children

The advisory indicated that social media use is linked to an increased risk of depression and anxiety among adolescents, a claim supported in some different research studies.

Moreover, the extreme content available on social media has been associated with self-harm and suicide in some tragic cases.

“In certain tragic cases, childhood deaths have been linked to suicide- and self-harm-related content and risk-taking challenges on social media platforms.”

For example, the suicide of 14-year-old Molly Russell in November 2017 was attributed partly to Instagram and other social media platforms, according to a coroner overseeing the case.

Unfortunately, she was far from the only teenager suffering from social media-linked severe depression.

There is also growing concern among parents and school districts that social media companies should be held accountable for the youth mental health crisis.

More than 40 school districts have filed lawsuits based on mental health claims against major social media companies, arguing that the defendant companies should pay for the mental health services that 96% of school districts now provide to students.

Policymakers Take Harsh Stance Against Use of Social Media by Kids

The recent advisory comes as lawmakers are increasingly critical of the potential harm to minors from social media use.

In fact, some states like Arkansas and Utah have already passed laws requiring more strict age verification and parental permission for social media use.

As reported, Utah approved new laws that prohibit anyone under 18 from using social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook without parental consent in late March.

More recently, Senators Bill Cassidy and Ed Markey put forward “COPPA 2.0” (Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act), which is intended to expand on the original 1998 bill that imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to minors.

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