June 16, 2024

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Just weeks after Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory calling for improved social connection for Americans, a second advisory — titled “Social Media and Youth Mental Health” — warns about the potentially negative impact of social media on children and teens.

With the view that social media — despite offering some benefits — is not inherently safe for children, the 25-page advisory outlines the risks it presents. 

Those risks include depression, anxiety, disordered eating, sleep problems, attention disorders, low self-esteem, feelings of exclusion and suicidal ideations, among others.

Murthy also recommends ways that policymakers, tech companies, parents, caregivers, children and teens can mitigate the risks. 

SURGEON GENERAL RELEASES ADVISORY CALLING FOR IMPROVED SOCIAL CONNECTION

Potential solutions include setting stronger safety standards and restrictions, protecting children’s privacy, establishing tech-free zones in the home and blocking or reporting unwanted or unsafe content.

“Up to 95% of youth ages 13 to 17 report using a social media platform, with more than a third saying they use social media ‘almost constantly,’” Murthy wrote in the advisory.

Teens on phones

A new advisory titled “Social Media and Youth Mental Health” warns about the potentially negative impact of social media on children and teens. (iStock)

“We must acknowledge the growing body of research about potential harms, increase our collective understanding of the risks associated with social media use, and urgently take action to create safe and healthy digital environments that minimize harm and safeguard children’s and adolescents’ mental health and well-being during critical stages of development,” he continued.

Dr. Zachary Ginder, a doctor of clinical psychology at Pine Siskin Consulting in Riverside, California, said he applauds the surgeon general’s advisory. 

“We are unknowingly in a real-time social media experiment with life-altering consequences for our youth,” he told Fox News Digital. 

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“Although we don’t know the long-term effects, there is mounting evidence suggesting that there are significant and immediate risks involved for youth when using social media for frequent and extended periods of time, and we cannot take a ‘wait and see’ approach to this issue.”

He added, “We didn’t wait to sound the alarm for other harms to youth, such as vaping, alcohol and drug use, and this should be no different.”

Dr. Ryan Sultán, a pediatric mental health physician at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, said he sees firsthand the impact of social media on youth on a near-daily basis.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy

In a new advisory, Surgeon General Murthy (pictured here) recommends ways that policymakers, tech companies, parents, caregivers, children and teens can mitigate the risks of social media.  (Getty Images)

“Unchecked usage can worsen self-image, promote bullying behaviors, deprive youth of sleep and have a considerable adverse impact on their overall mental health,” he told Fox News Digital. 

“These are not just abstract problems, but real issues that affect young people’s lives and well-being every day.”

Sultan echoes the surgeon

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