Surgeon General Warning About Social Media

Group of teens sitting together laughing, using their phones.

I have been writing about the significant level of crisis in the mental health of our children and teenagers. Lakeside serves over 5,500 students per year. It’s clear to our current staff that this crisis is real. Our regional school districts are requesting more help than ever before with students who have significant health needs. 

We know that our kids are exposed and engaged in social media on a daily basis. We also know that they are targeted by many of the social media platforms as users of this forum for connecting to their friends and searching for some of their interests. Unfortunately, it also gives them a great deal of power to go to places that are not healthy for their cognitive development.    

The Surgeon’s General Office just released a 25-page advisory on the impact of social media on our youth. It states that social media can be a source of profound risk of harm to our kids.

The advisory calls for more extensive research on the impact of social media. This is now published as some states are considering legislation to tighten restrictions on the use of social media.

“We’re in the middle of a youth mental health crisis, and I’m concerned that social media is contributing to the harm that kids are experiencing,” Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN.

“For too long, we have placed the entire burden of managing social media on the shoulders of parents and kids, despite the fact that these platforms are designed by some of the most talented engineers and designers in the world to maximize the amount of time that our kids spend on them,” he said. “So that is not a fair fight. It’s time for us to have the backs of parents and kids.”

The advisory includes a review of the available evidence on the effects of social media on youth mental health, noting that social media use among kids is “nearly universal”: Up to 95% of kids ages 13 to 17 report using social media, with more than a third saying they use it “almost constantly.” And although 13 is commonly the minimum age to use social media sites in the US (an age Murthy has previously said is too young), the advisory notes that nearly 40% of kids ages 8 to 12 use the platforms, as well.

I am encouraged that the impact of social media on our youth community is in the focus of research and recommendations by the Office of the Surgeon General. Here is the link for the entire advisory as published for your review and understanding.

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