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Surgeon General calls for warning labels on social media platforms

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In a New York Times opinion essay published Monday, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy called for social media companies to be required to use safety warning labels, and asked Congress to take action in ordering social media platforms to post warning labels similar to those attached to tobacco or alcohol products

Murthy wrote in the Times op-ed that statistics are clear about the effect social media has on adolescents, particularly those who are facing anxiety and depression issues. Murthy cited research that shows social media could be negatively impacting youth mental health, and added that a surgeon general’s warning on social media platforms could raise awareness for parents about the potential harm of the platforms (per USA TODAY.) He said that while warning labels only won’t protect young people it’s a first step in the acknowledgment of its dangers.

Murthy wrote: “The mental health crisis among young people is an emergency — and social media has emerged as an important contributor. Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms .. One of the worst things for a parent is to know your children are in danger yet be unable to do anything about it. That is how parents tell me they feel when it comes to social media — helpless and alone in the face of toxic content and hidden harms.”

The Surgeon General said that the average time adolescents spend on social media had increased to 4.8 hours a day in the summer of 2023, adding: “it is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents. A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires Congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proven safe .. To be clear, a warning label would not, on its own, make social media safe for young people. The advisory I issued a year ago about social media and young people’s mental health included specific recommendations.”

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