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Shoeleather Journalism in the Digital Age

Shoeleather Journalism
in the Digital Age

US Surgeon General calls for social media warning labels to protect adolescents

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 8, 2023. (REUTERS/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/File Photo)
By Kanishka Singh | REUTERS

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Monday called for a warning label to be added to social media apps as a reminder that those platforms have caused harm to young people, especially adolescents.

Murthy wrote in the New York Times on Monday that a warning label alone will not make social media safe for young people but that it can increase awareness and change behavior as shown in evidence from tobacco studies. The U.S. Congress would need to pass legislation requiring such a warning label.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

For a long time, Murthy has been warning that social media can profoundly harm the mental health of youth, particularly adolescent girls. In an advisory last year, he called for safeguards from tech companies for children who are at critical stages of brain development.

A 2019 American Medical Association study showed that the risk of depression doubled for teenagers who were spending three hours a day on social media.

KEY QUOTES

“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,” Murthy wrote on Monday.

“A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” he added.

CONTEXT

Some U.S. states have been working to pass legislation to safeguard children from the harmful effects of social media, such as anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses as a result.

New York state lawmakers this month passed legislation to bar social media platforms from exposing “addictive” algorithmic content to users under age 18 without parental consent.

In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that bans children under 14 from social media platforms and requires 14- and 15-year-olds to get parental consent.

Editor’s Note: Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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