US top health official sounds alarm on child social media use


A teenager holds her phone as she sits for a portrait near her home in Illinois, on March 24, 2023. The US Surgeon General is warning there is not enough evidence to show that social media is safe for young people – and is calling on tech companies, parents and caregivers to take ‘immediate action to protect kids now’. — AP

WASHINGTON: The top US health official on May 23 issued a stark warning to parents, tech companies and regulators, saying the evidence is growing that social media use may seriously harm children.

In a lengthy advisory, US surgeon general Vivek Murthy said that while not without benefits, “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”

ALSO READ: 13-year-old girl in Australia dies after trying viral social media trend called ‘chroming’

Social media use by young people in the United States is nearly universal, with up to 95% of adolescents reporting using a social platform and more than a third saying they do so “almost constantly”, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Murthy’s report said social media can help children and adolescents find a community to connect, but that it also contains “extreme, inappropriate, and harmful content”, which can “normalise” self-harm and suicide.

It can perpetuate body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and depression and expose children to online bullying while they are undergoing a critical stage in brain development, the report warned.

Murthy called on policymakers to strengthen safety standards around social media and urged tech companies to responsibly assess the impact of their products on children and share data with researchers.

He also advised parents to establish tech-free zones at home in order to promote in-person communication, and to educate children by modelling healthy, responsible online behaviour.

The report comes at a time when authorities across the United States are searching for ways to regulate social media use, and curb its ill-effects on young people in particular.

Earlier this month, the US state of Montana banned the use of TikTok on its territory. The Chinese-owned video sharing giant is challenging the decision in court. And in March, Utah became the first US state to require social media sites to get parental consent for accounts used by minors.

“We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address,” Murthy said. – AFP

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!
   

Next In Tech News

How Twitch is drawing inspiration from the giants of social networking
Watch out for job scams online
Ways to step away from your smartphone this summer
How AI is assisting demining operations in Ukraine
South Korea's SK On in talks to supply prismatic EV batteries as it seeks turnaround
Exclusive-OpenAI working on new reasoning technology under code name ‘Strawberry’
US court temporarily puts net neutrality rules reinstatement on hold
US court rejects challenges to FCC approval of SpaceX satellites
Vista Equity explores sale of cybersecurity firm Sonatype, sources say
Amazon must comply with US agency's pregnancy bias probe, judge rules

Others Also Read