A surgeon warns that social networks can harm children and teenagers (2023)


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Dr Vivek Murthy's report identified a "serious risk of harm" to adolescent mental health and called on families to set limits and the government to set stricter standards for use.

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A surgeon warns that social networks can harm children and teenagers (1)

iMatt Richter,Catherine PearsoniMichael Levinson

The country's top health official issued an urgent public warning on Tuesday about the dangers of social media for young people, urging people to be fully aware of the "potential harm to the mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents".

existProposal on 19 pages, surgeon-in-chief Dr. Vivek Murthy noted that the impact of social media on adolescent mental health is not fully understood, and social media can be beneficial for some users. However, he wrote, "there is good evidence that social media can also seriously harm the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents."

The report includes practical advice to help families manage their children's use of social media. He advises families to stay away from devices during meals and personal gatherings to build social connections and encourage conversation. He recommends developing a "family media plan" to set expectations for social media use, including boundaries around content and keeping personal information private.

dr. Murthy also called on tech companies to enforce minimum age limits and create default settings for children with high security and privacy standards. He also called on the government to create age-appropriate health and safety standards for technology platforms.

Teenagers "are not just little adults," Dr. Murthy said in an interview Monday. "They are at different stages of development, at key stages of brain development."

The report essentially brings concerns about social media into the national debate at a time when state and federal lawmakers, many of whom grew up in an era when social media had little or no existence, are grappling with how to set limits on use.

most recently the governor of MontanaSigned into law banning TikTokfrom its business in the state that resulted in the Chinese applicationfile a claimJoin new TikTok users in mourning what someone said "kick in the face“In March, it became UtahFirst country to ban social media servicesUsers under the age of 18 may not have accounts without the express consent of a parent or guardian. The law could significantly restrict young people's use of applications such as Instagram and Facebook.

The research results derive fromPew Research CenterIt found that a staggering 95 percent of teenagers said they use at least one social media platform, while more than a third said they "almost always use social media." Self-reports and clinical diagnoses of anxiety and depression in adolescents with increased use of social media iWent to the emergency room for self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The report could help spur further research into whether the two trends are linked. It joins a growing call for action around teenagers and social media. Earlier this month,The American Psychological Association has published the first guidelines on social networks, advising parents to watch out for teen use and suggesting tech companies reconsider features like infinite scrolling and similar buttons.

In recent years, a large body of research has emerged on social media use and the possible connections between social media.Anxiety rates are rising among teenagers.but the results are consistent only in nuance and complexity.

oneAnalysis published last year, reviewing research on social media use and mental health from 2019 to 2021, found that "most reviews interpreted the association between social media use and mental health as 'weak' or 'inconsistent,' while some described it as 'substantial.' . and 'harmful' '.

The data shows that social media has both positive and negative effects on young people's wellbeing, with excessive social media use - and screen time in general - appearing to crowd out activities such as sleep and exercise. It is considered essential for brain development.

On the positive side, social media can help many young people by providing them with a forum to connect with others, find community and express themselves.

Meanwhile, social media platforms are flooded with "extreme, inappropriate and harmful content", including content that "has the potential to normalize" self-harm, eating disorders and other self-destructive behaviours, following the Surgeon General's advice. Cyberbullying is widespread.

In addition, social media spaces can be particularly crowded for young people, the advice adds: 'During early adolescence, when a sense of identity and self-worth is being formed, brain development is particularly sensitive to social pressure, peers and the opinions of peers in comparison' .

The advisory states that technology companies have an interest in keeping users online and are using tactics to lure people into addictive behaviors. "Our children have become unwitting participants in decades-long experiments," the advisory said.

A spokesman for Meta, which owns Instagram and Facebook, said the consultation included "significant recommendations which Meta has largely implemented". These measures include the automatic creation of private accounts for children under the age of 16 when they register on Instagram, and restrictions The type of content teenagers can see in the app.

TikTok did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The advice does not provide guidance on what healthy social media use looks like, nor does it condemn the use of social media by all young people. Instead, he concluded, "we don't yet have enough evidence to say whether social media is safe enough for children and young people."

The surgeon's position lacks real power beyond his ability to command the pulpit, and Dr. Murthy's advice lacks the force of law or rule. The goal was to draw Americans' attention to an "urgent public health problem" and make recommendations on how to solve it, the report said.

Similar reports from previous surgeons generalHelped change the national conversationeyesmoking in the 1960s, attract attentionHIV. i AIDS-a 1980-ihand in the early 2000s announced that obesity had becomenational epidemicdr. Murthy saysArmed violence is becoming an epidemicAnd he decried what he called "our nation's public health crisis of isolation, isolation and disconnection."

In an interview on Monday, Dr. Murthy acknowledged that the lack of clarity on social media is a heavy burden on users and families.

"Asking parents to embrace new technology that is rapidly evolving and fundamentally changing the way children see themselves is a daunting task," said Dr. Murthy. "So we have to do what we do in other areas where there are product safety concerns. What it does is create safety standards that parents can rely on and actually enforce."

Remy Tumin contributed to this report.

Matt Richtel is a best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from San Francisco. He joined The Times in 2000, and his work focuses on science, technology, business and narrative reporting on these topics. @Michelle

Catherine Pearson is a reporter for The Times Well, covering family and relationships.

Michael Levenson joined The Times in December 2019. He was previously a reporter for the Boston Globe covering local, state and national politics and news.

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