May 23, 2023 – The U.S. surgeon general officially warned that social media use poses “a profound risk of harm to the mental health and well-being” of young people.
Social media use is nearly universal among 13- to 17-year-olds, with one in three teens saying they use the platforms “almost constantly,” according to the report, which said that as many as 40% of kids ages 8 to 12 also use social media.
“At this point, we do not have enough evidence to say with confidence that social media is sufficiently safe for our kids,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, told NBC News. “We have to now take action to make sure that we are protecting our kids.”
Murthy called on policymakers and technology companies to fund more research and make social media safer. He advised parents to create “family media plans” and tech-free zones while modeling responsible social media behavior.
The 25-page advisory summarizes recent research and says more is urgently needed to better understand the link between social media and the youth mental health crisis. Among its key points, the advisory said:
- Social media does have benefits, particularly in self-affirming ways for people who are members of marginalized groups.
- Social media usage has been linked to depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, self-harm, and poor sleep quality.
- Young people are affected by social media differently.
- It matters how long and how often youths use social media, and studies have shown limiting use results in health benefits.
- Online harassment and abuse are common, particularly targeting girls and transgender youths.
The advisory also offered tips for young people, suggesting they reach out for help when social media affects them or someone they know negatively, create boundaries to balance online and offline activities, “develop protection strategies” such as blocking unwanted contacts, and report online harassment.