Surgeon general calls for mental health warnings on social media

Social media sites should display a warning alerting users to the dangers the platforms can pose to youth mental health, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said. 

In an op-ed published in The New York Times on June 17, Dr. Murthy called for platforms to display a warning "stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents." 

A surgeon general warning label requires congressional approval. 

In 2023, Dr. Murthy issued a warning on social media's effects on mental health in adolescents, saying its use during adolescence could create addictive pathways in the brain during a "highly sensitive" period of development. 

A study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2019 found the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms doubled among teens using social media for more than three hours a day. The average teenager spent 4.8 hours a day on social media platforms in 2023, according to a Gallup poll. 

Surgeon general warnings have been effective in reducing rates of tobacco use, Dr. Murthy wrote. In 1965, Congress voted to require surgeon general warnings on all cigarette packages. The action was the beginning of a 50-year decline in smoking rates, the Times reported. 

A warning label on its own would not make social media safe for teenagers, Dr. Murthy wrote. He has urged Congress to prevent social media sites from collecting sensitive data on teenage users and restrict push notifications and infinite scroll on the sites for young users. 

Dr. Murthy has also urged social media companies to disclose all data they have collected on the health effects of their platforms. 

"Such measures, which already have strong bipartisan support, remain the priority," he wrote. 

Read more here. 

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