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Surgeon General Demands Tobacco-Style Health Warning Label on Social Media Apps

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US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has demanded that a health warning be placed on social media apps to protect children from a

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has demanded that a health warning be placed on social media apps to protect children from a “mental health crisis.”

Writing in The New York TimesMurthy criticized social media as a “major contributor” to widespread social and psychological problems.

“Teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of symptoms of anxiety and depression, and the average daily use in this age group, in summer 2023, was 4.8 hours,” he said.

It calls for a warning label, similar to those placed on cigarettes, to be placed on apps saying that parents feel “powerless and alone in the face of toxic content and hidden harms.”

The label would require congressional approval, but Murthy says the measure has bipartisan support.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has demanded that a health warning be placed on social media apps to protect children from a “mental health crisis.”

A label alone wouldn’t “make social media safe for young people,” but it’s a good start, he said.

“When asked if a warning from the surgeon general would prompt them to limit or monitor their children’s social media use, 76 percent of people in a recent survey of Latino parents said yes.”

The first surgeon general warning was added in 1965, placing a label on cigarettes warning that they were linked to lung cancer and other health problems.

Since then, labels have been added to products that pose significant health risks to the public.

Murthy says social media now needs a similar warning.

“There is no seat belt for parents to click, no helmet to put on, and no guarantee that trusted experts have researched and ensured that these platforms are safe for our children,” he said.

“It’s just parents and their kids, trying to figure it out on their own, going up against some of the best product engineers and best-resourced companies in the world.”

A label alone is not

A label alone wouldn’t “make social media safe for young people,” but it’s a good start, Murthy said.

Murthy said parents have told him time and time again how concerned they are about the time their children spend online and the impact it has on their health and mental well-being.

He said: ‘As a parent of 6 and 7 year olds who have already asked about social media, I’m worried about how my wife and I will know when to allow them to have accounts.

“How will we monitor their activity, given the increasingly sophisticated techniques to conceal it?”

Murthy said we need congressional legislation to “protect young people from online harassment, abuse and exploitation and from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content that too often appears in algorithm-based broadcasts.”

It added: “The measures should prevent platforms from collecting sensitive data from children and should restrict the use of features such as push notifications, autoplay and infinite scrolling, which take advantage of the developing brain and contribute to overuse.”

In addition to the legislation, parents should come together to agree that they will not allow their children to use social media until they are 16 or 17, he said, which will make things easier as no child will be “left out.”

Murthy said, “Parents should work together with other families to establish shared rules, so that no parent has to fight alone or feel guilty when their teens say they are the only ones who have to put up with limits.”

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