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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Monday that Congress needs to impose warning labels on social media platforms due to the significant mental health harms they can impose on adolescents.

Travel & Lifestyle: Surgeon General Calls For Warning Labels For Social Media

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling on Congress to require warning labels on social media, saying emergency action is needed as rampant use of the platforms has ignited a mental health crisis among adolescents.

“It is time to require a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms, stating that social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” he said in an opinion piece published in The New York Times on Monday.

Such labels, like the ones mandated for cigarettes and other tobacco products, would regularly inform parents and adolescent users that “social media has not been proved safe,” which could improve behavior patterns, he said.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Monday that Congress needs to impose warning labels on social media platforms due to the significant mental health harms they can impose on adolescents.

MANDEL NGAN via Getty Images

Adolescents spend an average of 4.8 hours a day on social media, according to a Gallup survey conducted last fall. Those who spend more than three hours a day face a heightened risk for mental health problems, a 2019 study on social media’s mental health effects found.

Social media giant Meta, which owns platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, responded earlier this year to child safety concerns by announcing new features that restrict teens from viewing certain content, including posts about drugs, nudity, self-harm, suicide and eating disorders. A Meta spokesperson also told NPR in January that the company is investing in age verification tools and technology that can better detect when users lie about their age.

This response comes as the company faces a federal lawsuit from dozens of states, accusing it of seeking to maximize young users’ engagement while developing addictive features. The CEOs of Meta, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and other social media companies were also hammered before Congress earlier this year over parents’ claims that social media platforms contributed to their children’s suicide, exploitation or overdose deaths.

A warning label placed on the platforms would inform parents and adolescent users that “social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy said.
A warning label placed on the platforms would inform parents and adolescent users that “social media has not been proved safe,” Murthy said.

A Meta spokesperson did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on Murthy’s opinion piece and recommendations.

In the piece, Murthy outlined his own suggested safeguards for younger social media users, including restrictions on certain features like push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which he said “prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.”

Social media platforms should also be prohibited from collecting sensitive data from children, and these platforms should be required to share all of their data on health effects with independent scientists and the public, he said.

“While the platforms claim they are making their products safer, Americans need more than words. We need proof,” he said.

A more recent warning label for cigarette packs is seen after its release from the Food and Drug Administration. Murthy wants similar mental health warnings for social media platforms.
A more recent warning label for cigarette packs is seen after its release from the Food and Drug Administration. Murthy wants similar mental health warnings for social media platforms.

Murthy’s recommendations touched on parents, educators and heath care workers as well.

School classrooms, he said, should be phone free, and doctors, nurses and other clinicians should educate patients about social media’s harmful effects.

At home, parents should restrict social media use “until after middle school” and households should have “phone-free zones” around bedtime, meals and social gatherings “to safeguard their kids’ sleep and real-life connections — both of which have direct effects on mental health,” he said.

“This is much easier said than done, which is why parents should work together with other families to establish shared rules, so no parents have to struggle alone or feel guilty when their teens say they are the only one who has to endure limits,” he said.



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