Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media to Protect Adolescent Mental Health

Featured & Cover Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social Media to Protect Adolescent Mental Health

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is advocating for a mandatory warning label on social media platforms to alert users about the potential mental health risks for adolescents. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, Murthy emphasized the necessity of a surgeon general’s warning label, akin to those found on tobacco and alcohol products. He pointed out that research indicates such labels on tobacco products have effectively raised awareness and influenced user behavior.

“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,” Murthy wrote.

He further clarified that congressional action would be needed to implement this requirement, which would serve as a constant reminder to both parents and adolescents that the safety of social media has not been confirmed.

“A surgeon general’s warning label, which requires congressional action, would regularly remind parents and adolescents that social media has not been proved safe,” he added.

Murthy acknowledged that a warning label alone is insufficient to make social media platforms safer for young people. He referred to an advisory he issued last year, which highlighted the role of social media in the youth mental health crisis. In that advisory, he urged policymakers, platforms, and the public to follow his recommendations to improve the safety of social media for adolescents.

Murthy called for legislative action from Congress to protect young people from online harassment, abuse, and exploitation, as well as from exposure to extreme violence and sexual content. He also stressed the importance of social media companies sharing their data with the public and permitting independent safety audits.

Moreover, Murthy advised schools and parents to establish phone-free environments, particularly during meals, before bedtime, and at social events. He suggested that parents should delay allowing their children to use social media until they have completed middle school and encouraged them to collaborate with other families to create common rules.

“These harms are not a failure of willpower and parenting; they are the consequence of unleashing powerful technology without adequate safety measures, transparency or accountability,” he wrote.

Murthy’s call for action highlights the growing concern over the impact of social media on young people’s mental health. He believes that by implementing these measures, society can better protect adolescents from the negative effects of social media.

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