Home ‘Our children’s well-being is at stake’: Surgeon General wants warning labels on all social media

‘Our children’s well-being is at stake’: Surgeon General wants warning labels on all social media

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U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is calling an “emergency” mental health crisis among America’s youth and asked Congress on Monday to issue a warning label on social media platforms.

“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 wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times.

Murthy would like for a notification to periodically appear on social media platforms to remind users of the risks.

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

Congressional action in 1965 created a warning label on cigarette packaging for consumers with a caution about risks to health. A similar warning is necessary for social media, according to Murthy, to change behavior and increase awareness.

“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 one recent survey of Latino parents said yes,” Murthy wrote.

A warning label will not make social media safer for users, but its impacts on social media are undeniable. An American Psychological Association study in 2019 found that the proportion of young adults with suicidal thoughts or other suicide-related outcomes increased 47 percent from 2008 to 2017. At the same time, social media use also increased among Americans.

A public health advisory in 2023 by Murthy warned American parents about the mental health impacts of social media on children.

“We have the expertise, resources and tools to make social media safe for our kids,” he wrote. “Now is the time to summon the will to act. Our children’s well-being is at stake.”

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Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.