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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Surgeon General Raises Concerns About the Potential Harm of Social Media on Children and Adolescents

On Tuesday, the highest-ranking official in the United States Department of Health and Human Services issued an unusual public warning about the dangers that young people face from using social media. This warning urged an effort to better understand the potential “harm to the psychological well-being and mental health of children and adolescents.”

The United States doctor general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, issued a 19-page advice in which he stated that the effects of social media on the mental health of adolescents were not completely known and that social media may be helpful to certain users. In spite of this, he said in his writing, “There are sufficient indicators that social media can also pose a profound risk of harm to the emotional and physical well-being of children and adolescents.”

The study provided families with actionable ideas to assist them in guiding their children’s usage of social media. It was suggested that, in order to facilitate the formation of social relationships and to encourage dialogue, families should remove electronic gadgets from mealtimes and other in-person events. It was advised that a “family media plan” be created in order to define expectations for the usage of social media. These expectations should include limits surrounding content as well as the protection of personal information.

Dr. Murthy has also urged technology firms to implement minimum age restrictions and to provide default settings for children that prioritise their safety as well as their right to privacy. In addition to this, he encouraged the government to formulate health and safety criteria for technological platforms that are acceptable for users’ ages.

The research was released at a time when state and federal politicians, many of whom were reared in an age when social media either barely existed or didn’t exist at all, have been battling with how to impose boundaries on its use. In effect, the report brought long-simmering worries about social media to the forefront of the national discourse.

According to the findings of a survey conducted by Pew Research, up to 95 percent of adolescents have reported using at least one social media platform, and more than one third of respondents said that they used social media “almost constantly.” The number of teenagers who self-report and have clinical diagnoses of anxiety and depression, as well as the number of adolescents who attend emergency rooms for self-harm and suicide thoughts, has increased in tandem with the growth in the usage of social media.

This paper may assist motivate more research to determine whether or not these two tendencies are connected to one another. This is the latest in what seems to be an ever-increasing number of requests for action concerning young people and social media. This past month, the American Psychological Association (APA) published its first-ever guidelines on social media, urging that parents carefully supervise their adolescents’ use and that technology firms rethink features like endless scrolling and the “like” button. This was the APA’s first-ever guidance on social media.

The data indicate, to the best of their ability, that young people’s use of social media can have both a positive and negative impact on their well-being, and that excessive use of social media — and screen time in general — appears to displace activities such as sleep and exercise that are considered vital to the development of developing brains.

On the bright side, social media may be beneficial to a large number of young people since it provides them with a venue in which they can interact with others, discover communities, and express themselves.

The advise made notice of the fact that technology corporations have a strong interest in keeping consumers online, and that these businesses use strategies that attract individuals to engage in behaviours that are similar to addiction in order to achieve this goal.

The post of surgeon general does not have any actual authority beyond the possibility of serving as a bully pulpit, and Dr. Murthy’s advise does not have the weight of law or policy behind it. According to what was stated in the report, its objective was to bring “an urgent public health issue” to the notice of Americans and to provide suggestions as to how the problem might be solved.

Similar reports by previous surgeons general contributed to change the public dialogue around smoking in the 1960s, brought attention to HIV and AIDS in the 1980s, and proclaimed that obesity had become a countrywide pandemic in the early 2000s. Dr. Murthy has described the current state of our nation as being in the midst of a public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and the lack of connection in our country.

Jonathan James
Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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