America’s top health official, Vivek Murthy, has issued a warning to parents, technology companies and regulators, saying that there is evidence that the use of social media can seriously harm children.
In a statement, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said that while they are not lacking in benefits, there is “excited evidence that social media can carry a high risk of harming the mental and health of children” and adolescents.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the use of social networks by young people in the United States is almost universal: up to 95% of young people say they use some social platform and more than a third say “almost constantly.”
Murthy’s report says that social media can help children and adolescents connect to the community, but also contain “extreme, inappropriate and harmful” content that can “organize” self-harm and death.
They can perpetuate body dissatisfaction, eating disorders and depression, and children exposed to online bullying are going through critical brain development, the report warns.
Murthy called on policy makers to strengthen regulations around social media protection and encouraged tech companies to assess their impact on children and share data with researchers.
He also advised parents to set up technology-free zones at home to encourage in-person communication, and to educate kids by forming healthy and responsible online behaviors.
The report comes as authorities across the United States look for ways to regulate the use of social media and curb its harmful effects, especially among young people.