U.S. surgeon general calls for warning labels on social media… | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

U.S. surgeon general calls for warning labels on social media platforms

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy speaking at an event Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

U.S. surgeon general calls for warning labels on social media platforms

Dr. Vivek Murthy authored an opinion piece in the New York Times on Monday characterizing the mental health crisis among young people as an emergency. Murthy identified social media as one of the most significant contributing factors to the crisis. The surgeon general then called on lawmakers to put a surgeon general’s warning label on social media platforms to warn of the significant mental health harms for adolescents.

He also called for more laws and regulations to protect young users from online bullying and reduce addictive features like push notifications and infinite scroll. Doctors and nurses should also be discussing social media use with patients, given the correlation between suicide and depression and online activity, Murthy said. When lawmakers saw a rise in deaths from car accidents, they responded by enforcing laws requiring seatbelt usage and by requiring more safety measures in cars, Murthy said. He argued that social media has similar urgent and widespread safety concerns and questioned why no one has responded.

Did he mention any safeguards to enact immediately? Murthy advocated for schoolrooms, dinner tables, and bedtimes to be phone-free zones. Children should not have social media accounts until high school, Murthy said. He admitted that implementing those safeguards is far easier said than done and urged parents to work together with other families to feel less alone.

Are lawmakers doing anything to address online concerns? Congress has also held hearings to discuss the effects of social media use and safety concerns. Senators questioned leaders of Discord, Snap, TikTok, X, and Meta about safety measures and risks associated with their platforms during a January hearing. Both state and federal lawmakers have proposed legislation to further protect children online. Lawmakers have suggested everything from raising the minimum age of account holders to reconsidering the federal liability immunity of social media companies.

A total of 41 states and the District of Columbia filed coordinated lawsuits against social media giant Meta last year, alleging that its products are harmful to children. Attorneys general accused Facebook and Instagram of intentionally using addictive algorithms to keep users scrolling. The lawsuits specifically accused the company of manipulating teenagers and children for financial gain. Meta responded to the lawsuits by noting dozens of new tools to keep young users safe and enhance parental controls. Companies should be required to share all data they have collected on the health effects of social media to prove platforms are attempting to make their products safer, Murthy wrote.

Dig deeper: Read my report with Mary Jackson in WORLD Magazine about states taking Facebook and Instagram to court.

Christina Grube

Christina Grube is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute.

An actual newsletter worth subscribing to instead of just a collection of links. —Adam

Sign up to receive The Sift email newsletter each weekday morning for the latest headlines from WORLD’s breaking news team.

Please wait while we load the latest comments...