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Put tobacco-style warnings on social media: US health official

Social media platforms should feature tobacco-style health warnings for adolescents, a top US government health official said Monday.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for Congress to pass mandates on social media to protect young Americans' mental health
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for Congress to pass mandates on social media to protect young Americans' mental health - Copyright AFP Mandel NGAN
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for Congress to pass mandates on social media to protect young Americans' mental health - Copyright AFP Mandel NGAN

Social media platforms should feature tobacco-style health warnings for adolescents, a top US government health official said Monday.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, in an essay published by The New York Times, called social media “an important contributor” to a sweeping mental health crisis among young people.

“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.

Murthy said spending more than three hours a day on social media doubles the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms for adolescents — and that the daily average use in the summer of 2023 was nearly five hours.

“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 wrote.

“Evidence from tobacco studies show that warning labels can increase awareness and change behavior.”

Murthy pointed to previous actions by lawmakers to address high vehicle-related deaths, including mandates requiring seatbelts, airbags and crash testing to make cars safer.

Labels warning of the health impact from tobacco first appeared on US cigarettes after a federal government mandate in 1965.

In 2023, Murthy issued a health advisory warning that social media presents a “profound risk” to children and advising that 13 is too young to join apps.

The surgeon general on Monday also called on schools nationwide to “ensure that classroom learning and social time are phone-free experiences.”

He also said parents should wait until after middle school before giving their children access to social media, and to create “phone-free zones around bedtime, meals and social gatherings.”

AFP
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