The surgeon general has warned that social media is harming children. Should we ban them until they are older?

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What is happening

On Tuesday, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an opinion calling for measures to protect children from the potentially harmful effects of social media use on their mental health and wellbeing.

“We are in the midst of a national youth mental health crisis, and I fear that social media is a significant driver of this crisis – a crisis that we urgently need to address,” Murthy said.

Although the opinion recognizes social media as an effective educational tool for children, capable of creating a personal identity, providing them with support, keeping them up to date with current events and enabling them to communicate and create social media, he also points to numerous studies showing that social media consumption can be “excessive and problematic” for adolescents and is linked to depression in young people who spend several hours a day on the platforms.

The advisory also states that about half of adolescents ages 13 to 17 report that social media makes them feel worse and “is predictive of later declines in life satisfaction at certain developmental stages, particularly for girls from 11 to 13 years old and boys from 14 to 17 years old. 15 years.” In addition, 64% of adolescents say that social networks “often” or “sometimes” expose them to hateful content.

One of the advisory’s recommendations to ensure a safe and healthy environment is for technology companies to find better ways to comply with the minimum age through these studies.

Today, lawmakers in the House and Senate are seeing rare alignment, supporting bills aimed at putting guardrails around social media use — such as raise the minimum age for social media to ages 16 – as America’s youth continue to struggle with the evolving mental health crisis.

Why there is a debate

The notice states that approximately 95% of young people, aged 13 to 17, use social media. More than a third admitting to using social media “almost constantly.” As it stands, a potential user on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and Snapchat must be at least 13 years old to create an account. For TikTok, children under 13 can access the platform, but their user experience is limited.

But the warning points to studies that show adolescents have a “highly sensitive period of brain development” between ages 10 and 19, when they are more willing to take risks and at increased risk of mental health problems. as depression and anxiety begins to emerge. Studies show that social media use can also disrupt their sleep patterns, facilitate the spread of rumors and peer pressure, and paint an “unrealistic” picture of others’ lives that they may be too young to understand.

“This population is particularly at risk since our children’s brain development may make the effects of social media greater and longer lasting,” said Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president and medical director of…

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